The issue of B2B “buyer funnel friction” is prevalent, but not yet dire; sellers should consider this a warning they need to improve their customers’ online purchasing experience, Tim Beyer of Sana Commerce writes.

Tim Beyer

The B2B world must cater to a complicated purchasing process to meet customer demands. Despite a long list of roadblocks, many organizations are already succeeding in doing so by leveraging ecommerce, improving omnichannel buying experiences, offering better personalization, and more. But this doesn’t mean that B2B customers are done facing hurdles in their purchase journey. Rather, B2B organizations are taking their first set of steps in the right direction.

Some buyers prefer to get product and service information offline today because it’s—quite simply—still not easy enough to do online.

Today, the B2B buyer funnel consists of five phases: Problem identification, information search, evaluation of alternatives, purchase decision, and post-purchase decision.  On average, each step takes between 4.5 and 6.4 days to complete. But today, customers are experiencing hurdles so frequently that this timeline is often longer. Just a one-day delay caused by unnecessary friction draws the purchase process out by 15-22%, and it’s likely that delays are even longer than 24 hours.

As a result of digitally driven preferences, most B2B buyer journeys today begin online. Often, however, B2B customers are forced offline by blockers, such as lack of critical information, which contributes to delays.

Funnel friction risks losing revenue

In the early phases of the B2B buyer funnel (when identifying their problem and seeking out information on a solution), as many as 58% of buyers must seek offline assistance from a company’s sales reps because of a lack of relevant information online. When evaluating solutions and making their purchase decision, another 40% face this challenge. Three percent even struggle in this way after making a buying decision, when seeking post-purchase support from their supplier. This causes avoidable frustration and risks losing potential revenue that can be driven online. Or it could alienate willing customers altogether.

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Buyers want to be able to access information that is commonly associated with B2B customer experience best practices, such as insight into pricing and quotes, inventory availability, parts or product information, delivery details, etc., and most buyers want to get it online.

Nonetheless, between 20% and 30% of buyers report that they still currently prefer to gather such information offline. If we account for the fact that online channels are often more efficient than those offline, we can assume that the buyers who prefer to get this information offline today do so because it’s—quite simply—still not easy enough to do online.

B2B organizations must take this trend as a warning; the issue of B2B buyer funnel friction is prevalent, but not yet dire. A focus on the customer experience and on customer satisfaction in B2B is mission-critical, especially in a sector that is highly driven by the quality of customer-supplier relationships. B2B businesses must take care to listen to and address their buyers’ frustrations to ensure that their experience, regardless of channel, is positive and streamlined.

They should also address the growing prevalence of omnichannel B2B behavior (whether it is happening by choice or not) and tend to the quality of the overall experience for buyers who switch between channels and touchpoints throughout the purchase journey.

The lesson in this challenge is that establishing an online presence is nowhere near enough to keep today’s B2B buyers satisfied. The online experience must also educate your buyers, add value, be user-friendly, and simplify the purchase path to be considered a success.

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Tim Beyer is president of Sana Commerce North America, a provider of ecommerce technology and services.

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