Consumer shopping habits are now playing a key factor in influencing B2B buying behavior. As the volume of business-to-business (B2B) purchases being made online continues to grow, B2B suppliers are responding by expanding their e-commerce platforms and overall omni-channel capabilities, according to new research from Accenture (NYSE: ACN) and hybris software. 52% of business buyers expect at least half of their purchases to be made online in three years’ time, as shown in the study.
The study also found that consumer shopping habits are influencing how B2B purchasers expect to buy from suppliers. Already, nearly half of business buyers (49%) prefer making work-related purchases on the same websites they use for personal purchases. Consequently, the study also found that 83% of B2B suppliers surveyed are either in the process of implementing or upgrading their e-commerce suite or planning to do so within six months.
“Business buyers are coming online with high expectations across the board,” said Brigid Fyr, managing director for North America omni-channel commerce, Accenture Interactive, part of Accenture Digital. “With three out of four buyers stating they would buy again from a supplier with an easy-to-use website, sellers have a large opportunity for growth by focusing on making the entire purchasing experience as easy as ordering a book online or downloading music onto a smartphone.”
How Business Suppliers Meet Buyers’ Expectations
When asked to cite the top features or functions they would most like from suppliers in the selling process, most business buyers chose enhanced search functionality on their website (60%), followed by showing ratings and reviews of products and services (58%) and improved personalized product or service recommendations on their website (50%). Additionally, nearly seven out of 10 business buyers (69%) prefer to use direct, instant online forms of payment, such as credit cards or payment systems, rather than purchase orders and invoices.
According to the study, suppliers are listening: In the next 18 months, nearly half (48%) are planning to improve search functionality on their website, and four out of 10 (42%) are planning to enhance personalized product or service recommendations for their business customers. Already, 86% of B2B sellers allow customers to use credit or debit cards when making a purchase, and 79% allow online payment services.
Omni-Channel Efforts Are Driving Investment in Technology
Two-thirds of B2B suppliers (66%) acknowledge that shifting customer expectations are driving their technology investments in omni-channel initiatives, such as implementing or upgrading e-commerce platforms and mobile services. More than eight out of 10 B2B companies (83%) agree that an omni-channel strategy is critical to a company’s long-term success by driving more sales and profit. Additionally, 85% recognize technology investment decisions will be centered on the omni-channel strategy.
Importantly, B2B sellers are also beginning to look beyond e-commerce and omni-channel to the technologies that will drive the future of their businesses. When asked to identify the areas in which their companies would invest in the future, nearly two-thirds of sellers (62%) cited automated pricing options, while the use of wearable computing in distribution centers to increase the efficiency of the supply chain process was cited by nearly half (49%).
“Business suppliers have made a good start adapting to changing buying patterns,” said Brian Walker, Chief Strategy Officer at Hybris. “Now it will be important for them to ensure a truly seamless experience