Business-to-business (B2B) suppliers are investing in technology to address changing buying habits in the consumer retail sector, as online business purchases surge.
Research from Accenture found that half of business buyers will make half their purchases online within three years and many want it to be like how they buy products and services in their private lives.
The report by Forrester Consulting, Building The B2B Omni-Channel Commerce Platform Of The Future, surveyed B2B buyers in the US and Europe. It found half of business buyers (49%) prefer to buy work-related items on the same websites as they buy products for themselves.
The study found that two-thirds of B2B suppliers acknowledge shifting customer expectations are driving technology investments in omni-channel initiatives.
It also revealed 83% of B2B suppliers are either upgrading their ecommerce technology or planning to in the next six months, with consumer online buying behavior influencing buying habits.
“Business buyers are coming online with high expectations across the board,” said Brigid Fyr, managing director for North America omni-channel commerce at Accenture Interactive.
“With three out of four buyers stating they would buy again from a supplier with an easy-to-use website, sellers have a large opportunity for growth by focusing on making the entire purchasing experience as easy as ordering a book online or downloading music onto a smartphone.”
More on changing buying habits
The consumerisation of B2B buying seems likely as business buyers demand enhanced search functionality on supplier websites (60%), ratings and reviews (58%) and personalised recommendations (50%). About 70% also want to make the payment process easier through online forms of payment, such as credit cards or payment systems, rather than purchase orders and invoices.
According to the research, in the next 18 months, nearly half of suppliers are planning to improve search functionality on their website, while 42% want to enhance personalised product or service recommendations for their business customers. Most of B2B sellers (86%) allow customers to use credit or debit cards when making a purchase, and 79% allow online payment services.
But suppliers face challenges due to organisational and structural factors, with the biggest barrier to implementing an omni-channel approach related to the difficulty in integrating back-office technology across channels, according to 44%. The difficulty in sharing customer data and analytics across the organisation was seen as a challenge by 42%.
“Today’s consumer is digitally enabled and demands a relevant and seamless omni-channel experience from brands, both inside and out of the office,” said Bob Barr, managing director for North America digital transformation and operations at Accenture Interactive.
“For companies, this means they not only need to harness digital technologies, they also need to align their company’s culture and organisation around offering the best, most customer-centric offerings possible. The B2B companies that calibrate their organisations around their customer and focus on providing digital and seamless omni-channel experiences will seize a strong foothold in securing buyer loyalty.”