Efforts to improve eProcurement and B2B eCommerce can often be boiled down to a single commonality: making corporate buying experiences as easy as consumer online shopping.
Having an online marketplace or — in the very least — a website is now a fundamental requirement for B2B vendors. However, as suppliers fail to navigate the needs of their corporate online shoppers, with the particular challenges and nuances of the B2B world, analysts have found that companies are standing in their own way of making the sale, struggling to connect with clients when they come knocking at their digital storefronts.
A new report from appointment scheduling technology provider TimeTrade suggests vendors are failing to meet their buyers' on-demand needs, and customers lack support in their digital buying journeys.
The report, "What Buyers Want: The State of the B2B Buying Experience," sounds a warning to the B2B eCommerce and eProcurement spaces as they progress in their efforts to digitize, modernize and keep pace with the B2C world.
"B2B selling organizations continue to struggle to keep pace with the expectations of today's on-demand consumers, who now expect a B2B buying experience similar to the customized, seamless buying journey they routinely enjoy when making individual consumer purchases," said TimeTrade CEO Gary Ambrosino in a statement. "The survey data show[s] that B2B customers have unmet needs throughout the decision journey, meaning sellers must adopt a personalized engagement approach to both digital-only and human interactions — and this starts with live interactions."
Perhaps the biggest signal of where vendors are failing in their online strategies stems from TimeTrade's finding that 84 percent of online business shoppers say they either "always" or "frequently" do not receive responses to their questions related to a potential purchase. In this regard, vendors are their own worst enemies: TimeTrade likened this scenario to a business practically begging for a sale, but finding no response or interaction from a supplier.
After a sale, a lack of interaction is also preventing buyers from having an exceptional experience, as 76 percent report they either "always" or "frequently" do not receive a response to any service or support questions they have.
Interestingly, while corporate buyers are seeking the digital experience that they have as consumers in their corporate purchasing lives, professionals still prefer human interaction over technology to connect with their vendors.
There is an array of channels through which companies want to interact with their vendors. However, 83 percent of companies said they prefer to have a pre-arranged time to speak with a supplier, making scheduled appointments a more popular choice than web chat, email or phone. Similarly, 88 percent of buyers also said they value live meetings with a company from which they may make a purchase. Corporate buyers equate live meeting capability with ease of purchasing, the report found, and the vast majority said they would like an easier way to coordinate those connections.
B2B suppliers aren't entirely ignoring their eCommerce strategies, though. According to TimeTrade, vendors are increasingly engaging in the "experiential marketing" trend, and are taking their corporate buyers' needs for in-person interaction to heart. Researchers found that vendors are scheduling physical events for potential clients, including in-person workshops — 79 percent of corporate buyers said they value these events as they seek to learn more about a product.
Still, the data shed light on how suppliers may be missing the mark with their digital sales strategies. Having an online presence is no longer enough for corporate buyers.
"This survey should serve as a wake-up call for B2B sellers who have not yet recognized the new demands of today's buyers, and their heightened expectation for connection and useful interactions with a knowledgeable resource prior to making a purchase," Ambrosino added. "Live interactions, facilitated by easy-access appointment scheduling, are the key to that type of successful customer engagement, and offer a way for B2B sellers to improve on their customer engagement shortcomings."