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The way B2B companies do business is changing – and the move to selling online is at the heart of that transformation. Here are five key factors influencing the massive growth in b2b ecommerce…

1. The Millennials – a new generation of buyers
By 2020, the millennial generation, born between 1980 and 2000, will form 50% of the global workforce, and today, nearly half of all b2b researchers or buyers are aged 18-34. That’s important because the attitudes and behaviour of this generation will shape the world of work for years to come.

Crucially, it’s their relationship with technology that will probably have the biggest impact. They’ve grown up with broadband, smartphones, laptops and social media as the norm and expect instant access to information. This is the first generation to have a better grasp of a key business tool than more senior workers – and they will be the catalysts for driving a digital workplace.

2. Online search – a faster purchase research process
Around 90% of b2b researchers use the Internet during their research process, and the majority of these are specifically researching business purchases. For sure, researching products online is nothing new, but its importance in b2b purchase decision-making will only continue to increase thanks to the influence of millennials.

For example, how well equipped is your business to accommodate these trends?
•    On average, b2b researchers conduct 12 searches before engaging with a specific company’s site
•    Over 70% start their search on a generic product enquiry
•    Over 90% growth in the use of smartphones throughout the purchasing process

Clearly, b2b sellers must be able to make customers aware of their business early on in the purchasing journey for both desktop and mobile devices – or risk missing out on opportunities.

3. Online product catalogues – a smarter way of sharing information
Nearly 70% of b2b sellers expect to stop printing a product catalogue by 2019 because they’re increasingly relying on technology to share and distribute product information. Adopting a b2b ecommerce approach where data is stored and managed in a central repository makes it easier for sellers to broaden their customer relationships and share information across multiple channels.

4. b2b ecommerce – an increasing focus on technology
With the shift to online sales, b2b sellers are directing their technology budgets to improving ecommerce capabilities. Research highlights that nearly 70% expect their technology budget to increase, with over 60% putting their ecommerce platform as a priority spend area.

5. An integrated approach – joining up channels and automating processes
When b2b sellers add an ecommerce channel to their business model, it also adds an extra layer of operating systems and processes. This can result in increased errors, inefficiencies and a poor customer experience. The key to operating a successful multichannel business is in the integration, standardisation and automation of processes across channels.

This is why 60% of b2b companies put the integration of their accounting and order management systems as the top technology priority. With an ecommerce platform that seamlessly integrates with core business systems, errors from manual processing can be eliminated, inventory levels automatically updated and customer interactions personalised.

Sources:
Forrester Research and Internet Retailer
Google and Millward Brown Digital
PWC
    

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