The Tablet Effect: B2B Procurement Research Preferences across Channels

As procurement teams continue to gain confidence as a result of their positive eCommerce experiences, they’ve also become more open to researching and making purchases online independently of traditional sales support, according to Acquity Group’s 2014 State of B2B Procurement Study. This transition places more emphasis on the efficacy of online, rather than print, catalogs and services.

B2B suppliers appear to be taking note of the changes buyers are looking for, as only 3 percent of procurement officers in 2014 report that their suppliers still don’t have online catalogs, compared with 11 percent in 2013. However, many of the elements necessary to build credibility as a supplier in the pre-digital age still apply in the online procurement space.

Online Searches Up Across Price Ranges

While price may not be the only factor B2B buyers pay attention to, it’s still the most important factor they consider when shopping for a company purchase. Therefore, the amount of time they spend researching products at a variety of price points is a solid indicator of buyers’ level of trust in online sources.

In 2014, more than two-thirds of B2B buyers reported researching the majority of goods under $5,000 via an online channel. A relatively high number of buyers are also researching big-ticket items online: 50 percent state they research more than half of goods worth more than $100,000 online.

Departure from Traditional Catalogs

Not only are buyers more comfortable with online channels for research, they’re also growing less reliant on print catalogs as a form of backup. The percentage of procurement officers who would be more comfortable making a purchase of $5,000 or more on their mobile device if they researched the product in a catalog first decreased from 23 percent in 2013 to 11 percent in 2014.

The personal interaction that accompanies that print experience, however, is still a vital element to some B2B buyers. Of respondents who do not plan to increase their online spending in the next year, less than 1 in 5 stated the main factor in their decision is that they prefer speaking directly to a salesperson when ordering from a catalog, because it’s more personal.

Acquity Group’s 2014 findings show a definitive progression toward Web dependency as more B2B buyers turn to the Internet to conduct research and complete transactions. Manufacturers and suppliers must be constantly aware of buyer expectations, and be willing to integrate online and offline channels in a seamless way to offer customers a seamless experience.

For more about the 2014 State of B2B Procurement study from Acquity Group, click here.


The second annual B2B Procurement study from Acquity Group, part of Accenture Interactive, examines how the shift to The Web has impacted the B2B buyer’s search, discovery and purchase processes in 2014.

The study surveyed 500 buyers with annual purchasing budgets of $100,000 or more about their online purchasing habits and preferences. Inquiries ranged across areas including research, loyalty, frequency of purchase, customer service, and online offering and feature preferences. Buyers’ preferences and behaviors were also analyzed based on demographic qualifiers including generation, budget and industry. Response percentages were further evaluated on a quantitative scale to assess actionable metrics for B2B distributors and suppliers.

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