Before COVID-19, 71% of B2B customers* were starting their search with a generic search online; today, we can assume that percentage is even higher. In fact, 52% of B2B buyers say they will never go back to the old pre-pandemic way of buying, according to a survey by Considered Content. B2B buying behavior is increasingly mirroring that of the B2C consumer, which is an entirely inevitable development.
Consumerization: the B2B buyer is buying like a consumer
B2B buyers are B2C buyers too – in fact, they don’t see any line between the two. So don’t assume that just because your audience consists of buyers in a professional role, you can get away with a mediocre e-commerce site.
You can’t ignore the need for super-fast load times, video engagement, social media compatibility or real-time online customer service. The new generation of B2B buyers are “always on”, and you have to build online tools around their habits if your business stands to benefit from B2B e-commerce.
The COVID effect: B2B buyers and sellers now prefer doing things digitally
Digital self-serve and remote customer service has inevitably boomed during COVID-19, and the early signs are that it could be here to stay.
According to McKinsey, more than three quarters of buyers and sellers say they prefer working this way, while only 20% want to return to in-person sales**. And importantly, this is a global survey that reflects the views of buyers and sellers in all corners of the world. This development shows that it's vital for B2B sellers to provide as much information as possible through their digital channels. B2B leaders may previously have felt forced into going digital, but they’re now realising it’s the right choice, as they can no longer disregard what their business can gain from B2B e-commerce benefits.
Savvy consumers: B2B buyers want to discover information for themselves, which benefits B2B brands with an e-commerce presence
More B2B customers are looking for content about brands and products online so they can educate themselves. This means that B2B brands need to shift their focus from in-store sales professionals reeling off product features, to marketing teams creating quality content for buyers to research to properly capitalize on B2B e-commerce benefits.
They also need to work harder to keep marketing efforts consistent across devices and channels. There is a lot of work to be done in this area, as research shows that 65% of buyers are frustrated by inconsistent experiences across devices and channels***.
Big spenders: B2B buyers are now willing to buy big ticket items online too, creating even more B2B e-commerce benefits
Any assumption that ecommerce shoppers are online willing to buy smaller, less expensive items should be discarded. A huge 70% of B2B decision makers say they’re now willing to make purchases in excess of $50,000 remotely, while 27% would be willing to spend $500,000 on an item, digitally****.
Essentially, the quality of the shopping experience online has improved so rapidly and substantially in recent times that traditional perceptions about what you do or don’t do online are dissolving. Buyers trust digital shopping more than ever, meaning that companies can no longer ignore B2B e-commerce benefits, as there's no way to capitalize on the digital market without a proper online store.
New direction: a B2B digital strategy and team is a must to maximize B2B e-commerce benefits
The days when B2B companies were operating more anonymously and behind the scenes are long gone. But steering your business in the right digital direction requires thoughtful – and informed – leadership.
As such, it is crucial to hire people and leaders who have a firm grasp of modern buyers and markets as well as understanding the urgent need for developing a strong digital focus. If your Sales VP doesn’t know what a conversion rate is, you will struggle. If your Marketing Director isn’t planning for reach, CPC and SEO, you are probably allocating spend in the wrong places.
And if you still think that ecommerce and digital transformation is something for the IT or the digital department only, think again.