E-commerce a Way of Life for B2B Buyers

Oct. 16, 2014
Business-to-business commerce increasingly resembles consumer e-commerce activity, as more buyers complete purchases online—even major ones, new study shows.

B2B purchasing is increasingly mirroring the consumer world, as more business purchasers rely on e-commerce programs to research and complete their B2B purchases. A new study on the state of B2B procurement reveals a steadily growing interest among procurement officers to purchase company supplies online—from manufacturers, their distributors, and from third parties such as Amazon Supply.

“Business-to-business commerce increasingly resembles the consumer e-commerce space, with users across industries now expecting similar ease-of-use in the online B2B shopping experience,” according to the Acuity Group, which released its State of B2B Procurement Study this fall. “Now, it’s up to suppliers and distributors to help shift the procurement landscape to meet expectations.”

The study found that 41% of B2B buyers—including those in manufacturing, retail, health care, and pharmaceutical industries—are willing to purchase any type of business product online. What’s more, 68% report participating in some form of electronic purchasing in 2014, up from 57% last year. The behavior extends to major purchases, as 66% say they are comfortable making a purchase of $5,000 or more online, up from 40% in 2013.

“This demonstrates room for continued growth, as nearly 14 percent report making those large purchases at least once per month,” study organizers said.

There is also room for business suppliers to improve the online buying experience. More than 80% of buyers report going to suppliers’ websites to research business purchases, yet less than half report actually purchasing through those suppliers’ sites (48%). Though this represents an increase from the 34% of sales buyers reported making through their suppliers’ sites in 2013, it also indicates that alternative sources, such as third-party suppliers, still represent a competitive threat, study leaders say.

“B2B buyers are inclined to shop around for the right deal, or at least the right purchasing experience,” the group said. “This gap in online purchasing suggests that, while suppliers are doing a better job keeping up with user demands, improvements must be made to boost their ability to attract and convert buyers on their own sites.”

Acuity Group’s State of B2B Procurement Study surveyed 500 buyers with annual purchasing budgets of $100,000 or more about their online purchasing habits and preferences.

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