B2B Buyer Behavior for Dealers and Distributors

Written by Guest Blogger

B2B buyer behaviorToday’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 that ePN, a ReTrans Freight e-Commerce partner, have been discussing for a while.

Yet recent data from Forrester Research sheds new light on the imperative for dealers, distributors, and manufacturers to adopt online sales channels to showcase and sell inventory. Gone are the days when buyers research and purchase products from paper catalogs. Today, B2B buyers are gravitating online to research everything from commercial food service equipment to sanitation and janitorial supplies.

According to Forrester:

  • 64% of B2B buyers research half or more of their work purchases 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 and manufacturers 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 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?

B2B buyer behavior

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.

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 ePN has 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.

ePN 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. And you can get started in just 30 days!

Even better, ePN leverages ReTrans Freight’s shipping and logistics solution. This means ReTrans Freight customers get the best price and service on shipping through ePN’s eCommerce solution.

Meet our guest blogger, Caron Beesley:

Caron Beesley photo.jpgCaron is a writer and marketing communications consultant at ePN. With a background in IT marketing, Caron is skilled at translating complex technical ideas into clear, outcome and value-driven copy. As a freelance writer, Caron has developed sales enablement content such as white papers, case studies, web copy, PR, data sheets, email marketing, and more. In addition, Caron produces a wide variety of thought leadership material including blogs, byline articles, and more. Caron has worked with a variety of enterprises, small businesses, government agencies (the U.S. Small Business Administration, DoD, and others) and government contractors. Caron graduated from the University of Liverpool, England, with a BA in English and Communications Studies.