B2B ecommerce providers are beginning to utilise data to understand what customers buy, how they buy and even why they buy. But how much do they really understand about how B2B buyers prefer to buy? With the global B2B ecommerce market valued at US$10.6 trillion last year – five times that of the B2C market – it’s worth ensuring that online purchasing behaviour is defined.
Understanding buyer preferences is vital if organisations are going to successfully compete in such a volatile marketplace. In our recent survey of 560 B2B buyers worldwide we found that three out of five buyers place an order with a top supplier at least once a week, with a fifth purchasing daily. That’s a lot of orders that have the potential to end up with a competitor.
69% of buyers (depending on the value of the purchase) evaluate at least three to five suppliers for every single purchase. For higher value purchases, that number increases, with a quarter of the sample evaluating upwards of six or more. For B2B suppliers it’s critical then that they make it easy to be found and easy to be evaluated. This means ensuring that the ecommerce platform delivers information in simple, standardised formats that aid comparison rather than making it difficult to compare. But we should be mindful that evaluating suppliers takes time. B2B buyers take on average 6.4 days to compare when buying from a new vendor after spending at least five days researching the marketplace.
Getting potential customers to buy from you and not your competitor
So what makes buyers more likely to buy from a specific vendor? Great service came out on top for nearly 40% of respondents. Unsurprisingly low price (37%), good payment terms (31%) and product features (31%) are also important, but increasingly buyers are also looking for good delivery terms (30%). All key offerings that need to be evident when buyers are undergoing the evaluation process.
While buyers are clear about their needs during the buying process, what can e-commerce platforms offer to make that process simple and effective? Personalisation is key. Respondents to the survey told us that there are five essential elements that they look for when buying online. Personalised pricing and specific offers are the top two most desirable e-commerce features – so ensuring that your e-commerce offering is able to support these is key. This means drawing on information contained in your ERP systems to ensure you able to reflect personalised pricing and create specific offers instantly and accurately. The rest of the list looks like this:
- Personalised pricing
- Customer specific offers
- Customer specific shipping options
- Customer specific payment methods
- Customer specific product suggestions
How buyers, buy
Unsurprisingly, we are buying the majority of B2B goods online: on average 64% of all products are bought online. But don’t get rid of the offline sales channels just yet. Over a third of B2B buyers are driven to call a salesperson due to lack of information online.
While the majority do want to buy online there are certain activities that buyers want to undertake more directly. Over half of respondents still want their quotes delivered by email, so consider whether your e-commerce platform can automate email quotes and deliver them direct to the buyer’s inbox. A third however would like someone to call them with a price, and another third prefer to access the quote online.
This indicates that sellers need to provide a strong omnichannel response to B2B buyers. Whether the buyer’s preference is for phone, email or online the experience needs to be mirrored across each touch point. That means that each touch point must have the same information and data to share with the buyer so that it’s accurate as well as consistent. Placing an order online, for example, only to receive a call from the sales team two hours later to advise that the product is out of stock isn’t a great omnichannel experience. This makes it imperative that each touch point is using the same up-to-the-second data – typically held in the business’ ERP system and acts as a single source of truth.
What do buyers want from ecommerce platforms?
As B2B and B2C e-commerce websites increasingly merge, it’s no surprise that B2B buyers are expecting greater functionality and a similar experience whatever and whenever they buy. B2B buyers told us that the two equally important features that they’d like to see are easier and faster check outs, and simple repeat ordering but other B2C functions featured highly too. The top five also includes quicker delivery and improved tracking of goods, greater product choice and better visibility of product features through exploded chart functionality or even video.
The top ten list of B2C features that buyers would like to see replicated in B2B ecommerce sites include:
- Easier and faster check outs
- Easy repeat ordering
- Quicker delivery and improved tracking of goods
- Greater product choice
- Better visibility of product features
- Better returns choice
- Better payment terms
- Greater choice of suppliers
- Improved relationships with suppliers
- Predictive ordering
The rest of the list is dominated by typical B2C features such as customer reviews, AI to assist in buying decisions, mobile ordering, improved web chat, voice ordering and even social selling highlighting the growing need to adapt a consumer approach to B2B.
Knowing your customer has never been more critical. Understanding their behaviours – what they buy and when they buy – can help B2B sellers to create a buying experience that is quick, easy and efficient. However, understanding how they buy can help organisations deliver an online experience that so closely matches their needs, you can help improve their propensity to buy with you.