Buyers of business-to-business products and services have been slow to move online in their dealings with suppliers, but most would be influenced to use the web if suppliers offered more comprehensive services online, according to new research from Jupiter Media Metrix. Of b2b buyers surveyed in several industry sectors, including manufacturers that supply retailers, 80% said they’d be more likely to trade online with suppliers who offered so-called “buyer productivity applications.” In fact, 54% of the b2b buyers said they’d confer “preferred vendor” status on online suppliers who offered such tools, 6% said they’d shift all their buying to those suppliers, and 22% said they’d buy more from them.
The productivity tools most valued by suppliers to retail are those that facilitate inventory management and replenishment. “It has to do with what their suppliers can offer to help them keep the shelves stocked at times when they need to be stocked,” says Jupiter analyst Jon Gibs. Some retailers like Wal-Mart Stores Inc. with the scale and clout to do so have taken a page out of how their suppliers deal with vendors, and have set up private networks to trade with their own partners online, notes Gibs. For retailers not scaled like Wal-Mart, the lack of technology infrastructure hinders the greater use of direct online trading between retailer and supplier. But suppliers to retail may help build the tools to facilitate trade with retailers if they see it’s to their advantage. For that reason, developments in b2b online trading bear watching by retailers as a forecast of things to come. B2b buyers slow to move online will remain slow for the next 18 months, predicts Jupiter. “Suppliers must use this period to reposition themselves as industry leaders and implement buyer productivity applications according to their customers’ profiles,” Gibs says.