B2B Buyer Expectations: 3 Trends Blurring Lines Between DTC and B2B E-Commerce
The world of e-commerce is evolving rapidly, and the boundaries that once clearly separated business-to-business (B2B) and direct-to-consumer (DTC) buying experiences are now blurring. Current buyer behavior data reveals a significant shift in buyer habits, where the B2B buyer journey is increasingly mirroring DTC practices, ultimately leading to purchases being made online.
B2B e-commerce leads as the most effective sales channel followed by in-person sales, according to research by McKinsey. This evolution is underscored by insights from BigCommerce, where a survey encompassing over 1,000 B2B buyers from the U.S., U.K., and Australia revealed that 74 percent of respondents engaged in transactions online, while 64 percent used online platforms for research purposes, and 56 percent requested quotes online. In terms of online purchasing frequency, an overwhelming 65 percent stated they either purchase a few times a week (50 percent) or every day (15 percent).
It’s evident that B2B buyers are demanding a seamless online and offline experience, replicating DTC-like expectations. Now is the time for businesses to grasp the key trends that are shaping this digital evolution.
3 Trends Contributing to the Shift in B2B Buyer Expectations
1. Buyers Expect — and Reward — Basic Online Functionality
While specialized features are crucial, the foundation of B2B buyers' expectations lies in basic online functionality, many of which have been table stakes in DTC shopping for some time. Accurate product information, quick website loading times, and efficient customer support are increasingly expected in the B2B realm. Merchants should prioritize essential elements for a satisfying user experience before exploring advanced features. Accurate product details and a glitch-free, seamless buyer journey are also vital for B2B buyers.
2. Transparency in Pricing and Products
Transparency in pricing and product comparisons are a staple of the DTC landscape, and have infiltrated B2B buyers' expectations. With the current economic climate, clear visibility into the total purchase price, including shipping costs, has gained importance for B2B buyers. The ability to compare costs across competitors is listed as the top reason why B2B buyers are choosing online purchases over other channels.
3. Frictionless Checkout is the Deciding Factor
The checkout experience can make or break a B2B transaction. An uncomplicated checkout process, featuring single-page checkout, mobile optimization and robust security measures, can significantly impact whether a transaction is completed. Technical issues are one of the key reasons B2B shoppers abandon carts, followed by a complex checkout process. A lack of secure checkout options is also a significant contributor, reinforcing the need for seamless and secure payment processes.
A Glimpse Into the Future: Enhancing the B2B Buying Experience
In light of these trends, there are new strategies that manufacturers and distributors are exploring to enhance the B2B buyer experience, aligning it more closely with DTC practices. These include:
- Third-Party Marketplaces: Just as DTC consumers flock to online marketplaces, B2B buyers are also exploring these platforms. With 65 percent of respondents purchasing from marketplaces, but only 50 percent finding products there, it could suggest that buyers are finding products through search or direct websites and then heading to familiar marketplaces, such as Amazon Business, Faire, Alibaba, or Walmart, to purchase.
- AI and Applications: Artificial intelligence integration and other applications can alleviate stress in the B2B buyer journey. Features like live chat with representatives or AI-driven customer support can streamline the purchasing process. By harnessing technology, businesses can enhance customer service and create a smoother experience for their B2B clientele.
As B2B and DTC buyer journeys continue to converge, businesses must adapt to changing expectations to remain competitive. Our data underscores the importance of basic online functionality, transparency of pricing, and frictionless checkout as key components of a satisfying B2B purchasing experience. By embracing third-party marketplaces and leveraging technology like AI, companies can navigate the evolving landscape, offering B2B buyers the seamless and user-friendly experience they now demand. In this era of transformation, success lies in embracing change and redefining the boundaries of B2B e-commerce.
Lance Owide is the B2B general manager at BigCommerce, an open, composable e-commerce platform for established and fast-growing large B2C and B2B brands.