B2B Buyers Increasingly Researching, Making Purchases Online

AcquityGroup-B2B-Buyers-Research-Channels-Oct2014Some 94% of B2B buyers report conducting some degree of research online before making a business purchase, including 55% who do so for at least half of their purchases, finds the the latest annual State of B2B Procurement study [download page] from Acquity Group, part of Accenture Interactive. And while a growing proportion are now purchasing goods online, many are bypassing suppliers and buying from third-party sites.

Interestingly, the tendency to research online is becoming so mainstream that it applies across most price points. For example, 40% conduct online research for a majority of goods priced under $10,000, and 31% do so at that frequency for goods costing at least $100,000. Online research also doesn’t necessarily need to be accompanied by sales representative involvement: respondents were about as likely to say that no sales person is necessary (10.4%) as they were to say they’d like to speak with someone directly in person (12.4%). (The remainder would like some form of phone or live chat support.)

While supplier websites are the most common channel used to research purchases, by 83.4% of survey respondents, a strong majority also use Google search (77%). Other research channels include user reviews of products (41.8%) and 3rd party websites (34%), though fewer use blogs (10.8%) and social media (8.6%). In a sobering result for vendors, just 37% of B2B buyers who use supplier websites to conduct research say that this is their most helpful channel.

Not surprisingly given the amount of research taking place online, B2B buying is also migrating online, in line with research last year detailing this shift from offline to online commerce. In this year’s study, 68% of Acquity Group survey respondents report making online purchases, up from 57% last year. In fact, 46% of B2B buyers spent at least half of their corporate procurement budgets online in the last year, and almost 1 in 5 (18%) spent 90% or more.

AcquityGroup-Share-B2B-Procurement-Budget-Spent-Online-Oct2014

There’s no reason to believe that this shift won’t continue: 46% of respondents expect to increase their online purchasing next year, and 41% feel comfortable purchasing any type of product category online. But the study finds that vendors are missing out on a large chunk of the market, as only 48% of B2B buyers report purchasing goods directly from supplier sites, with a sizable proportion instead using other platforms such as Amazon Supply (17%), SAP (13%) and Oracle Procurement (7%).

Finally, the report details the growth in use of mobile devices to research and make purchases;

  • 44% have conducted research on an item using a mobile device;
  • 55% of B2B buyers aged 18-25 (Millennials) use mobile phones to research purchases, as do 36% of respondents aged over 45;
  • 24% have made a business purchase using a mobile device (35% of Millennials; 19% among those aged over 45);
  • 37% use tablets for product research (half of Millennials; 31% aged over 45);
  • 25% have made a business purchase using a tablet.

For more on engaging B2B buyers, see MarketingCharts’ Debrief, “Reaching and Influencing B2B Buyers and Decision-Makers,” which covers topics such as:

  • When B2B decision-makers check email on smartphones;
  • B2B buyers’ most-visited social networking sites, across various platforms;
  • Most influential B2B content types, by journey stage; and
  • The changing demographics of buyers and decision-makers.

About the Data: The Acquity Group study surveyed 500 buyers with annual procurement budgets of $100,000 or more across a wide range of industries.