E-commerce conversion rates and average order values are increasing for manufacturers, distributors and wholesalers, but so are the challenges to keep up with their online competition, Forrester Research says in new study it conducted with B2BecNews.

Business-to-business companies are reaping the benefits of e-commerce, with more than half reporting increases in both the size and profitability of their average online orders last year over 2016, Forrester Research Inc. says in a new report based on a study of B2BecNews readers.

The study found that the average online ticket, or average order value, was $1,816—compared with $148 noted in a similar study of online retailers. The report, “Measuring Up: Benchmarking Your B2B eCommerce Performance,” was authored by Forrester B2B analyst John Bruno and other analysts and is based on the Forrester/Internet Retailer Q3 2017 Global B2B Sell-Side Online Survey. Forrester surveyed last July and August 120 B2B professionals who subscribe to B2BecNews, a sister publication of Internet Retailer, published by Vertical Web Media LLC.

Forrester asserts in the report, however, that the increasing benefits of B2B e-commerce require companies to work hard to remain competitive.  As B2B companies mature online, it says, they must often spend more to continue standing out among other sellers and retain their customers. Many are following that advice.

Forty-eight percent of survey respondents said their top priority was to develop better and more engaging website content, and 38% said they would spend more on marketing to improve outreach new as well as existing customers. “Much as their B2C brethren learned years ago, B2B companies must tackle daunting challenges of creating compelling content that keeps their customers coming back and improving the overall experience of their sites,” Bruno writes.

He adds: “Sites that are filled with ample content, especially those augmented by sophisticated merchandising tools such as zoom and video, are well positioned to sell more than sites that lack content.”

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But manufacturers, distributors and wholesalers that sell online must also think more holistically about how online operations affect their entire organizations, Forrester adds.

“B2B digital business professionals are beginning to understand that the customer experience is vital to retention and revenue,” Bruno writes, adding: “The challenge today in developing a cohesive customer experience via site redesign is that it must be done holistically with all touchpoints in mind.” He notes, for example, that website improvements must extend to the smartphone screens used by a company’s sales reps as well as by its customers.

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