Business-to-business sales and marketing have evolved rapidly in recent years, as digitalization has transformed the way customers search for and purchase products and services.
Buyers are more aware of the need to get the maximum value out of the supply chain, especially since digitization has provided platforms and tools to collect and analyze more supply chain and purchasing data than ever before.
Buyers also have access to richer and more diverse product and supplier information than ever before – Google is now the number one search tool for shopping professionals.
E-commerce is no longer optional
Not long ago, B2B sellers could count on a potential buyer to answer the phone at the beginning of the supplier selection process. Today, buyers delve into the purchase funnel before contacting a salesperson’s sales department. They generally want to speak to a salesperson at some point in the sales process, but the initial choice of a supplier is based on independent company research and product information that can be found online.
Nowadays, if a buyer cannot find enough information online, the next step is not to contact the supplier’s supplier team, but to think about it. This is likely to happen in highly competitive sectors.
In short, if more suppliers are acceptable to a buyer, those who provide the most useful data online are more likely to go through the initial selection phase.
Purchasing decisions are not purely rational
We expect commercial buyers to be more rational than consumers. Few procurement professionals make hasty decisions and there is usually a long list of criteria that a supplier must meet to qualify. However, non-rational factors can have a surprising influence on purchasing decisions.
In “The Value Elements of B2B”, Bain & Company’s management consultants provide a hierarchical analysis of the factors that influence B2B buyers, organized like a pyramid. The foundation is what you would expect: it meets specifications, acceptable prices, scalability, and quality, among other things. In addition to these basic requirements, Bain mentions less concrete factors, including personal factors, such as good design and anxiety reduction, and career factors, as a guarantee of reputation.
Integration and automation
As part of an effort to gain more control over spending and acquisitions, companies have widely adopted e-procurement and expense management platforms.
Electronic purchasing is much more effective when purchase data can be collected automatically from suppliers and when activities such as generating and communicating orders, orders, and invoices are done automatically. To make the most of their e-procurement platform, buyers can also take advantage of emissions catalogs, which allow them to access supplier catalogs from within the e-procurement system.
The B2B market has evolved more slowly than retail, but we are seeing the same pressures: desire for transparency, better user experiences, self-service, and automation. B2B suppliers that use e-commerce and other digital tools will succeed and those that do not will be challenged as buyers look for partners who can best meet their needs.