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There isn’t a single piece of our lives the Internet hasn’t upended. Communication, advertising, entertainment, education, healthcare, banking, gaming. The list goes on and on. But nowhere are these changes more apparent than in the way we shop.

For the last 20 years, sites like eBay and Amazon have reinvented the way we buy and sell everything. Whether you need to make small, household purchases like toilet paper or you’re making entire business merchandising decisions, these sites have forever changed our buying habits (and expectations).

We’re Just Getting Started

These changes in behavior aren’t that surprising. According to a 2015 report from Forrester, e-commerce will grow at rate of 9.32% each year for the next five years. Add increasingly faster wireless networks, improved worldwide access to better mobile devices, and growing expectations around omni-channel capabilities, and it’s easy to see where all of this is headed…especially in B2B markets.

B2B companies are not only reducing costs through e-commerce (in some cases up to 90%), but new research shows that when B2B customers buy both off and online, they feel more loyalty toward the brands they purchased from and they spend more money per transaction.

Finding Common Ground

By their very nature, business to consumer (B2C) transactions are fairly straightforward. If you need to buy new shirts, you don’t even have to go to the store anymore. Simply search for them online, compare prices, order, and have them shipped to your home. Still, if you want to pick them up the next time you’re out running errands, you just have them shipped to the store nearest you.

However you prefer to shop for yourself, prices, supplies, shipping costs, and availability are clearly marked for you to see, making the entire process highly predictable.

By comparison, business to business (B2B) transactions can be trickier. Variable prices, higher purchasing volumes, and complex logistics and supply chains introduce a number of variables that can trip up a buyer and bog down transactions.

Despite these complications, though, global online B2B sales are expected to reach $6.7 trillion by 2020. There’s even new evidence in recent years to suggests those numbers could be higher.

With everyone taking a “digital first” approach to both personal and professional purchasing behaviors, there’s no reason to believe our personal shopping behaviors won’t bleed into the way we make B2B purchases too. In fact, it’s already happening. So the question becomes, “what’s next?”

What’s to come?

Small to medium sized business – both buyers and sellers – who want in on the big opportunities of an increasingly competitive B2B environment have their work cut out for them. But all is not lost.

As more and more personal buying behaviors move business purchases online (Forrester predicts 270 million online retail shoppers by 2020), it will become more important than ever for manufacturers, wholesalers, distributors, and buyers, to find ways to connect with each other and with potential customers through growing B2B marketplaces.

SAP Ariba, helps millions of buyers and suppliers of all sizes discover, connect, and collaborate online. To learn more about the world’s largest B2B marketplace - SAP Ariba - read our recent article in B2BecNews, “The Markets Are Open for Business.”