Survey: Procurers Prefer Buying Online, But Vendor Sites Are Scarce

— November 16, 2012

hybris, a provider of omnichannel commerce software, released the results of the hybris 2012 State of B2B E-Commerce study. The study surveyed business-to-business (B2B) procurement specialists and found that despite respondents' preference for ordering products online, B2B supplier websites have a lot of room for improvement.

According to the results, 88% of procurers agree or strongly agree that if given the option to buy a product online, e-commerce would be their preferred purchasing channel. In addition, three out of four respondents indicate that their preferred method for researching procurement supplies is online.

Unfortunately B2B suppliers are not delivering. Seventy-one percent of respondents still work with vendors who don't offer any online ordering, despite the overwhelming desire to buy this way.

Most B2B supplies have traditionally been offered through print catalogs, but findings indicate several drawbacks to this channel. The top two disadvantages of ordering through a catalog are that they are not updated frequently and procurers have difficulty finding product information. In fact, 74% of respondents indicate that product catalogs are not updated more than quarterly.

B2B procurement specialists also revealed the top three benefits of ordering through supplier websites. The benefits include:
•Conduct business at one's convenience – Having the option to place orders outside of normal business hours (89%)
• Save time – It is much easier to search for a product online than flip through a bulky print catalog (85%)
• Easily monitor order status – Most online vendors allow customers to track orders (81%)

Creating a B2C E-Commerce Experience

Despite a preference for placing orders online, 94% of procurers indicated that B2B suppliers should invest more in making their online purchasing experience as easy and compelling as that of B2C retailers. An effective e-commerce strategy enables B2B vendors to take advantage of marketplace opportunities that are simply beyond the scope of traditional sales tactics.

"To stay ahead of the competition, B2B vendors must update their business practices to adopt a consumer-like e-commerce experience, allowing customers to streamline the purchasing process," said Steve Kramer, President of North America at hybris. "The market has become even more competitive with the launch of competing online marketplaces. It is imperative for suppliers to act now and improve their online offerings in order to build and retain their customer base."

While some B2B suppliers have not yet transitioned to online ordering, others have outdated websites that are difficult to navigate, limiting the effectiveness and efficiency of web-based procurement processes. Because of outdated catalogs and a lack of B2B e-commerce functionality, two out of five respondents have switched suppliers due to difficulty finding product information.

Since some customers still have difficulty finding product information and many customers prefer a personalized customer experience, transitioning B2B procurement to an online platform does not mean a completely self-serviced customer experience. Eighty-seven percent of procurers indicate they would still work with a sales rep occasionally when placing orders, and this increases to 96% of procurers with budgets above $1 million.

An effective B2B e-commerce strategy can ultimately be more cost effective and lead to increased customer retention by allowing sales reps more time to engage in consultative selling. Rather than spending time administrating customers, sales reps can devote more time to identifying and converting new customers, further improving the company's bottom line performance.

"B2B e-commerce enables companies to increase the productivity and success of their sales reps while simultaneously lowering costs and increasing customer retention," added Kramer. "Relationships and customer service are vital in this sphere of commerce, and when reps can dedicate more time to this aspect of the sales process versus administrative tasks, customer satisfaction and revenue increase."

For an official copy of the hybris white paper entitled "2012 State of B2B E-Commerce," please contact kaylee.laudon@hybris.com .

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