The Atero Blog

New Insight into B2B Buyer Behavior is a Wake-Up Call for Dealers and Distributors

Posted by Caron Beesley on Apr 20, 2017 7:50:00 AM

Today’s B2B buyers are becoming more digital, they’re using more devices, doing more pre-research online, and they're expressing more desire to do things in a self-service capacity. Not a huge surprise, it’s a trend we’ve been discussing for a while. 

According to Q1 2017 data from Forrester Research[1]:

  • 64% of B2B buyers research half or more of their work purchase online
  • 38% make half or more of their work purchases online
  • 55% expect to make half or more of their work purchases online by 2020

However, Forrester was keen to stress that these numbers are more reflective of an appetite to buy online, rather than a capability to do so. If distributors could enable customers to do this, and many currently cannot, more buyers would make purchases online.

Think about that for a minute. Those 55% who expect to make purchases online are ready to do so. But, if your competitor is offering customers the ability to purchase online, and you don’t, guess what? That’s where today’s fickle B2B buyer will go.

What does that mean for commercial equipment, and janitorial supply manufacturers and dealer/distributors?

In a recent webinar, B2B e-Commerce World teamed with Forrester to review this and other interesting buying data that distributors simply can’t afford to ignore. Here are their key findings:

It’s all about efficiency, efficiency, efficiency

Forrester research shows that convenience is the #1 reason driving B2B buyers online, with 38% of respondents emphasizing 24x7 eCommerce as a key consideration in their buying behaviors. A faster process came second (22%), saving money came third (14%), and getting more and better information about products came fourth (11%).

Convenience is key here. Forrester stresses that there are simply “too many impediments to a smooth, frictionless buying process.” From internal and external channel conflict to technology considerations, too many hurdles are preventing B2B buyers from satisfying their appetite for online purchasing. “Sellers are incapable of delivering it,” says Forrester.

Product info drives where B2B buyers finish

If 64% of B2B buyers are researching product info online, where do they end up making their final purchase?

Credible Product Info Chart.jpg

Forrester reveals that B2B buyers typically make their final purchase of work-related products and services on an online site where they can find the most credible source of product details and information. This is a big deal for dealers who often struggle to get their hands on the most up-to-date product catalogs and pricing from manufacturers or lack the technical competency to showcase product inventory and up-to-the minute info online. (Here's a short article we wrote about this topic.)

Buyers are going rogue

Another revealing statistic from Forrester’s data is that 72% of B2B buyers use a personal credit card to make some or all purchases for work. Essentially, buyers are going rogue, circumventing procurement systems (purchase orders and invoices), and buying work-related equipment from consumer sites like Amazon and Amazon Business. Not that the old way of doing things will go away, but Forrester emphasizes that sellers also need to include ways for buyers to make purchases online.

A wake-up call for distributors

With all this online product research and emphasis on rich product information as a determining factor in where B2B buyers make their final purchase from, here’s are some worrying statistics:

  • Only 5% of B2B buyers do their research on a distributor’s website.
  • The number of people who make their final purchase on a distributor’s website has fallen from 30% to 16% in just one year. That’s a significant drop-off.

Again, it’s worth reiterating, people are flocking to sites that have rich product information, a broad selection, and that don’t force them to go down paths that slow them down, like logging in, requesting a quote, and so on – they want an “Amazon-like” experience, says Forrester.

In a nutshell

Where does this data leave distributors and dealers serving industries such as janitorial supply, restaurant supply and other commercial equipment segments? Let’s recap:

  • B2B buyers have an appetite to buy work purchases online. If you’re unable to provide that capability, they’ll go elsewhere.
  • They expect a buying experience that emphasizes convenience, a fast, efficient process, and rich product information.
  • If distributor websites and eCommerce capabilities fall short, buyers will go elsewhere to make their final purchase.

As we’ve stressed before, while your customers may not be beating down your doors demanding you provide eCommerce capabilities, what they are doing is potentially more worrying. They are turning to Webstaurant, Amazon Business or competitor websites that do offer online shopping. While your sales might not go down dramatically, your share of wallet will.

But here’s the rub. It’s not that hard to start selling online. Dealers can meet the demands of today’s customer-centric digital buying model – much easier and for a lower price point than they think.

Atero offers an eCommerce platform that allows dealers to augment their traditional selling models with an online storefront, marketed under their own brand, so that they can more effectively, educate and engage their channels and buyers, and offer the efficiency and convenience that buyers demand.

Request a demo to learn more and to see how cost effective our solution can be for your business. 

[1] Forrester / Internet Retailer Q1 2017 B2B Buy-Side Online Survey

Topics: B2B Buying Behavior