The total volume of all U.S. B2B sales boils down to how B2B buyers and sellers coped and changed with the times online in 2020.
The last 12 months accelerated what many ecommerce analysts consider a permanent shift in the way business buyers procure products and services for their organization, according to data and analysis contained in the newly published 2021 B2B Ecommerce Market Report from Digital Commerce 360.
Going forward, more business buyers will do less purchasing by phone, fax, and manual transactions, and more online. “If you had any doubt about the validity and velocity of your customers adopting online solutions, 2020 removed all doubts,” says Dave Gravely, vice president of ecommerce for State Electric Supply Co., a 67-year-old regional distributor of electrical, data communications and power transmission products.
Last year, total B2B electronic sales (including ecommerce and EDI) grew by 9.6% but not as fast as the double-digit increases of previous years. Sales on B2B ecommerce sites grew by 10% to $1.39 trillion from $1.26 trillion in 2019, according to the 2021 B2B Ecommerce Market Report from Digital Commerce 360.
In 2020, B2B sellers saw a significant increase in demand for digital commerce sales channels from B2B buyers as the global pandemic last spring began to shut down traditional sales channels like distribution branches.
A ‘feeding frenzy’ to meet demand from digital customers
“There was literally a feeding frenzy for companies, especially small to midsized companies to catch up to the demand from digital customers, or start from scratch,” says Brian Beck, managing partner of Enceiba, an agency that helps manufacturers and brands sell through Amazon.com and Amazon Business.
But while B2B ecommerce sales grew overall, the growth was highly uneven across many industries, depending mainly on the impact COVID-19 had on specific markets. Overall, a January 2021 survey of 110 B2B sellers of various sizes reveals that many companies ended 2020 with good growth in B2B ecommerce sales.
The survey revealed that 62% of companies reported an increase in ecommerce sales of at least 25% last year, including 12% that increased sales by more than 75%.
But metrics from Bloomreach Inc., a developer of personalization applications, reveal a different picture. A data sample from Bloomreach B2B customers reveals that total digital sales dropped year over year by 2.3% and conversion rates (the number of website visitors that make a purchase) decreased by nearly 30%. Bloomreach did not break out specific figures.
“We think the traffic and search traffic was due to a heavy amount of traffic for personal protective equipment (PPE), but the overall sales numbers were down due to the overall business cycle, with many B2B customers impacted by the pandemic and lockdowns for restaurants, schools, offices and other locations, says Bloomreach chief marketing officer and ecommerce analyst Brian Walker.
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