“B2B sellers are not prepared to deliver a seamless omnichannel experience,” concludes new research by Forrester Consulting.
The report, commissioned by SAP hybris and Accenture Interactive, aimed to examine the ability for B2B sellers to meet the needs of their corporate clients, especially as procurement is in a process of moving online, while in-person, over-the-phone and other traditional procurement methods remain commonplace.
The result of this research is not promising.
A survey of 750 B2B suppliers and 1,307 corporate buyers across the world unveiled a multitude of gaps in how sellers are failing to connect with their customer base amid this shift in the procurement process.
For the last few years, analysts have highlighted the shift in corporate buying habits, pointing to buyers’ growing preference for digital and automated procure-to-pay solutions. Forrester’s latest research brings that point home: Buyers have heightened their use of digital channels to both research and buy the goods and services their companies need.
According to the survey, 46 percent of buyers’ purchases that are made offline are at least researched online beforehand. The research shows a clear increase between 2014 and 2015 of procurement officials following this trend; overall, 98 percent of buyers do at least some kind of online research ahead of a purchase.
Further, 65 percent of those surveyed said their total spend on work purchases made online has increased from the year before; 63 percent added that the volume of purchases made online has also risen.
This also means buyers are raising their expectations from their suppliers.
Unsurprisingly, the rapid pace of sophistication in B2C eCommerce has led corporate buyers to demand similar experiences in their own procurement processes. Specifically, Forrester found, buyers want a personalized experience, and that demand is reflected in their procurement habits.
For instance, nearly all corporate buyers surveyed said they had access to a company-mandated portal through which they can shop around for goods their businesses need. But, increasingly, researchers said, these buyers are also turning to consumer online portals to research these products: One-third said they start their procurement journey at a consumer online marketplace, compared to just 17 percent who said they start it at a business marketplace.
Today, researchers found, price transparency and sufficient product details are key to a positive procurement experience for buyers, followed by suppliers’ ability to track purchasing habits and personalize the shopping experience for their customers.
It’s been a long time coming that corporate buyers are beginning to look and act a lot more like consumers. While suppliers have been slow to adopt, the latest Forrester research suggests manufacturers and other sellers are at least making an effort to stay connected to their buyers across channels.
Nearly three-quarters of sellers surveyed said the main motivator behind their investment in omnichannel capabilities is the need to meet customer expectations — the most common driver cited in the survey and an increase of 8 percent from the year prior.
Other key motivators include the need to provide a consistent experience to buyers across channels and the understanding that an omnichannel corporate buyer has a higher lifetime value to their business.
Despite this effort, Forrester concluded that suppliers are challenged in meeting buyers’ demands, to say the least.
The reason? According to supplier testimony, the inability to access quality data analytics services is a top hurdle.
“Good metrics are incredibly difficult to obtain,” said one survey respondent. “You can obtain all sorts of information, but how much it relates to how much customers stick with you when they have an alternative choice or come to you in the first place?”
This means sellers cannot provide a personalized experience to corporate buyers, researchers said, or identify areas where they need to improve the customer experience.
Across the board, less than one-fifth of suppliers said they had easy access to data from any channel. This applies to data on metrics like levels of client satisfaction, customer payment habits, custom pricing and past purchase history.
A whopping 88 percent of suppliers said access to a customer’s name across channels is not readily accessible.
According to Forrester, this presents a major problem for suppliers looking to survive the digital revolution of procurement. Researchers concluded that these businesses must embrace omnichannel strategies and prioritize this venture, especially for the sake of personalizing the buyer experience. Otherwise, suppliers will be left in the dust.