Over the past five years advances in technology have had a huge impact on the way that B2B buyers conduct business. From moving quotations and invoicing online, to ERP and supply chain management software delivering real-time insights to underpin process innovation, supplier management and even buying efficiencies. But it’s not just technology that’s having an impact on buying processes, internal transformation and external environmental factors are also taking their toll. We recently surveyed over 560 buyers worldwide to identify what’s changed and, as importantly, how forthcoming changes will impact the ever-evolving role of the B2B buyer.
In our survey we found that automation has played a key role in the buying process. Automation has helped make the purchasing process seamless, freeing up buyers and allowing them to focus on more strategic activities. While our research found that the ability to manage potential and existing vendors is currently having the biggest impact on the role of the B2B buyer, it appears automation will be the number one activity that will change the role the most over the next five years.
In line with automation, respondents told us that there’s a need for purchasing procedures to be simplified to reduce order errors and to ensure B2B buyers can navigate webstores efficiently, highlighting a need for suppliers to offer purchase and payment automation capabilities.
Technology, however, isn’t the only factor having a significant impact on the way in which organisations operate. There are now more generations of buyers than ever before working together, all of whom have different ways of working. 31% of millennial B2B buyers felt that return terms, product demonstrations and the ability to manage returns online are the top three factors when making purchasing decisions. Interestingly however, 49% of those aged between 45-54 felt price comparison is the number one influencing factor when making a purchasing decision, closely followed by payment terms (40%) and delivery terms (33%). This makes it vital that suppliers understand who is buying their product and ensure they’re catering for all generations and job roles to encourage ongoing orders. Using a web store can provide companies with a flexible offering to deliver a personalised buying experience that matches buyer needs where possible.
Whatever their age or demographic when it comes to KPIs buyers are all measured in a similar way. Unsurprisingly, cost savings remain the main performance measure for over a third of buyers (39%), closely followed by internal client satisfaction (36%) and increasing the efficiency of the purchasing process (36%). And this is unlikely to change much in the future. B2B webstores need to be able to deliver against these KPIs – making it easy to compare pricing as well as quick one or two step buying processes.
B2B buying decisions are increasingly complex, unlike a B2C purchase it can often take a team of individuals to ensure the product, price and vendor are correct. From the start of the buying process to the finish, there’s a range of different job titles and personalities that offer their opinion. It might come as no surprise that when it comes to generating a buying need, the CEO and management team are involved to identify the issue and what product or service is needed. While searching for information and evaluating the alternatives, however it appears that the research and development team offer their input. Our research also found that the purchasing and procurement team, and product and operations teams are involved throughout the whole process. With so many different teams getting involved at different stages, who’s driving the buying process? Again companies need to consider all of those involved in the buying decision and ensure that they’re able to tailor their offering to suit each stage of the buying cycle.
With numerous generations, job roles and organisational changes continuously impacting the role of the B2B buyer, it’s important that suppliers understand these changes and adapt their buying processes accordingly, if they are to stay competitive within increasingly overcrowded markets. The B2B buying procedure can be long and complex with many requirements, therefore businesses need to ensure they’re able to meet buyer KPIs through ecommerce to help deliver the best experience and drive efficiencies while reducing any order errors.
Credit: Michiel Schipperus, CEO at Sana Commerce