Thanks to the wealth of information available on the internet, B2B buyers no longer need to interact with salespeople to learn about a product or service. This means that sellers have less access and fewer opportunities to influence customer decisions. In fact, when B2B buyers are considering a purchase, they spend only 17% of that time meeting with suppliers. The way B2B buyers interact with sellers isn’t the only thing that’s changed over time.
Moving Offline to Online
Today, B2B buyers are sharing the same conveniences of B2C consumers when shopping online. Just as B2C shoppers can buy a pair of shoes, a new purse and an outfit from the comfort of their own home, B2B buyers can use the same channels to purchase a pallet of laptops for their organization. In fact, B2B buyers expect the same ease of shopping online (i.e. one-click checkouts, etc.) that’s offered on B2C eCommerce sites.
In the past, businesses reached out to vendors and communicated with sales reps to start their buyer’s journey. Then, the sales reps pitched them on the potential solution. If the buyer liked what they heard, they’d then sign a contract. The phone calls, offline order forms and constant sales pitches no longer dominate the B2B buying cycle like they used to.
A More Complicated Buying Cycle
The B2B buying process isn’t as linear as it was back then. Awareness to consideration to decision is no longer just a straight shot. The B2B buying journey is becoming a lot more complex and doesn’t necessarily go in that order. Now, B2B buyers might arrive at a purchase decision without needing to reach out to a sales rep. Many of them only need to communicate with a rep to finalize that deal. Between identifying a problem and signing up for a solution, today’s B2B buyers can chart their own path to purchase.
What sparked this change? Modern B2B buyers are now better informed. In the past, the sales rep was the gatekeeper of information and buyers would meet many sales reps during the information-gathering phase. Now, buyers would rather not use sales reps as their primary source of information. They’re carrying out a lot of their research online.
Today’s B2B buyer is increasingly influenced by peers. According to data gathered by LinkedIn Business, 53% of B2B buyers rely on peer recommendations. Another 76% prioritize vendors suggested by their peers.
Modern B2B buyers are now a part of a larger group. Since there are now more people involved in making B2B purchase decisions, it can take longer to come to a consensus. That’s because more nods of approval are needed. The average number of stakeholders involved in the decision-making process is 6.8 and rising – up from 5.4 in late 2014.
It’s increasingly rare for a single decision-maker to make a significant B2B purchase without actively involving their colleagues. With the expanding range of options B2B customers face, they need more time to evaluate their decision and consider the trade-offs. As the number of stakeholders in the buying process increases, the more cautious and risk-averse B2B buyers become.
The Future of B2B eCommerce
B2B buyers of today expect more online capabilities. To achieve that, B2B companies need to leverage eCommerce features that offer the same – if not, better – personalized experiences enjoyed by B2C shoppers.
- Self-service features: Allow customers to order at any time without waiting until a sales rep answers their call, which empowers buyers to manage their own accounts.
- Sales rep enablement: Enables direct communication between buyers and sales reps during the buying process.
- Quick order & reorder/auto-replenishment: Bulk orders take a lot of time to complete, but this feature allows buyers to easily enter in a long list of items and bulk order items they recently purchased.
- Customer-specific catalog: Allows B2B organizations to create a personalized product catalog for different clients with account-specific catalog views, thus, streamlining the purchasing process.