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Nothing happens in a vacuum, so this is no surprise. Business-to-business (B2B) buyers shop online in their free time, taking advantage of quick and easy ways to research and purchase via the Web.

People researching and making purchases for their organizations want the same experience they get when buying online for themselves.

These corporate shoppers now expect the same convenience from their workday purchases. But business-to-consumer (B2C) Web sites exist to guide customers all the way to the sale, while B2B sites merely aim to generate leads, according to content marketer Alex Charalambous.

“Many B2B companies don’t know where to begin or how to capitalize on the power their Web site could have with an online marketing program,” Charalambous wrote in Business 2 Community Monday. “If a Web site fails to show credibility for the company, then the prospective buyer will leave the site and eliminate that company from consideration long before sales efforts even begin.”

Generation Gap

Almost nine out of 10 (88 percent) B2B buyers would prefer to shop online, but most B2B suppliers offer little or nothing to let them, according to an e-commerce study by hybris last year. And 94 percent of B2B buyers wanted suppliers to make their Web sites more like B2C Web sites.

What’s more, corporate purchasers want personalized, highly relevant offers, as well as a single view of their B2B suppliers. They also want those suppliers to have a single view of them, whether they shop via the Web, mobile device or in-person. (hybris will discuss this more during a Customer Edge TV Webisode on Thursday.)

The trend isn’t likely to abate as Gen Y continues gaining prominence in the workforce, according to an Acquity Group study. B2B buyers of that generation were twice as likely to purchase online as those aged 46 to 60 (90 percent versus 45 percent).

“Younger buyers also appear to spend more time researching their purchases,” MarketCharts stated in June. “The younger set also said they are most likely to research purchases at least 50 percent of the time, compared to less than 10 percent of the time for the older bracket.”

Death of the Salesman?

All this talk of online research and purchasing doesn’t mean you can write the salesman’s obituary just yet. Unlike consumers, more than 95 percent of B2B buyers still prefer to work with someone from sales.

“They want a real human being involved,” stated in June. “Corporate buyers do NOT want to work with salespeople who give sales pitches ... [they] want salespeople who help them make better decisions and make buying online even more convenient.”

All of this research showcases a terrific opportunity for B2B organizations to enhance their businesses. But they’ll have to listen to customers -- both B2B and B2C -- because success won’t happen in a vacuum.

Follow Derek on Twitter: @DKlobucher. Like this story? Sign up for the SAP Business Trends newsletter here.

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