BigCommerce (Credit image/Pixabay/fancycrave1)BigCommerce has published the results of its Global B2B Buyer Behaviour Report. It examines the changing habits and preferences of B2B buyers in the US, UK and Australia. The report suggests a continued blurring of lines between consumer retail and B2B eCommerce trends.

B2B buyers increasingly expect the same experience they get as consumers. Engaging mobile responsive sites, product and pricing transparency and a frictionless checkout experience.

The findings also mark a call to action for businesses to modernise their eCommerce operations or risk being left behind. This is a place where B2B eCommerce is still relatively young. According to eMarketer, eCommerce is the fastest-growing channel for B2B product sales. US B2B eCommerce sales will exceed $2 trillion by 2024.

(credit image/LinkedIn/Lance Owide)
Lance Owide, general manager of B2B at BigCommerce

“The way B2B buyers shop is changing, and B2B merchants need to adapt. Buyers are turning to online channels to research, compare and purchase products,” said Lance Owide, general manager of B2B at BigCommerce.

B2B merchants need to have a strong online presence and offer a seamless omnichannel shopping experience to keep buyers loyal and converting — or risk losing market share.”

Among the key findings in the BigCommerce survey:

  • 74% of respondents said they use online platforms to purchase products.
  • 65% said they use search engines as the main means of product discovery. 42% cited online marketplaces, such as Amazon Business.
  • 60% of respondents shared that they use B2B marketplaces to make purchases, with 51% of those using Amazon Business.
  • B2B buyers’ main pain points during the purchasing process are inaccurate pricing and shipping costs (40%), slow website load times (29%) and poor customer support (28%).
  • 31% of respondents indicated that technical issues kept them from completing an online purchase.

Respondents indicated that the most important feature of the checkout process was not mobile support or auto-renew functionality, but displaying complete and accurate pricing information

How B2B buyers discover and purchase products

Digital platforms like internet search results and online marketplaces are the most frequently used ways buyers find products online. 42% of global respondents discover products for their business from catalogs. This suggests that catalogs are still a viable way of grabbing buyers’ attention.

Meanwhile, just 24% of global respondents said they discover new products at trade shows. Currently, live events are still ramping up globally after coming to an almost complete halt during the Covid-19 pandemic.

The pandemic sparked a rush to eCommerce for B2B merchants and buyers as in-person interactions shut down. A 2021 survey by Sana Commerce found that 87% of B2B buyers identified new suppliers online. This was up from 78% prior to the pandemic.

Customers are also using websites to evaluate suppliers increased as well. 74% of B2B buyers did so in 2021, compared to 60% before Covid.

Among the most used purchasing channels, suppliers’ eCommerce websites and apps were the most selected across the US (75%), UK (73%) and Australia (77%). B2B marketplaces and in-store/warehouse purchasing followed close behind. Interestingly, Australian buyers purchase significantly less through B2B marketplaces (45%) than their counterparts in the US (65%) and UK (62%).

Of merchants in the BigCommerce survey who had purchased on an online marketplace, 51% of those respondents selected Amazon Business, with Walmart (23%) and Alibaba (19%) seeing significantly fewer selections. Broken down by region, there are significant differences in which marketplace buyers prefer. Buyers in Australia utilize Amazon Business (38%) less than the US (57%) and UK (58%).

What B2B buyers want from eCommerce sites

B2B buyers value the option to buy online because of benefits such as the ability to compare products and prices across competitors. Additionally, there is the option to customise orders, save purchase histories and make purchases at any time from anywhere. However, those benefits are negated when websites include inaccurate pricing or shipping options, slow page loads and complicated checkouts.

Inaccurate pricing and shipping costs were deemed most frustrating by respondents (40%). This is a valuable takeaway for merchants who unintentionally hide shipping costs or taxes until the final stages of checkout. Slow website loading time was ranked as the second-highest pain point for B2B buyers (29%). Customer support challenges (28%) follow close behind.

In aggregate, B2B buyers indicated that the most important features for their online purchasing experience were detailed product information and custom pricing and discounts.

Looking at the results based on respondents’ frequency of purchase, however, shows that detailed product information has an increasing importance as the frequency of purchases decreases. This indicates that buyers who make fewer purchases want to have more information to decide when they are ready. As the frequency of purchase increases, however, B2B buyers display more preference for bulk ordering than those who purchase less often.

B2B sellers need to get the website basics right before moving on to bigger and better functionality,” Owide said.

Many of these basic functions come from their experiences in the consumer retail space, mobile responsive sites and customer reviews. Technology partners can help alleviate some of these stresses. Customer service could benefit from implementing a live chat function, allowing buyers to speak directly to representatives from the site.”

What B2B buyers expect during checkout

The checkout process is a critical step in eCommerce because even the slightest bit of friction can cause buyers to abandon their carts. Respondents in this section were asked about how they paid for products. They were also asked about the pain points they experienced during the process, and how those pain points can impact the final purchase.

The top reason B2B buyers abandoned their carts was because of technical issues faced at checkout (31%). This, along with a complicated checkout process (15%), signals the importance of a smooth, effortless checkout experience. Lack of secure checkout was the second biggest reason for abandoned carts across all regions. However, it was the No. 1 reason in the UK, with 30% of respondents choosing it. This compared to 20% in the US and 21% in Australia.

When it comes to preferred checkout features, respondents overwhelmingly value total and accurate pricing information, followed by the availability of multiple shipping options.

While not showing high preference overall, respondents who must go through 10 or more approvals showed some preference for an auto-save cart feature, signalling the importance of this function to buyers who have longer purchasing processes or will need to come back to their cart later during the approval process. Similarly, auto-renew or subscribe-and-save options showed increased preference from respondents with higher approval levels as well.

B2B buying habits have been through a tremendous transformation over the last few years, and BigCommerce’s platform makes it easy for merchants to meet those buyer expectations,” Owide explained.

“Whether purchasing from suppliers, manufacturers, distributors or wholesalers, buyers are no longer relying solely on sales teams to guide their purchases. Instead, the journey has become a mix of physical and digital interactions that often results in a final purchase online.”

Enterprise Times: What this means for business

A major impact of the Coronavirus pandemic was the B2B rush to embrace eCommerce. Merchants and buyers suddenly found in-person interactions were closed and had to develop new digital channels.

This is quite a timely and comprehensive review of the B2B commerce space. The research found that basic eCommerce functionality, frictionless checkout and transparency on products and pricing are among the top purchasing expectations. However, one of the more interesting aspects of the research was that B2B buyers found the most important features for the online purchasing experience were detailed product information and custom pricing and discounts.

It is still surprising many enterprises fail to treat their B2B channels with the same respect as their B2C ones. Badly written product descriptions, poorly produced images and videos and inferior user experience still characterise some B2B channels. As BigCommerce’s Owide suggests, enterprises need to get their website basics right before moving on to bigger and better functionality.


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