Almost 90% of B2B company executives expect growth to come from digital commerce, a new study says.

Most B2B executives see digital growth ahead and expect the majority of their products to be sold online in the next five years, according to a study of business leaders in the United States and Europe. Digital commerce will become the dominant channel in that time period, moving beyond “auxiliary” status, according to a new report titled Why Digital Will Become the Primary Channel for B2B Engagement.

88% of B2B executives expect to offer products in the next five years that will be primarily sold online, according to the report. The report is based on an August survey of 460 B2B businesses in the U.S. and Europe by CloudCraze, a provider of e-commerce technology built on the Salesforce CRM platform from Salesforce.com Inc. The breakdown by company type was software vendors at 39%, manufacturing at 37%, and 25% were consumer packaged goods companies. 65% of respondents were with U.S. companies, the remainder were European. The European survey included businesses in the United Kingdom, France, Germany, Italy, Spain and Benelux (Belgium, Netherlands and Luxembourg).

More than half (56%) of B2B businesses report giving self-service access to all customers.

A similar percentage, 89%, expect overall business growth to come from digital commerce and more than half (52%) of B2B decision-makers surveyed said they believe their customers are “eager to adopt new technologies and processes,” the report notes.

Digital commerce can make it easier for B2B companies to offer complex ordering features and reduce costs per order, the report says. The top three ways digital commerce affects those areas are tied to customer acquisition, cited by 59% of respondents; upselling and cross-selling (51%); and self-service (51%).

As in the world of consumer online shopping, business buyers expect self-service capabilities enabling them to place orders at their convenience. “This freedom has redefined the customer and sales relationship,” the report says. “And it’s clear that businesses are taking advantage of self-service capabilities.”

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More than half (56%) of B2B businesses report giving self-service access to all customers. And although self-service can reduce service costs for low-volume customers, the report notes, more B2B businesses offer self-service options to only high-volume customers (41%) compared to only low-volume customers (35%). Just 2% of businesses reported providing none of their customers access to self-service options.

Digital commerce lets businesses give customers a B2C-like buying experience while providing the complex functionality B2B customers need, the report notes. “B2B businesses that enable digital commerce are confident that it is the key to growth in the years head–whether driving more revenue or retaining and attracting customers in the long term.”

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