What Suppliers Can Learn from Rising Online B2B Purchasing Habits

Business-to-business commerce increasingly resembles the consumer eCommerce space, with users across industries now expecting similar ease-of-use in the online B2B shopping experience. Now, it’s up to suppliers and distributors to help shift the procurement landscape to meet expectations.

Acquity Group’s second annual State of B2B Procurement Study reveals an increased willingness from procurement officers to purchase company supplies online. However, this spike in potential revenue is not reserved exclusively for manufacturers and their direct distributors—third parties like Amazon Supply still pose a competitive threat in the marketplace, especially for suppliers not able to fully showcase product information on their own channels.

Procurement Officers More Open Than Ever to Purchasing Online

This year’s study found that 41 percent of B2B buyers are willing to purchase any type of business product online — a significant revelation that combats skepticism around the merit of eCommerce in the space. Even though online shopping is a standard B2C practice, these findings demonstrate that buyers across a range of industries, including wholesale manufacturing, retail and healthcare pharmaceutical, among others, believe eCommerce sufficiently addresses the complexities of their companies’ procurement needs.

Sixty-eight percent of buyers participate in some form of electronic purchasing as of 2014, up from 57 percent in 2013. This behavior extends to major purchases—two in three respondents (66 percent) would be comfortable making a major purchase of $5,000 or more online, up 40 percent from 2013. This demonstrates room for continued growth, as nearly 14 percent report making those large purchases at least once per month.

Suppliers Can’t Rest on their Laurels

Despite a jump in the percentage of online purchases happening on a supplier’s website—from 34 percent in 2013 to 48 percent in 2014— B2B companies still have several opportunities to examine their user experience strategy in order to better compete with third parties and secure those repeat big-ticket purchases.

In 2014, 46 percent of B2B buyers spent more than half of their budget online, and 18 percent report spending at least 90 percent online (double the nine percent reported in 2013). With nearly 15 percent of procurement officers making major purchases of $5,000 or more for their company 20+ times per month, up from under 10 percent last year, the opportunities for maximizing revenue are greater than ever.

However, while 83 percent of buyers go to supplier websites when researching online, supplier websites still account for less than half of all online procurement purchases, at 48 percent. Notably similar to B2C eCommerce trends, B2B buyers are inclined to shop around for the right deal, or at least the right purchasing experience. This gap in online purchasing suggests that, while suppliers are doing a better job keeping up with user demands, improvements must be made to boost their ability to attract and convert buyers on their own sites.

To learn more about Acquity Group’s 2014 State of B2B Procurement study, click here.

To shed light on the growth and trends in B2B online purchasing, Acquity Group, part of Accenture Interactive, conducted its second annual State of B2B Procurement study to see how the preferences and habits of buyers at B2B companies have changed in the last year.

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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