B2B buyers are consumers, too, and those B2B customers now expect the same range of omnichannel buying options they enjoy in their personal lives, according to a Forrester Consulting Thought Leadership Paper. This is why almost half of B2B buyers (49 percent) prefer to use consumer websites to make work-related purchases.
The study points to a dramatic shift in the B2B buyer journey. Where B2B customers once searched print catalogs or spoke to sales reps, many now start their journey on the supplier’s website (32 percent) or a search engine (25 percent).
More than half (52 percent) of the 930 B2B buyers surveyed (in North America and Europe) said they expect one out of two of their purchases to be made online in three years’ time.
In particular, B2B customers demand fulfillment capabilities, inventory visibility and convenience – driven by their own experiences outside of work, and mirroring consumer expectations:
- Almost 78 percent of B2B customers (and 83% of consumers) say fulfillment options – such as next-day delivery – are important or very important
- More than 70 percent of buyers and consumers want to know about product availability either in store or across any channel
- Both B2B customers and consumers value useful services that promote online convenience – such as self-service access to accounts and orders (72% of buyers) and scheduled deliveries (64 percent of buyers)
B2B buyers also have high expectations of cross-channel visibility and omnichannel fulfillment options. They want to:
- Look up product information across any channel (74 percent)
- Return or exchange across different channels (64 percent)
- Buy from a branch and receive delivery directly (73 percent)
- Receive same-day delivery (61 percent)
What does this mean for B2B suppliers?
Buyers exposed to strong omnichannel capabilities are likely to be more active, more loyal, and to spend more. B2B brand loyalty is being driven not only by predictable factors such as quality and cost, but also by digital experience. 80 percent of buyers noted the importance of credible product details and information, as well as an easy-to-use website – while three-quarters (75 percent) would buy again from the same supplier because of omnichannel features.
Encouragingly, the 526 B2B companies surveyed are showing signs of technology investment in line with buyers’ expectations. When asked about their technology priorities, the following e-commerce features came out top: enhanced search functionality (48 percent), improved personalization and service recommendations (42 percent), and mobile website access (39 percent). (Click here to see how consumer websites are further influencing B2B website functionality.)
Overall, however, one point is clear. B2B buyers will no longer accept fragmented, hit-and-miss digital experiences. Their online shopping experiences as consumers have inflated their expectations within the workplace: they expect an omnichannel experience where they can be as flexible as they are in the B2C world.
So for B2B companies, remember this: Your buyers are consumers, too.
Win the B2B moments that matter.
Download industry and customer reports for the B2B Experience Economy here.