November 21, 2013, 3:40 PM

Signs point up for B2B e-commerce

More companies are buying online, and B2B sellers are investing in technology.

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B2B e-commerce executives expect strong growth ahead, and they’re investing now to take advantage of that growth.

For example, 46% of business-to-business e-commerce executives surveyed recently by Forrester Research Inc. and Internet Retailer say they expect more than half of their customers to be buying online in three years. 67% expect their technology budgets to increase this year and 49% say that they will upgrade within 18 months the e-commerce platform they use to sell online to other companies, government agencies and educational institutions, the major B2B buyers.

“That’s pretty aggressive, because it’s going to take a while to do, but they feel a real urgency now,” Forrester analyst Andy Hoar said today on a webinar reporting on the results of the survey. The webinar was sponsored by hybris, a unit of SAP AG that provides e-commerce software.

Sign Up for B@Becnews for FREEHoar also reported the following survey results:

  • 62% of e-commerce executives surveyed said that e-commerce has “fundamentally changed the way customers interact with us.”
  • 69% say they expect to stop printing a catalog within five years. Hoar said catalogs, bedrock marketing tools for many manufacturers and wholesalers for years, may not go away entirely, but they will change, for example, by getting smaller. B2B sellers will also use more interactive online tools to provide information now provided in catalogs.
  • B2B buyers are researching and buying on mobile devices. 62% of respondents say their customers research on tablets, and 52% say they buy with those devices; comparable figures for smartphones were 54% and 52%. Yet the survey also found half of B2B executives say their companies don’t have a mobile strategy. “This will not persist,” Hoar said, “because it’s not possible to operate in this modern global marketplace, especially online, without having a mobile strategy.”
  • B2B executives mostly think their sites are as good or better than their online B2B competitors—48% said better and 39% as good. But they don’t think their sites compare well to the ease of shopping on Amazon.com: 48% of respondents said their sites were worse than Amazon in terms of customer experience.
  •  Both average order value and conversion rate are trending upwards. 48% said average ticket was going up and 31% staying the same; 48% said conversion rate was going up, and 32% staying the same. The average order value was $491 for B2B respondents versus $147 for consumer-oriented e-commerce executives; the average conversion rate reported by the B2B survey respondents was 10%, much higher than the 3% average reported by business-to-consumer executives responding to the survey.
  • B2B executives say about 7% of their online revenue is going to technology, including applications, licenses, fees and people; the B2C executives said about 4%. Hoar said that shows the drive among B2B companies to invest now in e-commerce.
  • Top technology priorities for B2B companies are their e-commerce platforms, cited by 64% of respondents. That was followed by integration with accounting and order management systems, 60%, and mobile sites and apps, 56%.

About 170 B2B e-commerce executives responded to the survey conducted this fall. Hoar said Forrester will release a full report on the survey results in the coming months.

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