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The Modern Profile of the B2B E-Commerce Buyer

There is no typical B2B buyer; every customer is different and unique. But the typical behavior of B2B buyers has shifted to digital channels, with a strong emphasis on research and quality content. The modern B2B buyer wants a B2C-like shopping experience.

The majority of B2B buyers are millennials

As the baby boomers are retiring, the largest generation in the global workforce now consists of millennials, born between 1981 and 1996. According to a study of millennial buyers by Merit, 73% are heavily involved in making decisions about purchasing products or services in their company. One-third of them report they are the sole decision-maker for their department.

Millennials are digital natives

As a result of Millennials having grown up in the information age, they consume information quickly via digital channels. Their B2B expectations are shaped by their B2C shopping experiences. When a product or service is needed, 90% of businesses start their search with a generic search via laptop or smartphone, rather than calling a vendor and scheduling an appointment. Contacting a salesperson typically happens more than halfway through the buying process for 57% of the B2B buyers, and sometimes even never.

Online research matters

According to research by TrustRadius on millennial tech buyers, millennials are less likely to use analyst rankings and reports. Concerning trustworthiness and influence, free trials are preferred, followed by product demos and user reviews. The fact that eight out of 10 millennials never buy anything without reading a review first also confirms this, as Independent reports.

Vendors get little face time

Over half of millennials still use vendor or product websites to make decisions, TrustRadius states. However, vendors face a crisis of trust as vendor representatives and materials are considered the least trustworthy and influential. Gartner reports that single B2B sales representatives have only retained only 5% or 6% of a B2B customer buying journey time. B2B buyers spend in total only 17% of their time meeting with potential suppliers. However, 27% of their time is spent on independent research online. In fact, according to TrustRadius, 29% of millennials prefer to self-serve the entire journey without ever speaking with a representative.

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Your online presence has to be on point

Successfully selling to the modern B2B buyer means having accurate product information, complete and easily searchable for online researchers. B2B buyers, on average, read up to 13 pieces of content before deciding on a vendor. For 66% of B2B buyers, product specifications are the top content, and 70% of them watch videos to complete their product research. When product, price and quality are all equal, the digital buying experience is the key factor for 55% of B2B buyers.

Personalization is expected

Just like every other buyer, millennials want to make the right buying decision in an often long and complex buying process. Personalizing the B2B shopping experience helps them do that. B2B buyers want not only personalized quotes, but also customized shipping and delivery options, recommendations that fasten the buying process and quick access to their buying history. B2B buyers are less forgiving about a disjointed experience that requires a lot of effort to find the right product or service.

It's all about building trust

Modern B2B buyers are looking for a mix of online and offline channels that enable them to do their work effectively and efficiently. While there is a certain distrust of sales reps, just think about the content millennials seek out in their online research: product specifications, free trials, product demos and reviews by their peers. The big lesson B2B companies need to learn is how to build trust online with their clients. Demanding? Yes, but it’s all worth it if you know the opportunities.

This is the third blog of our article series on B2B e-commerce. Click here for the next article.

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