Inefficient procurement processes impede business buyers and drive up operational costs for organizations. That’s why procurement leaders are increasingly seeking digital innovations to help streamline operations, reduce costs across the organization, and improve the buying experience, writes Todd Heimes, director, Amazon Business Worldwide.

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Todd Heimes

The gap between B2C and B2B buying experiences has been narrowing for a while now. But in today’s procurement environment, buyers’ motivation for pursuing consumer-esque buying experiences extends well beyond simple convenience and directly impacts procurement’s contribution to bottom-line growth.

Features like analytics tools, spend visibility, guided buying, multi-user accounts, and spending limits have been elevated from nice-to-have to must-have.

To better understand the rapid transformation B2B e-procurement has undergone in recent years—and the opportunities for further enhancement—Amazon Business developed the first B2B E-commerce in Evolution Report. We surveyed 250 B2B buyers and 250 B2B sellers who play an influential role in their procurement departments across industries in the U.S., including government, education, healthcare, and commercial.

In the report, we found that business buyers’ top procurement priority this year is increasing efficiency. Inefficient procurement processes impede business buyers and drive up operational costs for organizations. That’s why procurement leaders are increasingly seeking digital innovations to help streamline operations, reduce costs across the organization, and improve the buying experience.

The need for consumer-like procurement

Procurement has evolved significantly over the past decade as digital innovations have improved the process of business buying. Yet inefficiencies still exist across businesses of different sizes and industries. While companies’ day-to-day operations can differ significantly, the implications are universal: higher operational costs.

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Of course, certain industries are affected by inefficient procurement processes in different ways. Government agencies, for example, are accustomed to complex processes that create additional challenges to efficiency. Additionally, continued reliance on paper-based contracts and reporting systems leads to hours of manual work and an increased potential for error.

In healthcare, the purchasing process has historically been opaque and decentralized, which results in wasted time, resources, and budget. Some of our customers at Amazon Business told us they were typically reviewing hundreds of new one-off vendor requests a day from staff members in need of unique supplies. Others were still relying on in-field procurement, limiting their ability to compare product prices and accurately forecast budgets.

According to findings from our report, we found that business buyers want to replicate the ease and convenience of the online ordering they experience at home—but with solutions built for the workplace. Business leaders recognize the potential for digital innovations to help streamline operations and reduce costs across the organization, which likely contributed to the finding that 96% of buyers who shifted more procurement online said they expect their organizations to continue doing more e-procurement, even when pre-pandemic business functions resume.

Digital innovations in procurement

Our survey revealed that buyers strongly prefer digital buying experiences. When asked to rank the most valuable features in the purchasing process, buyers overwhelmingly indicated they find online features more valuable than traditional features like phone calls or the ability to view products in a store.

While long-standing online features like fast, free shipping remain critical to expediting the procurement process, we also found that purchasing leaders are leveraging solutions that provide control levers around spend and compliance. Features like analytics tools, spend visibility, guided buying, multi-user accounts, and spending limits have been elevated from nice-to-have to must-have.

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Advanced digital procurement tools enable organizations to uncover insights about their customers, analyze spending patterns, create policy rules to guide employees and prevent procurement violations, and easily find small and diverse certified sellers. Not only can these features improve the digital buying experience for buyers, they can ultimately drive business growth and innovation.

Todd Heimes is director, Amazon Business Worldwide. He has also filled positions at Amazon including director, Amazon Business Europe, and director, European Union Technical Advisor.

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