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How has B2B eCommerce Buyer Behavior Changed in 2017

B2B Buyer Journey - What's Changed in 2017?

B2B Industrial suppliers, both manufacturers and distributors (especially distributors in the case of one key insight in the conclusions below), need to see Forrester’s recently shared results of their 4th annual study, “Insights Into The Behavior Of The Modern B2B Buyer” in a Digital Commerce 360 webinar, “How B2B Buyers Shop, Think & Behave“.

Here’s our take on the key points for industrial B2B supplier eCommerce:

The Buying Process

Forrester makes the point that, “it is not about “filling the funnel”, it is about guiding buyers through a journey.” They say the “sales funnel” is at best a simplifying analogy but it doesn’t represent the complexity of today’s buying process. The key point – don’t force your simplification on the buyer, it is THEIR journey so adapt to their preferences! This excellent research updates us all on those preferences for 2017 (and beyond) so we can help guide customers on their journey.

Where Do Online Buyers Start?

Knowing where they start, and understanding why, lets you ensure you are part of the process. 38% start “where they find the broadest selection“, 24% start at “the most credible source of product details and info“, 22% start at the “easiest to use“. The point is they are trying to be efficient by going to the least number of sites.

How Many Research and Buy Online?

64% now research at least half of their work purchases online and 38% make at least half of their work purchases online. By 2020 55% expect to be buying at least half online. WHY are they shifting their buying online? For 38% its more convenient and for 22% it’s faster. Collectively these two reasons, convenience and speed equal efficiency for 38%+22%=60% of buyers! Therefore industrial suppliers need to ensure their eCommerce is as efficient as possible.

Where Do They Finish?

Obviously you want to be “where they finish” so you get the order! 26% finish at the most credible source of product information, 17% at the easiest to use site, 15% where delivery is fastest and 14% where price is lowest. Where they start of course correlates with where they finish – here’s a table showing the percentage of customers that start and finish at particular types of websites:

 65% Search EngineNot Applicable
 12% Brand Manufacturer28%
 10% Marketplace (for example Amazon, eBay, Jet, etc.)30%
 5% Industry Distributor16%

Conclusions and Recommendations

For modern B2B buyer behavior, Forrester concludes that where they start is driven by the broadest selection and where they finish is driven by the most credible information! Therefore B2B industrial suppliers should ensure as broad a product selection as they can online and provide credible and comprehensive product detail pages, for example, including product CAD models where applicable.

We also have 4 further recommendations:

  • Search Engine Optimization (SEO) and Search Engine Marketing (SEM) as well as local site search remain very important in order to be found ‘where they start’. Ensure your part detail pages have excellent industrial specific SEO and if using Software as a Service, ‘How to Use SaaS Services without Losing Any SEO Benefits‘. But also think of Amazon as a type of ‘search engine for products‘ – their broad selection makes them an efficient place to start! Maybe eBay too? Consider if you should be in broad marketplaces as well?
  • Last year 30% were finishing at a distributor site – this year only 16% are! This is a significant change and distributors need to think about why that is? We recommend distributors make their sites as easy to use and ‘friction-less’ as possible with efficiency boosting features like no login or auto login, CAD model downloads directly into users CAD designs, stock availability, one click reordering, tracking, etc.
  • Responsiveness – what used to be acceptable performance is changing as competitors and B2C eCommerce set new expectations. For example: page load times, email response times, shipping times, etc. are all diminishing! Make sure your operating standards, staff training and technology are all keeping up with the expectations and preferences of your customers!
  • There’s much more information in the Forrester research, for example what drives repeat business and loyalty and what hardware do they use today. We recommend reviewing it for yourself. Increasing Smartphone usage is another indicator of B2B buyers using whatever is the most efficient, convenient or fastest for them! Therefore ensure your website works well on Smartphones!

If you’d like to know more about making your industrial eCommerce convenient and fast using digital catalogsconfiguratorseCommerce3D CAD models and/or 2D CAD drawings all integrated with your website, CRM, ERP, etc. systems please call us or click either button below.



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