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The B2B e-commerce market is set to account for at least one-eighth of global B2B sales next year, making it a huge business opportunity. But on the flip side, an Accenture survey [pdf] of more than 700 global buyers illustrates a significant risk, as some 44% of B2B buyers say they have switched sellers in the past 12 months.

This picture is even more acute among frequent buyers, as 6 in 10 (62%) that shop weekly claim they have switched in the past year, while around one-third (36%) plan to do so in the coming 12 months.

So what are the reasons behind this and what can sellers do differently? Here are some key takeaways.

Why Do B2B Buyers Leave?

The most commonly-cited reasons for B2B buyers making a switch, each noted by one-quarter (25%) of the respondents, are that the merchants they bought from had uncompetitive pricing, long lead times for delivery/fulfilment, or missed delivery times. These are similar to what could be expected from consumers, also.

Meanwhile, those latter two complaints could be put within the realm of customer experience. Other issues that could fall within this area for buyers include poor commerce functionality (19%), a poor website (15%), or being offered irrelevant products and services that have been turned down (14%). The trend towards self-service is also apparent, as close to 1 in 6 (15%) say they’ve switched sellers because of an insistence in using a sales rep for all purchases.

But reasons for switching aren’t all down to the sellers. Around one-quarter (23%) state they have switched because of a complicated legal or procurement process inside their firm.

What Do B2B Buyers Want?

The buyers surveyed by Accenture claim to have increased both their average number of items per purchase and their average purchase values with sellers who are meeting their needs. So, what are they looking for?

While price comes again on top (27%), other factors of importance include a broad range of flexible, high-quality services or products (25%), a fast resolution to any issues a buyer might have (24%) and a quick and efficient service response (22%).

Similar desires have also been highlighted in separate research by Episerver, with the top attributes including pricing on the website, self-service functionality and easy technology integrations.

What Are Sellers Doing to Close the Gap?

Accenture also surveyed 1,499 professionals on the other side of the equation to find out what they have been doing. The report termed those with stronger performance in B2B sales and service as ‘leaders’. The study revealed that leaders are twice as likely as laggards to track buyers’ past purchase history or browsed items, and are more likely to have at least three-quarters of their data records centralized (74% for leaders; 43% for laggards).

These two elements can help improve personalization, an area in which the majority of marketers report a return on investment. Accenture claims that leaders are offering greater levels of personalization across the customer journey. In addition, a previous study by Elastic Path also shows that personalized buying experiences are the most frequently used technology for B2B e-commerce firms.

The full report can be read online here.

About the Data: Figures are based on a March 2019 survey of 748 B2B buyers and 1,499 sellers across 10 countries, 16 industries and more than 20 roles. All firms included in the survey had annual revenues of at least $25 million.

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