Just about every shopper standing in their favorite electronics retail location has a smart phone in hand, and increasingly the capabilities of these devices are changing the way that people shop.
Today, more than half of shoppers (55%) use a mobile device to research products prior to purchase while they are in the store and one in five have actually purchased a product via an electronic device while still in the brick-and-mortar location, according to by a recent survey conducted by SecureNet. And for younger shoppers, the trend is even more marked, as the graphic below demonstrates.
Now, these same trends are beginning to become evident in the business-to-business (B2B) world, as procurement departments look for online experiences that are on par with the consumer world. “Many B2B companies believe that the relationship sale is still extremely alive and well, meaning that they think that the people they have deployed in the field are netting sales,” said Bob Barr, technology services managing director at the Acquity Group in an interview. “Increasingly, though, customers are doing and want to do their research and comparison shopping without talking to a sales rep. Companies disproportionality invest in the buy experience when they should be investing in post shipping and research tools for customers.”
In fact, research from the Acquity Group highlights these trends, finding that:
- 44% of respondents have researched an item for their company using a mobile device
- 37% have researched business goods on their tablet devices
- 24% have made a purchase for their company using a mobile device
- 25% have made a corporate purchase using a tablet device
According to the survey, online procurement spending is on the rise, with 68% of B2B buyers making online purchases in 2014 versus 57% percent in 2013. Nearly half (46%) of buyers spent at least 50% of their corporate procurement budgets online in the last year.
Especially as millennials enter the workforce, the expectation of procurement professionals is that they will be able to engage with suppliers online and that that experience will be quick and streamlined. “These users spend their days on Amazon, Facebook, or purchasing movie tickets online,” said Barr. “They have an expectation of what the consumer experience looks and feels like and find that the B2B experience is sorely trailing.”
The good news is that the relative newness of B2B online sales is that there's time for electronics companies to differentiate themselves with a great online sales experience. “B2B businesses haven't quite recognized that they can differentiate themselves through value-added services” said Barr.
Where should a B2B organization start? First, with creating a good, consumerized experience that is personalized. “If two businesses are selling similar products at a similar price a personalized experience can tip the balance,” said Barr.
Second, by offering a fleet of services to B2B customers that will increase the “stickiness” of those customers. The list of possibilities is long: saved and searchable order histories, warranty reminders, depreciation calculators, or electronic invoicing, to name just a few. “Organizations need to ask themselves what service they can offer customers that can be offered for free, create a strong relationship, and will give the customer pause before they switch to a different supplier,” said Barr.
How much does your organization purchase using mobile tools? Where do you see that trend going? Let us know in the comments section below.
— Hailey Lynne McKeefry, Editor in Chief, EBN
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