U.S. B2B e-commerce revenue has more than doubled that of B2C with $559 billion annually, according to a study last year by Forrester Consulting. The study explored what impact e-commerce has on how B2B companies sell their products and services and found that a fundamental transformation is happening in how businesses are acquiring and retaining customers. (Full disclosure: the study was underwritten by hybris, an e-commerce platform provider.)
Forrester’s study yielded three key findings:
• Selling online and on mobile devices represents a significant new opportunity for B2B companies. They are finding that selling online drives higher revenue and builds greater loyalty with customers. Forrester’s research shows that online-only and omni-channel B2B customers have higher average order values and are more likely to add items to orders, order in bulk and make repeat purchases than offline-only B2B customers. B2B companies also find it easier
to build loyalty with online-only B2B customers than with offline-only B2B customers by leveraging targeted cross-sell and upsell offers.
• Self-service tools are changing the way in which B2B customers interact with companies. Demand is growing rapidly for Web-based self-service e-commerce capabilities that allow B2B customers to research, make and service their purchases from a PC, laptop or mobile device. In a new world of 24×7×365 “whenever and wherever” commerce, B2B customers are increasingly demanding tools and technologies capable of serving them on their own terms. A majority of B2B companies in Forrester’s research indicated that their customers are asking them for new and better self-service tools to make buying more convenient.
• B2B companies that wait too long to implement e-commerce assume a big risk. Every day that B2B companies fail to offer a compelling B2B e-commerce experience, they fall farther behind more advanced competitors. Specifically, they risk losing market share to B2B rivals already executing an e-commerce strategy and B2B versions of consumer websites that have recently emerged in the B2B space.
The new B2B buyer journey
Today’s B2B customers are emulating B2C consumers and fundamentally transitioning their browsing and buying into online and mobile environments. Fully 50 percent of B2B companies currently selling direct to business partners online indicate that their end user B2B customers are using either consumer websites or B2B versions of consumer websites to purchase products or services for their companies. Forrester’s research shows that the more B2B companies sell online, the more likely their customers are to shop in these nontraditional channels.
Clearly, mobile is emerging as an important channel for B2B companies — in the awareness and brand-building phases as well as the point of decision. The study shows
that 54 percent of B2B companies selling online report that their customers are using smartphones to research purchases and 62 percent use tablets to research purchases. More than half (52 percent) say that their customers are using smartphones or tablets to actually buy online.
The study identified opportunities for B2B companies to further differentiate and gain market share, including focusing on mobile as a critical channel of the future. “B2B companies simply must see mobile as an integral part of their next-generation e-commerce offering. For B2B companies that embrace mobile and purpose-built sites and applications for their mobile users, the mobile channel offers new in-the-field sales opportunities as well as more personalized customer service scenarios that were simply impossible or infeasible before,” the report states.
A link to the full Forrester research report is available in our Additional Web Resources box at SalesandMarketing.com.