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November 12, 2014

Consumer shopping habits influence B2B buying behaviour

Study finds B2B Suppliers are investing in e-commerce to deliver better purchasing experience for business buyers.

By Ellie Burns

As B2B online purchases continue to grow, B2B suppliers are expanding their e-commerce platforms and overall omni-channel capabilities.

According to research from Accenture and hybris software, 52% of business buyers expect at least half of their purchases to be made online in three years’ time.

49% of business buyers make work-related purchases on the same websites they use for personal shopping – clearly highlighting the influence of consumer shopping habits on B2B purchasers.

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 are 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."

60% of respondents chose enhanced search functionality on their website, when asked to name the top features or functions they would most like from suppliers in the selling process. This was followed by 58% wanting ratings and reviews of products and services and 50% wanting improved improved personalised product or service recommendations.

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69%, nearly 7 out of 10 of those surveyed, prefered direct, instant online forms of payment, such as credit cards or payment systems, rather than purchase orders and invoices.

Suppliers are apparently listening; 48% are planning to improve search functionality on their website in the next 18 months, while 4 out of 10 are planning to enhance personalised product or service recommendations for their business customers.

Of those surveyed, 66% of B2B suppliers acknowledged how shifting customer expectations are driving their technology investments in omni-channel initiatives, such as implementing or upgrading e-commerce platforms and mobile services.

83% of B2B companies agreed that an omni-channel strategy is critical to a company’s long-term success by driving more sales and profit. 85% recognised that 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. 62% of sellers cited automated pricing options as a future driver, while 49% expected the use of wearable computing in distribution centers to increase the efficiency of the supply chain process.

"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 for their customers at all times and on all touchpoints."

"For instance, if a customer starts a process at their desk but has to leave for a meeting, their sales journey has to move with them via a digital device, offering minimal fuss around payment, shipping and other purchase options. For many B2B suppliers, this will require significant integration efforts – of back-end and fulfillment systems, as well as with their call centers and popular social media platforms."

The research found that organisation and structure was the core challenge suppliers face when enhancing digital customer-facing channels. 44% of suppliers said the biggest barrier to implementing an omni-channel approach is a difficulty in integrating back-office technology across channels.

"Today’s consumer is digitally enabled and demands a relevant and seamless omni-channel experience from brands – both inside and out of the office," said Bob Barr, managing director for North America digital transformation and operations, Accenture Interactive.

"For companies, this means they not only need to harness digital technologies, they also need to align their company’s culture and organization around offering the best, most customer-centric offerings possible. The B2B companies that calibrate their organizations around their customer and focus on providing digital and seamless omni-channel experiences will seize a strong foothold in securing buyer loyalty."

The study "Building The B2B Omni-Channel Commerce Platform Of The Future", was conducted by Forrester Consulting in North America, France, Germany and the United Kingdom on behalf of Accenture and hybris.

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