Changing Times for B2B E-commerce

growth_in_b2b_ecommerce_resizedForrester's US B2B report predicts that e-commerce will grow from $780 billion to $1.13 trillion over the five years between 2015 and 2020. It will constitute more than 12% of the total B2B market at that time. The B2B buying habits of business purchasers are already heavily influenced by the capabilities of one-line options. The report also points out that nearly three-quarters of B2B buyers are conducting at least half of their buying online.

Why Should E-commerce Technologies Be Changing?

One of the reasons for the growth of B2B e-commerce is that sellers are placing increasing emphasis on making their websites a top destination by using important custom content. B2B buyers, then tend to search websites and social channels to learn about items before purchasing. According to the Acquity Group's, State of B2B Procurement Study, 94% of business buyers do research online for purchase decisions. The buying habits of B2B purchasers do not differ substantially from the habits of non-business buyers.

  • 77% use Google Search
  • 84.3% check business websites
  • 34% visit 3rd party websites
  • 41% read user reviews.

Buyers for business look for informative content to inform their decisions. They are also looking for self-service experiences. The majority of buyers say they want to research and buy online unassisted. However, they also want the option to receive phone support if needed. Many buyers prefer to complete a sales process without assistance. Therefore, the sales websites of companies marketing to other businesses should be set up with the potential for turnkey, user-friendly operation with enough technical detail specifications to make unassisted purchase possible.

The implication is that more thorough B2B sales websites are more appropriate for certain industries and, perhaps, smaller magnitude sales. Marketers of products that can be sold unassisted should be building digital content archives that can educate leads throughout the sales funnel to satisfy the buying preferences of those who prefer to proceed without assistance. The presence of detailed digital content for B2B buyers is actually a requirement. Absence of detailed content that can answer prospects' questions can be a deal breaker.

According to studies by the Caterpillar Global Marketing Services Manager, Renee Richardson, the B2B audience is now younger than ever, and more online savvy. Their study agreed with other findings, stating that 89% of B2B researchers use the internet. The study debunked a number of long-held myths about B2B buyers.

Many Buyers Are Used to Being Online

Currently, half of business-to-business buyers were "millennials" in the 18 to 34 age group. Many current B2B buyers were born in the 1980s and have never known a world without the modern-day internet. By the time these millennials joined the workforce half of all Americans were using e-mail regularly, BlackBerry smartphones had been on the market for several years, and search engines were already part of daily life.

People involved in B2B buying decisions are not necessarily senior level executives. Senior executives do have final sign-off authority on 64% of purchasers. Almost 24% of non-senior executives have final signing decisions. B2B marketing does not always have to be targeted at the most senior executive level. Ignoring potential buyers at lower managerial levels is sacrificing a whole field of possible buyers.

Research also shows that B2B buyers are already more than half-way to a buying decision when they actually perform an action on a buyer's site online. One thing that is known is that B2B buyers use search engines. Buyers are spending increasing time on search engines as well. On average B2B researchers do 12 searches before finding a specific site.

Nearly three-quarters of the search starts out generic, looking for products, not specifically for a particular business site. The customer will always choose the way he or she wants to buy. Some still prefer to engage with a sales rep who will help them understand products they are looking for. Others (and it's a growing percentage) will want to educate themselves through familiar online media.

To stay competitive, companies who sell B2B will need to update their technology to ensure buyers can do everything online.  Giving customers access to their accounts, product information, plus the ability to order and track their shipments will be the key to keeping customers coming back.   

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