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The sleeping giant of B2B

The sleeping giant of B2B

Just 25 years ago, e-commerce was an industry in infancy. Today, it’s worth $2.9 trillion, and growing 24 percent annually.

Most of that growth has been in business-to-consumer (B2C) online retail. But last year, for the first time, business-to-business (B2B) online e-commerce topped $1 trillion.



Today's online shopper is savvier than ever. Download the report for insights.

A sleeping giant has awakened.

Ease and agility, unimpeded control and up-to-date knowledge at the touch of a key are completely redefining the B2B space and what’s required to play in it. Manufacturers, wholesalers and distributors are upgrading from yesteryear’s pencil-and-paper, phone and fax processes to electronic ones.

How can you take advantage of this unique opportunity? Know the facts.

Who is the B2B buyer?

The B2B and B2C buyer thinks differently in a variety of ways – and different audiences mean different buying preferences.

So, what do B2B buyers purchase? Here’s a breakdown of products determined by a global survey of hundreds of companies for UPS’s 2019 Pulse of the Online Shopper survey:

  • 62% Office Supplies
  • 55% Technology and Electronics
  • 46% Cleaning and Maintenance
  • 39% Apparel, Footwear, and Accessories
  • 33% Heavy Goods and Sports Items
  • 24% Packaging
  • 23% Entertainment
  • 22% Groceries
  • 21% Components and Materials

Business buyers do homework

Some B2B buyers may be bound by contracts, processes or relationships that limit their options, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t doing their research to find the right product for the right price.

In fact, 88% of business buyers research items before purchasing them online, like 90% of B2C shoppers. And like online retail shoppers, business buyers cite price, product details and delivery costs as drivers.

For research, business buyers most often use supplier/retailer websites (45%) or search engines like Google (42%). When selecting a supplier, buyers value product quality (64% percent … and ranked first most often), supplier reliability (47%), and low cost (43%). These numbers speak to the importance of having a robust, informational website to help B2B buyers make informed purchases.

Globally, 63% of businesses make an online international purchase every three months. Why?

44% lower prices

  • 43% a product is only available internationally
  • 32% higher quality

With international orders, more than 9 of 10 B2B buyers want to know fully landed cost, estimated delivery time, a seller’s reputation, delivery cost, and returns policy.

To attract B2B buyers, smart suppliers will maximize their search engine optimization (SEO) and regularly review SEO best practices and content on their websites.

B2B buyers want speed, convenience, options

An effective B2B strategy considers the high expectations of today’s B2C customer experience. Like retail buyers, businesses want online purchasing to be efficient and convenient. Global businesses want online profiles that save basic login, payment, and delivery information. They want a fast check-out process, especially payment.

The Pulse survey found B2B’s most valued online conveniences are:

  • Save delivery preferences (49%)
  • One-click payment (48%)
  • Save payment information (48%)
  • Save basic login information (44%)

Maximize post-purchase engagement 

Don’t leave customers in the dark once they purchase. Just as in B2C, keep the conversation alive with updates. How?   

  • Make post-purchase – from online payment until long after an order arrives – as seamless and easy to navigate as possible.
  • Maximize post-purchase engagement through all aspects of the delivery experience … meeting all customer expectations.
  • Review pricing strategies and offers for faster delivery times. Businesses can be encouraged to delay shipping to save costs. Some goods are time-sensitive, others aren’t.

The Pulse survey revealed that B2B buyers will accept incentives to ship more slowly if offered:

  • Lower cost (46%)
  • Multiple items in one delivery (46%)
  • A credit, or similar (33%)
  • One question – is it urgent? (32%)

An array of shipping options can build loyalty and reduce unneeded fulfillment costs.

The B2B bottom line?

Businesses buyers should view their B2B online experience though a B2C experience lens. Any B2B engagement involves humans who are consumers when they’re not at work, and their B2C experiences shape their work-time B2B expectations.

Put simply, think like a B2C retailer. Deliver a seamless experience in the buying journey. Make it easy for buyers to find your website and search offerings. Provide options based on needs. Make the relationship experiential, not just transactional.

Do these things, and your business will take a giant step into the awakening world of B2B e-commerce.

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