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We’ve been in the B2B ecommerce business for about 15 years. In fact, since our inception we’ve been solely focused on serving the manufacturing and distribution industries. So, we’re no stranger to the pains and challenges B2B companies are facing when it comes to digital transformation.

And yet….sometimes we need a reminder about how extraordinary this time of change is for our industry and the companies we serve.

That’s why we did a little research about the latest trends and forces disrupting B2B. If you’re anything like us, you might find some of these facts pretty surprising.

The Trend Toward Self-Service

Perhaps the most notable and undeniable change that has occurred in the marketplace in the last decade is that manufacturers and distributors are no longer in control of the buyer’s journey. The B2B buying process is non-linear, complex and continuous. And who has the control? The customer. Here are five statistics about the trend toward self-service:

  • study of 3,000 B2B researchers by Google and Millward Brown Digital found that 89% of B2B researchers use the internet during the B2B research process. Moreover, 71% of B2B researchers use the internet during the B2B research process.
  • According to Forrester, more than 70% of B2B buyers find buying from a website more convenient than buying from a sales representative.
  • On average, companies go online to purchase 75% of the products they need, and 30% of B2B buyers say they prefer nearly all their products online, according to Digital Commerce 360
  • According to Gartner, by 2020 the average business buyer will manage 85% of his or her relationship with an enterprise without interacting with a human.
  • A survey of 111 B2B buyers conducted by Digital Commerce 360, found that 50% of companies now purchase products online at least once per week.

The Changing B2B Buyer

It’s no secret that B2B buyers have changed. As we know, today’s B2B buyer has a strong preference to self-serve whenever possible. But there are other distinctions about the B2B buyer that need to be considered in order to build effective ecommerce strategies. Check these out:

  • According to Google and Millword Brown Digital, in 2014 (That’s 5 years ago!), 18-34 year olds accounted for almost half of all B2B researchers.
  • The same article said, “The oldest members of the millennial generation (born in 1980) have NEVER known a world without modern day internet.”
  • We really like this article…here’s one more: the ecosystem of influencers around the B2B research process has changed. 64% of the C-suite have final sign off on decisions but so do almost a quarter of non-C-suite individuals. 81% of non-C-suiters have a say in purchase decisions.
  • According to a Merit report on millennials, by 2025 millennials will form 44% of the US workforce.
  • 73% of millennials are currently involved in B2B purchasing decisions, according to a 2017 article by Forrester. Two years later, that number is certain to have increased.

Ecommerce Sales and Investment Trends

So, what are companies doing to adjust to changing customer expectations, younger generations and advanced technology? They’re investing in ecommerce and building strategies to move more business online. For manufacturers and distributors who get it right, ecommerce opens up a world of opportunity where business transformation is concerned. Here’s what the market looks like:

  • B2B ecommerce sales are growing faster than ever. In fact, online revenue from B2B ecommerce sales in the S. will reach $1.2 trillion by 2020 according to Forrester.
  • In response to changing B2B buyers’ expectations, nearly $2.5 billion was spent on B2B ecommerce Suites in 2018 alone, according to Forrester.
  • In 2018, B2B ecommerce sales through websites and online marketplaces grew at the fastest rate yet, and for the first time ever, surpassed $1 trillion according to Digital Commerce 360.
  • According to data published in the 2019 U.S. B2B ecommerce Market Report, manufacturers in 2018 grew B2B ecommerce nearly two times faster than the growth of total manufacturing sales and 9 times faster than all electronic sales.
  • Finally, by the end of this year, manufacturers and wholesalers will account for a combined 30% of spending on ecommerce technology. (By the way, check out this infographic from Usablenet for more surprising stats on B2B ecommerce, especially in mobile)

You don’t need these facts to prove that you should take action – though evidence like this certainly doesn’t hurt when you’re trying to get buy-in from your team. The truth is, you don’t need a bunch of statistics to understand that buyers expect to be able to do business with you online. They tell you what they want all the time. It’s time to make their lives easier.

We’ve been helping manufacturers and distributors meet their customers’ expectations for over a decade. If you haven’t ventured into ecommerce yet, or you’ve been at this awhile but your solution isn’t quite living up to your vision, we’d love to talk about how we can help. 

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