Last year ended with many manufacturers reporting total and digital sales that gyrated widely from positive to negative results depending upon how the pandemic impacted business operations month to month, according to data and analysis contained in the newly published 2021 B2B Manufacturing Report from Digital Commerce 360.
But as 2020 ended, many manufacturers regardless of size faced the same challenge—how to roll out or expand B2B ecommerce with an effective strategy that turned multitudes of first-time digital buyers into long-term valued customers. “While some businesses continue to struggle, we are seeing some industries grow and flourish during these challenging times,” says business,” says expert Karie Daudt, senior commerce consultant at Perficient and a veteran of B2B commerce. “So as demand continues to increase in specific markets, the results from COVID-19 are driving the need to invest in digital channels and look for more ways to satisfy their customers and market demand.”
But for many manufacturers, converting new online buyers into permanent customers was a challenge. Now that they are getting more used to shifting all, or at least a portion, of their procurement needs to a range of digital buying channels—including electronic data interchange, B2B ecommerce sites and apps, e-procurement and punchout and business marketplaces—most purchasing managers have big expectations for a great, and not just good, user experience.
51% of business buyers come to a B2B ecommerce site attracted by an excellent user experience; other features that attract buyers are price (48%), getting a quick overview of the assortment (44%), and the company’s reputation, according to the latest Digital Commerce 360 B2B Buyer’s survey.
Business buyers also do not always act alone or make hasty buying decisions. For example, 66% of companies will research at least two or three ecommerce sites prior to making a purchase for the first time, and nearly half of all companies (49%) have procurement teams of at least a pair of purchasing managers involved in the buying process.
Given the complexity of buying business products online that must fit designated specifications and other highly specialized needs, procurement directors also are not prone to making hasty decisions. 45% of all business purchasing managers will take from one month to six months to properly research a new product or set of products, including 19% who take between 60 and 180 days to research and complete a purchase, according to the survey and analysis published in the 2021 B2B Manufacturing Report.
For many manufacturers, the path to getting ecommerce right the first time, or expanding and getting more online customers and sales, is making sure the organization has the right strategy in place. But that process is not easy, and many companies do not think a successful ecommerce strategy all the way through, analysts say. “Many manufacturers are not thinking about their digital channels in the right way, and, now more than ever, the customer owns the journey,” Daudt says. “The customer wants to research the way they want to research and buy the way they want to buy—manufacturers must understand their customer better and then adapt accordingly.”
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