B2B Vendors Say Commerce Shifting Online to Meet Customer Demand

Intershop-Transformation-of-B2B-Commerce-Sept2013B2B commerce is shifting from offline to online and self-service, say 57% of B2B vendors from the US and Europe responding to a recent study [download page] by Intershop. The survey details a “multifaceted transformation in B2B commerce,” with 44% of respondents also agreeing that B2B commerce is adopting B2C best practices in order to optimize the purchasing experience. So what’s driving these changes? First and foremost, customer demands and expectations, according to 81% of respondents. (A recent study found that online purchases are particularly common among young B2B procurers.)

Technology is also an influence, as roughly three-quarters of respondents feel that new tech developments permit what was impossible before. A similar percentage feel that the changes owe to business buyers engaging through various offline and online touch points with their peers. Indeed, 1 in 3 respondents will add more customer touchpoints over the next 12 months.

B2B vendors clearly feel that they need to evolve to more closely resemble their B2C counterparts. Among the ingredients needed to emulate the B2C offering, respondents cite intuitive search and navigation (75%), online order approval (74%), self-service account management (74%), and category and product pages (73%), among others.

The shift to online commerce should bring with it a variety of benefits, according to the study. Roughly half of respondents are hopeful that it could result in a higher overall bottom line, while more than 4 in 10 also hope for higher average basket values (44%) and more return customers and higher brand loyalty (43%). Interestingly, significantly fewer (33%) cite the capture of customer behavior and preferences as a benefit.

Other Findings:

  • Currently, half of respondents sell through mobile (including stores and applications), while 3 in 4 respondents plan to offer mobile commerce in the next 12 months.
  • Online sales currently account for about 35% of total revenue for respondents, though that’s higher (41%) among US respondents.
  • The most commonly-cited challenge in B2B commerce is providing intuitive and user-friendly interfaces for multiple touch points, cited by half of the respondents.
  • 63% of vendors believe that product ranking on social networking sites is a good thing and something they’re trying to encourage.

About the Data: The study was conducted by Vanson Bourne, which interviewed 400 senior IT and business decision makers from merchants with a B2B focus and annual online revenues ranging from $1 million to more than $100 million, in April and May 2013.

75% of respondents came from the following sectors, which were selected on account of the relative maturity of their sales models: automotive (30), industrial/high-tech (88), retail (89), pharmaceuticals (30), and telecommunication (63). The remaining 25% came from other sectors.

120 interviews were conducted in the USA, 60 each in the UK, France, Germany, and Nordics, while 40 were conducted in the Benelux countries.