A study by management consultants McKinsey & Co. finds that most business executives say digital selling practices, including self-service ecommerce and curbside pickup of online orders, are more effective than just face-to-face selling.

It has become common knowledge that the COVID-19 pandemic permanently accelerated the rollout of B2B ecommerce because of a shift in buyer behavior from offline to online sales channels.

But just how big a shift in business buyer behavior has not really been well known—at least until now.

A new report from management consulting firm McKinsey & Co. finds that 83% of business executives believe that digitally-driven omnichannel selling via ecommerce and curbside pickup for online orders is more effective than just face-to-face selling. That compares with just 54% of business managers’ attitude toward digitally enables selling in April 2020.

“Omnichannel gained urgency during the crisis and will be imperative going forward,” McKinsey says. “Eight in 10 B2B leaders say that omnichannel is as or more effective than traditional methods—a sentiment that has grown sharply throughout the past year—rising from 54% at the start of the pandemic to 83%.

The shift to more digital procurement by business buyers also is resulting in more web-driven sales, McKinsey says.


For example, despite the conventional wisdom that big-ticket sales require in-person contact, 20% of B2B buyers said they would be willing to spend more than $500,000 in a fully remote and digital sales model, and 11% of all B2B buyers would spend more than $1 million, says McKinsey. “Six in 10 respondents plan to maintain or grow their operating expenditure investments over the next five years,” McKinsey says. “And nearly half (47%) plan to expand their capital expenditure over the same period, a six percentage-point increase since August 2020.”

In total, McKinsey used a full or partial response from about 3,500 business buyers to compile its results.

Other findings include:

  • 85% of executives expect digitally-driven B2B omnichannel selling to be the most common sales role within their organization of the next three years.
  • 68% of decision-makers say their sales team has experienced increased channel conflicts as a result of more omnichannel sales.
  • 60% of executives say their market is now dominated by ecommerce, which is also viewed as potentially cannibalizing other sales channels.

“Hybrid sales reps will soon become the most common sales role,” McKinsey says. “With omnichannel established as the new buying norm, 64% of B2Bs intend to increase the number of hybrid sellers over the next six months, making this model—representatives who interact with customers via video, phone, apps, and occasional in-person visits—the lead sales role.”


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