Executive Briefings

B2B Companies Say It's Easier to Build Loyalty with Online-only Than Offline-only Customers

In the United States, B2B e-commerce revenue has now more than doubled that of B2C - with $559bn annually in sales - and B2B players that fail to embrace online and mobile as leading channels risk losing market share in the short and medium term, and sustainable competitive advantage in the long-term.

These are among the findings of "Online and Mobile are Transforming B2B Commerce," research conducted by Forrester Consulting and commissioned by hybris, a commerce platform provider. Th study can be found here.

"B2B companies must implement effective e-commerce strategies sooner rather than later or risk losing customers to competitors who are already doing so," said Brian Walker, senior vice president of strategy at hybris. "By recognizing the potential and market value of selling online, B2B businesses will come to find that e-commerce is a goldmine for retaining customers and building loyalty."

Three key findings:

* Selling online and on mobile devices represents a significant new opportunity for B2B companies.
* B2B companies that wait too long to implement e-commerce assume a big risk.
* Self-service tools are changing the way in which B2B customers interact with companies.

B2B customers are also B2C customers, and have become accustomed to performing consumer product research online. This has transformed how they expect to research business purchases as well. To underline this point the study showed that "fifty percent of B2B companies currently selling direct to business partners online indicated that their end user B2B customers are using either consumer websites or B2B versions of consumer websites to purchase products or services for their companies." This trend towards increased online buying was picked up in another part of the study which noted that "69 percent of B2B companies currently selling direct to business partners online expect to stop publishing their print catalogs altogether within the next five years."

In addition to researching and making purchases online, the study also showed that B2B customers are increasingly using mobile devices to buy online. Forrester's research also shows that B2B companies already selling online report that more than half of their customers use smartphones to research and make purchases and more than half are also using tablets to make business purchase decisions.

"Mobile is emerging as a valuable channel for B2B commerce. Companies must develop strategies for customers to have a seamless buying experience whether shopping online or via mobile devices and tablets," said Walker.
Forrester found that online-only customers are more likely to add additional items, order products in bulk and make repeat purchases than offline-only customers. B2B companies surveyed also indicated that cross selling and upselling strategies and building loyalty are much more effective online than offline.

Forrester's research also shows that B2B customers are now demanding more from their online shopping experience.  Specifically, they want more flexibility when buying online - including access to online and mobile customer service tools 24 hours a day.

"B2B e-commerce enables customers to have complete control of their shopping experience and customers demand technologies that support research, buying and customer service on their own time and terms," said Walker. "B2B companies must offer a world-class experience akin to B2C throughout the customer lifecycle to stay ahead of the competition in both revenue and customer loyalty."

As the study "Online and Mobile are Transforming B2B Commerce" has found, B2B customers now research and complete purchases online more than ever before. To take full advantage of the market opportunity for e-commerce, B2B companies must invest in technologies to support e-commerce as it evolves and grows, focus on online and mobile as critical channels of the future and prepare for competition from already established B2C e-commerce sites and B2B rivals.

In this study, Forrester surveyed 717 B2B companies across three major geographies (North America, Europe/Middle East/Africa (EMEA), and the Asia Pacific region), or an average of about 240 respondents per geography.

Source: hybris

These are among the findings of "Online and Mobile are Transforming B2B Commerce," research conducted by Forrester Consulting and commissioned by hybris, a commerce platform provider. Th study can be found here.

"B2B companies must implement effective e-commerce strategies sooner rather than later or risk losing customers to competitors who are already doing so," said Brian Walker, senior vice president of strategy at hybris. "By recognizing the potential and market value of selling online, B2B businesses will come to find that e-commerce is a goldmine for retaining customers and building loyalty."

Three key findings:

* Selling online and on mobile devices represents a significant new opportunity for B2B companies.
* B2B companies that wait too long to implement e-commerce assume a big risk.
* Self-service tools are changing the way in which B2B customers interact with companies.

B2B customers are also B2C customers, and have become accustomed to performing consumer product research online. This has transformed how they expect to research business purchases as well. To underline this point the study showed that "fifty percent of B2B companies currently selling direct to business partners online indicated that their end user B2B customers are using either consumer websites or B2B versions of consumer websites to purchase products or services for their companies." This trend towards increased online buying was picked up in another part of the study which noted that "69 percent of B2B companies currently selling direct to business partners online expect to stop publishing their print catalogs altogether within the next five years."

In addition to researching and making purchases online, the study also showed that B2B customers are increasingly using mobile devices to buy online. Forrester's research also shows that B2B companies already selling online report that more than half of their customers use smartphones to research and make purchases and more than half are also using tablets to make business purchase decisions.

"Mobile is emerging as a valuable channel for B2B commerce. Companies must develop strategies for customers to have a seamless buying experience whether shopping online or via mobile devices and tablets," said Walker.
Forrester found that online-only customers are more likely to add additional items, order products in bulk and make repeat purchases than offline-only customers. B2B companies surveyed also indicated that cross selling and upselling strategies and building loyalty are much more effective online than offline.

Forrester's research also shows that B2B customers are now demanding more from their online shopping experience.  Specifically, they want more flexibility when buying online - including access to online and mobile customer service tools 24 hours a day.

"B2B e-commerce enables customers to have complete control of their shopping experience and customers demand technologies that support research, buying and customer service on their own time and terms," said Walker. "B2B companies must offer a world-class experience akin to B2C throughout the customer lifecycle to stay ahead of the competition in both revenue and customer loyalty."

As the study "Online and Mobile are Transforming B2B Commerce" has found, B2B customers now research and complete purchases online more than ever before. To take full advantage of the market opportunity for e-commerce, B2B companies must invest in technologies to support e-commerce as it evolves and grows, focus on online and mobile as critical channels of the future and prepare for competition from already established B2C e-commerce sites and B2B rivals.

In this study, Forrester surveyed 717 B2B companies across three major geographies (North America, Europe/Middle East/Africa (EMEA), and the Asia Pacific region), or an average of about 240 respondents per geography.

Source: hybris