This is a difficult time for businesses and for customers and consumers – social, economic and political instability have affected business and consumer confidence across the globe. And despite us seemingly being in the final stages of the COVID-19 pandemic in most countries, other factors have arisen to mean that it’s not been all plain sailing in 2022.
In fact, business-to-business (B2B) buyers' businesses have also been hit by the global recession over the last 12 months. Hence, Wunderman Thompson has collaborated with Censuswide to study the changing behaviours of B2B buyers online. The report was polled during the period of 21 November to 5 December last year among 2,261 B2B buyers from different industries in 11 international markets, including UK, US, Germany, China, Brazil, Australia, UAE, Japan, Netherlands and India.
Let’s look at some of the trends outlined by Wunderman Thompson set to shake up the B2B industry worldwide.
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1. B2B buying is increasingly online and is set to rise
The report showed that the online buying behaviour accounted for 49% of all B2B spending in 2022, of which China accounted for 47%, despite the myriad social and political changes the world has endured. It certainly seems that this percentage will increase, with 68% of B2B buyers saying that they will increase their use of digital shopping channels in the future. And online B2B spending is set to rise in many countries such as China, UK, US and Japan, as online B2B buying looks set to break the 50% mark. The overall average was 57%, an 8% rise in online purchasing in B2B.
62% say that they have conducted more of their B2B buying online as a consequence, (the highest percentage being in India 89%, with the lowest in Australia 43%) while 62% also say that they have discovered new products, services, suppliers and sellers due to working from home.
With so much B2B purchasing now happening online, could B2B sellers be doing a better job with their online sites? The answer is yes, as 46% of global B2B buyers say that they are frustrated with buying B2B products online, while 48% say they are frustrated by the lack of functionality on B2B websites. And this discontent is aggravated by the feeling that many B2B buyers are more digitally advanced than their B2B suppliers – something that 68% of B2B buyers agreed with.
2. There is a clear desire for improved mobile experiences in B2B
One thing that has come out loud and clear when looking at the customer journey for B2B, is the usage of mobile sites, and mobile apps. But there is a clamor for the experience on mobile to be even better. Overall 66% of B2B buyers wished that their suppliers offered a better mobile experience, while 71% of all the B2B buyers that we surveyed said that they wished that they could do it all more easily on their mobile.
When it came to apps, 69% wished that vendors offered mobile apps. And when we asked about which technologies B2B sellers should use more in the future, the top two answers were mobile apps (31%) and mobile sites (28%). What’s clear is that while B2B buying is going online, online is increasingly mobile. Offering B2B products and services via mobile apps and sites is therefore vital to the experience of the future.
But that doesn't mean that personal interaction should be ignored. It is vital that B2B sellers consider how they offer digital, but also physical solutions, as 71% of B2B buyers like to shop with businesses that have both physical stores and online ordering platforms. When asked which channels B2B buyers thought they would be buying in five years’ time, 37% claimed that they would select their direct to customer website and mobile sites as a channel to engage consumers; social media channels came in second place, with 35%, showing the continued crossover of social channels from personal into business usage.
3. B2B buyers are not as loyal as you might hope
While retaining customers is still a challenge for B2B vendors, 40% of global B2B buyers say they have changed all their suppliers in the last 12 months, according to the report. And the most fickle B2B buyers are from India, with 61% having changed all their suppliers, while Japan experienced just 20% of their B2B buyers changing all theirs.
In the top five reasons for changing suppliers, price and costs play a key role. The number one reason is better contract terms and pricing, while the increase in pricing seen over the last year seems to have had an effect with “price increase” coming in as the second reason to switch. 62% of global B2B buyers said that the rising costs of inflation and the cost of living crisis has made them more inclined to switch loyalty away from their favourite suppliers. Furthermore, 47% of B2B buyers admit that they feel less loyal to B2B sellers with whom they had a physical relationship before as a consequence of working from home.
4. B2B buying is not just transactional, purpose and sustainability also play a key role
The role of sustainability and the environment in business operations has never been more important. In B2C world, we are seeing consumers demand that the businesses they buy from conduct themselves properly and with the long-term future of the planet.
It would certainly seem to be the case with B2B buyers too. In fact, it would appear that it’s even more important. Because while 61% of consumers say that they are more likely to buy from a retailer that has a purpose that goes beyond selling goods and services, 69% of B2B buyers say that they are more likely to buy from a supplier who has a greater purpose too. This is a powerful finding, and evidence that purpose and sustainability is feeding through the entire supply chain.
Another fascinating insight into B2B and sustainability, is that B2B buyers clearly want more information. 69% say that they wish they understood the carbon footprint impact of the B2B products and services that they order. 65% of B2B buyers even said they would be happy to accept slower delivery if it meant that the delivery was more environmentally sustainable.
5. B2B buyers want innovation
With a clear shift in B2B buyer behaviours, there is certainly appetite for more innovation, as 67% of global B2B buyers said that they wished that B2B sellers online were more innovative in how they used digital technology to improve the experience. And a similar percentage (69%) said that if a B2B supplier is digitally innovative, they are more likely to purchase from them.
When asked about what technology or devices suppliers should use more of in B2B to enhance the experience, the metaverse featured strongly. Over two-thirds (67%) of B2B buyers prefer buying via an avatar in the metaverse, according to the report. The top three countries were India (34%), the UAE (31%) and China (29%), while the least interested were Germany (19%), Japan (19%) and Australia (18%). And does interest change across the size of budget? Not really, with percentages ranging from 22%-29%. Perhaps most surprising was that it was the companies with the largest budgets that were the most interested.
Linked to the concept of meeting in the metaverse, is the trend of digital sales rooms. These are online, secure spaces where customers and vendors can meet, and where personalised and interactive sales collateral can be shared.
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