4 things you should know about a B2B client in 2018. Conclusions from the e-point report and Mobile Institute
On foreign markets there are numerous studies of B2B. They inform us that, for example, by 2020 in the US the demand for sales representatives in B2B sector will have dwindled by as much as one million posts because business clients prefer to buy on-line (Forrester) or because it is Millenials who have an increasingly valid say in buying decisions (Google).
How do these data relate to the Polish reality? Together with Mobile Institute we will try to answer the question. We have analysed the buying process in B2B in Poland in 2018 based on questionnaires and in-depth interviews and then we asked industry experts for comments.
Here is a handful of conclusions - 4 things you should know about a B2B clients and about how they buy.
1. They want to buy on-line
As many as 69% of our respondents make purchases for their companies on-line. They explain it is due to the lack of time and search for the most convenient solutions. It is particularly true about repetitive, daily purchases. At the beginning of the cooperation with a business partner, face-to-face meetings are usually necessary, but with subsequent orders the e-commerce system proves more convenient.
"At Inter Cars for years now we have seen a rise in sales made using our e-commerce solutions. On some markets their share accounts for 80-90%".
Up to now e-commerce has been mainly associated with B2C sector and simple on-line stores. However, modern e-commerce systems oriented towards B2B market needs offer functions required by the market, such as:
- advanced price lists and individual prices for each partner, depending on business terms,
- advanced search options,
- personalisation of the offer presentation (some products shown only to some clients),
- negotiation procedure,
- a reorder option thanks to which an order may be made again without the need to complete the cart from the catalogue one more time,
- an option of ordering products which may not be shown in the catalogue structure (e.g. training courses or additional services to be individually valued by the sales representative),
- more payment methods,
- multiple carts,
- creating subaccounts and various roles (e.g. Admin, Approver, Buyer), serving a process accounting for multiple roles,
- integration with a procurement platform.
These are platforms tailored to the needs of a B2B client.
2. They want to buy using mobile devices
Steve Jobs presented the first iPhone to the world in 2007, today more people in the world have access to mobile phones than to tooth brushes. Almost two thirds of the population (over 5 bn people) actively use mobile devices. Smartphones have been with us for only 11 years, but they managed to completely turn around the way we search information, communicate with others, spend free time or buy. It applies also to the behaviour of B2B users.
This global trend has been confirmed by our study of Polish B2B clients. 36% of them would like to make purchases for their companies via smartphones and tablets.
"The survey findings show that the Internet and mobile devices constitute an important part of the B2B customer journey. It is not only B2C companies, but also the B2B sector who effectively uses digital solutions to sell its products and services. It is worth noticing that almost half of the surveyed expect contact with various channels. From the perspective of B2B sales managers it means a need of effective management of channels with various model and sales process characteristics and various value offers".
Yet, many B2B companies are not aware what percentage of their users browse www pages on a mobile device. In this area, a significant discrepancy can be seen between what entrepreneurs expect as B2B clients and what they offer as sellers.
3. Relations are important to them
In our in-depth interviews respondents emphasised that B2B relies on relations: on trust, partnership and mutual understanding. Such a bond is created over time and the appearance of new technological solutions in no way undermines its unique value.
"I expect more from my supplier than just service, I expect him to understand my business and my needs, I count on flexibility and responsiveness".
It is clear that B2B clients want to buy on-line, via their smartphones as well as use digital tools for speed and convenience, yet at the same time desire safety and trust which may be found in stable relations.
Our study made us realise that Polish companies rarely employ the digital channel to build such relations. As many as 62% of the surveyed post their company history and mission statement on the websites. This is a considerable proportion, particularly if we remember that a much lower number of them use www pages to offer to their clients the necessary functions, such as: on-line ordering (49%), a showroom browser (48%), useful tools, creators, configurators (15%). Companies like to talk about themselves, but are reluctant to build a relationship network with clients.
Certainly, useful digital tools may be of assistance to our business partners.
"In western markets we have seen innovative ideas come from distributors in our industry and we watch them reach out beyond the traditional model of cooperation".
"Very frequently they provide useful company development tools or applications to their clients, thus supporting many aspects of their operations. It follows form the fact that, according to research, 60% of catering businesses go bust in the first year of operations and most of the players on the market lack scale and ability to design ready-made solutions tailored to their situation. It remains outside the scope of their core business. To address the issue, distributors who possess more resources, can support their clients by sharing some practical solutions - e.g. table booking applications or on-line ordering tools".
4. They expect excellent Customer Experience
According to Sirius Decisions, 80% of B2B clients base their buying decisions on the buying experience and are ready to pay 30% more for better impressions. Price is not a critical factor for B2B clients: in our survey only 53% of respondents admitted price to be a decisive factor in choosing a business partner, whereas 83% indicated good terms of cooperation.
According to KPMG, CX in B2B industry rests on 6 pillars:
- personalisation: getting to know and understand the client, addressing his needs,
- integrity and transparent rules: building trust through accountability and protecting client interest,
- optimisation: offering solutions that allow to minimise time and resources allocated to achieving a particular goal,
- problem solving: handling complaints and problems in such a way that the client can feel the matter in question was looked into in a professional and efficient manner,
- adequate expectations: making realistic promises we can deliver on in relation to our offer,
- empathy: ability to step into the customer's situation and imagine his challenges and emotions.
How is it done in practice? The most important thing is to understand how our clients work, what they need and what goals they pursue. In B2B it may for example include:
- convenient search mechanisms which allow to quickly order a specialist product,
- presentation of the information vital to the user in a visible and easy to access part of the service,
- speed of the platform,
- estimated delivery time option for a given product based on the user location,
- possibility of easy price negotiation on-line,
- application of keyboard shortcuts 9if users are willing to apply them).
For many buyers Customer Experience is more important than the price, they are prepared to pay more for a product or service if they know it implies more convenience, accessibility and safety.
Our survey has found out that B2B clients, on one hand, want fast and easy service using the on-line channel, on the other, still expect making a deep and strong relationship. Providing solutions to satisfy both of these needs certainly poses a challenge. Such solutions include B2B e-commerce systems which rely on a deeper understanding of users' business goals and ways in which users operate at the same time being capable of delivering an optimal Customer Experience.