If today’s business-to-business sellers want to capture newly empowered business buyers, their B2B web sites need to stop looking like B2B sites. It’s time to replicate the features, functions and visual appeal of business-to-consumer e-commerce sites, according to a new report from Forrester Consulting.
The new online business buyer can be in any department and range from staff to executive levels, is likely to act outside traditional procurement channels and expects a fast, convenient purchasing process, says the report, titled “The Rise of the Empowered B2B End User Buyer” and commissioned by Intershop Communications AG, a Germany-based e-commerce platform provider.
Today’s business buyer has more freedom to make purchasing decisions, which the report calls empowerment. “For those accustomed to selling through procurement professionals, empowered business end-user buyers represent a new opportunity for penetrating deeper into B2B organizations,” the report says.
An independent buyer can mean individual decisions, which provide an opportunity for B2B companies. The study found that the key attribute buyers look for in an online B2B supplier—cited by 35% of respondents—is providing brands and products the buyer trusts. Pricing and technical information were the next key attributes sought in a B2B company, each cited by 28% of respondents. Fast customer service and full fee and cost disclosure were rated next in importance, by 27% of survey respondents.
The study was conducted in July and August and results were published this month. Forrester surveyed more than 1,500 buyers in Australia, China, France, Germany, the U.S., and the U.K. at organizations with at least 500 employees. Its authors found that “catering to their sophisticated needs and preferences will require B2B sellers to implement robust and full-featured e-commerce capabilities quickly.”
Meeting the needs of such empowered buyers can pay off in the long term by keeping them coming back to buy again, Forrester says. Key factors in remaining with a B2B company were lower prices, chosen by 57% of respondents, followed closely by positive past experiences with the supplier (54%). Product quality was listed next in importance for building buyer loyalty (45%), followed by lowest cost of or free shipping (44%), and ease of web site use (42%).
Buyers also expect to find traditional and newer rich media content on their supplier’s web site. Technical brochures and specification sheets were the top types of content sought, noted by 61% of respondents, followed by instruction manuals and how-to documents (46%). After those basics, their tastes become more contemporary in terms of what they want from B2B suppliers, including videos (38%), case studies (31%), webinars (30%), infographics and social media activity (25% for each), and mobile service (22%).
Product pricing is the type of information buyers find most useful on B2B company web sites, cited by 73% of survey respondents. Technical information/specifications came next (64%), followed by delivery costs (53%), product availability (49%) and special offers and discounts (48%).
The top factor cited by buyers when deciding to purchase products outside corporate procurement channels was convenience and speed (52%). Next in importance was the buyers’ prevailing opinion that they understand what they need better than procurement staff (33%), followed by their desire to research products and services independently, and the belief they can find lower prices or cut costs better than their procurement departments.
Meeting the needs and preferences of the empowered end-user buyer can ultimately put B2B companies on a more even footing with their B2C competitors, representing “an opportunity to steal share away from business-to-consumer sites that target these buyers as consumers,” the Forrester Consulting report says.
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