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Almost 9 in 10 B2B firms report buying more online in the past year, reveals Avionos [download page] in a survey of 160 B2B procurement officers at manager level of above at firms with at least $100 million in annual revenues. Survey respondents – most of whom are involved with annual direct procurement spending of at least $10 million – are almost unanimous in considering a supplier’s e-commerce and customer portal capabilities important when determining to go with a supplier.

With e-commerce expected to reach one-eight of all B2B sales in the US by 2020, suppliers are in ever-greater need of offering an excellent e-commerce experience.

Yet results from the study suggest that plenty of friction remains. Indeed, only 24% of procurement officers surveyed reported not experiencing any pain points in the e-commerce buying process.

The most common pain point for respondents is a lack of – or inaccurate – information on products, a problem cited by more than 4 in 10 respondents (43%).

Beyond product information, sizable proportions of procurement officers have also encountered insufficient inventory information (30%), poor e-commerce site experiences (24%), difficult checkouts (22%) and unavailable customer service (22%).

The results suggest that B2B suppliers can gain a competitive advantage by improving their e-commerce experiences, much as has been found in B2C marketing too.

3 in 4 Buyers Switch Suppliers Based on Tool Availability

There’s more to supplier selection than the e-commerce experience, though. Indeed, B2B procurement officers are also basing their decisions on the availability of various tools, which makes sense given that virtually all consider a supplier’s e-commerce capabilities when making sourcing decisions.

According to the report, more than three-quarters (76.9%) of respondents have switched suppliers based on the availability of various tools.

Three tools stand out as having caused the largest proportions of respondents to switch suppliers. They are:

  • Efficient re-ordering (39.4%);
  • Subscription service options (38.8%); and
  • Contracted pricing (36.3%).

Some respondents also reported having switched suppliers in the past on account of tailored product offerings and fast customer service through online chat. That latter point harks back to the more than 1 in 5 respondents who have experienced unavailable customer service as an e-commerce pain point.

Procurement Officers Consider Brand History

B2B procurement officers take into account various factors when deciding to make a purchase from a supplier. The product type is – logically – the most important of those factors, while time of purchase is also very important.

Interestingly, brand history is also a key consideration for procurement officers when making a decision. That fits with recent research studies into B2B buyer behavior, which have found brand familiarity playing a key role in purchase decisions as well as brand reputation and trust being critical to buyers.

Meanwhile, an exclusive online-only offering is the least important factor to procurement officers, who also don’t put as much weight into tailored recommendations as they do into other factors.

All told, about 83% of respondents said they would pay a higher price for a product or service if the supplier had excellent e-commerce and customer portal capabilities.

Amazon Business Grows in Stature

B2B procurement officers aren’t that different from the typical consumer, in at least one respect: they start their searches on Amazon and Google.

Asked where they typically begin their purchase process, 41% of respondents pointed to Amazon Business, while 36% cited Google. That left just 21% starting at a supplier website (15%) or catalog (6%).

Moreover, fully 65% of procurement officers surveyed said that the growth of Amazon Business has resulted in them making more purchases through Amazon.

The full report can be downloaded here.

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