We've seen a lot of changes this year because of COVID-19 -- and even the B2B buying process has not been immune! It makes sense, since the world has been in varying stages of requiring quarantining, lockdowns, and social distancing. In fact, buying in general, whether B2B or B2C, has experienced marked changes throughout this pandemic.
So it's no surprise that B2B buying journey, including behaviors and attitudes, would change during this time. In fact, a recent study surveyed 200 businesses to see just what has changed since the start of the pandemic. This study, The B2B Future Shopper Report 2020 from Wunderman Thompson, shines a light on exactly how the pandemic has impacted the buying behaviors and expectations in the B2B industry..
How long can we expect these trends to continue? It's difficult to say exactly. But current experts indicate that the COVID-19 pandemic isn't going anywhere anytime soon. So businesses can't just bury their heads in the sand and hope that things will just go back to normal. They must act to adapt to the current demands of their B2B buyers.
Even if the pandemic gets resolved in the next few months, it's likely that buyers will still want these changes. After all, many buyers in the B2B space have been wanting their buying process to mirror their B2C experience, even before the pandemic. It is wise to adapt your process now in anticipation of this continued trend.
Let's look at some important details from this Wunderman Thompson report and how your B2B business can successfully adapt.
How to Adapt Your B2B Buying Process During the Pandemic
1. Move Your Business Online
The importance of having an online presence is definitely not new. For years, we've seen trends toward online shopping. But the pandemic has made this trend an absolute necessity.
Since the start of the pandemic, we've seen buyers' preference for online purchases grow from 58% to 67% -- which is a quite a leap in such a short period of time. It shows how important it is to look for ways to move your entire buying process online.
We've also seen a significant dip in the use of sales representatives in the B2B sales experience. In fact, only 20% of companies said they used sales representatives since the coronavirus outbreak, compared to 56% before the outbreak.
This marks an important shift. Instead of using sales reps to facilitate purchases, it's more important to build an easy-to-use sales portal on your website for buyers to use. It eliminates the need to have contact with a single person, which could deter some buyers.
2. Pay Attention to Your Inventory
One of the biggest pain points in the B2B buying journey was a lack of inventory. In fact, 36% of respondents listed this as their pain point. Going even deeper, 41% said that they have abandoned shopping carts due to a lack of inventory.
We know that this can be a challenge. With many manufacturers shutting down production during the height of the pandemic, many businesses have struggled to keep their products in stock.
While there may be little that you can do about your inventory, there are ways to make it easier on your B2B buyers. Don't wait until the end of the line to tell buyers that a product is out of stock — 43% of buyers said their purchasing job would be easier if businesses would offer real-time inventory availability. Look into ways to make this a reality on your online store.
3. Simplify the Process
When asked to compare the online and offline buying process, 45% noted that most B2B sales experiences were more complicated online than in person. With more people opting to purchase online, businesses need to ensure that online purchases are as simple as possible.
Similarly, when asked what would make the purchase process easier, respondents listed real-time inventory availability (43%), clear fulfillment and shipping info (32%), and access to alternate suppliers (31%) as their top demands. B2B businesses need to make these a priority for their online store.
4. Enhance the Experience with Technology
Many consumers are used to the technology used in the B2C buying process and would like to see the same in B2B.
When respondents were asked what technology they would like to see in the B2B buying journey, the top three requests were...
- Mobile (68%)
- Voice (52%)
- Augmented reality / Virtual reality (40%)
Now is the time to consider how technology can better serve your business. Perhaps provide more mobile-friendly shopping options on your website. Or learn how to use augmented reality to help buyers better visualize your products before they make their purchase.
5. Ensure a Smooth Delivery Process
When people make a purchase decision, they want to receive their order as quickly as possible and be able to track it. When asked what mattered most to them in their purchase decision with suppliers and manufacturers, many buyers noted fast delivery times (45%) and order tracking capabilities (25%) as their top priorities.
Now is the time to look at ways that you can streamline and improve your delivery process. Incorporate order tracking into your buying process and devise ways to speed up delivery times.
This new B2B buying process is bound to remain in place at least until the creation of an effective COVID-19 vaccine. Once a vaccine is created, it will be interesting to see what parts of the buying process remain the same and what fluctuates. Since the vaccine is still aways to go, B2B businesses need to adapt now to these trends.
How have you personally seen the buying process change since the start of the pandemic? Let us know in the comments below.
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