Manufacturers and distributors are increasingly investing in making buying easy for customers regardless of how they research and purchase, a recent survey conducted by Forrester Research Inc. found.

The report, “Mastering Omnichannel B2B Customer Engagement,” found that customers are most likely to repeatedly buy from the same supplier if prices and product details are clearly listed online. Shopper loyalty also increases when suppliers track buyers’ purchasing habits across multiple channels and offer personalized recommendations, the report says. The term “omnichannel” pertains to the practice of selling to and interacting with customers in many ways, including via telephone, email, physical locations and web and mobile sites.

“Buyers want more personalization across all stages of the customer journey, and they’re willing to reward the businesses that offer it to them,” the report says. “If you don’t deliver that B2C-like personalized experience, someone else will. Leveraging technology to do data sharing and hiring people who know how to delight customers in a very personalized way is no longer optional, but mandatory.”

Forrester conducted the survey on behalf of e-commerce technology provider hybris Software, a unit of business software company SAP SE, and technology consultants Accenture Interactive. Forrester surveyed more than 750 suppliers and 1,300 buyers from companies across North America, Europe, Asia-Pacific and Latin America.

Suppliers most often cited “meeting customer expectations” among their top five reasons for investing in omnichannel initiatives, followed by “providing a consistent experience across channels.” Following are the percentages of respondents citing the following reasons as most important for investing in omnichannel initiatives in 2015/2014:

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  • Meet customer expectations, 74%/66%;
  • Provide a consistent experience across channels, 65%/0%
  • Omnichannel customers have a higher lifetime value, 64%/51%;
  • Drive additional efficiencies and cost savings, 60%/54%;
  • Match our competitors’ practices, 55%/50%;
  • Increase customer satisfaction metrics, 53%/59%.
  • Gain a competitive edge over online pure-plays, 49%/56%;
  • International growth and globalization, 41%/33%;
  • Reduce customer service and call center expenses, 36%/38%.

The following percentages of buyers cited the following e-commerce site features to be among the five most important reasons to repeatedly buy from the same supplier:

  • 19%—Clearly marked prices and product details;
  • 16%—Personalized recommendations;
  • 13%—The broadest selection of products or services;
  • 12%—Consistently lower prices;
  • 10%—Multiple payment options;
  • 9%—Omnichannel capabilities for shopping across selling channels;
  • 7%—Excellent customer service and post-purchase support.

Suppliers listed difficulty sharing customer data and analytics as the top barrier to their omnichannel and personalization initiatives. The majority of B2B sellers aren’t able to easily share customer information between technology systems and channels, the report found.  “Sellers cannot create personalized experiences if their various systems can’t talk to each other,” the report says.

The following percentages of suppliers reported the following customer data that they make available across all of their online sales and marketing channels:

  • 60%—Customer name;
  • 56%—Levels of client satisfaction;
  • 48%—Customers’ shipping and billing addresses;
  • 47%—Customers’ past purchase history
  • 44%—Information about when products were delivered;
  • 43%—Services and support issues customers have reported;
  • 43%—Prior sales and marketing contacts with each customer;
  • 43%—Customers’ payment options and habits;
  • 40%—Products and services researched;
  • 40% —Clients’ custom pricing and catalog items;
  • 39%—Information about clients’ business.

Sign up for a free subscription to B2BecNews, a twice-weekly newsletter that covers technology and business trends in the growing B2B e-commerce industry. B2BecNews is published by Vertical Web Media LLC, which also publishes the monthly business magazine Internet Retailer. Follow Nona Tepper, associate editor for B2B e-commerce, on Twitter @ntepper90.

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