April 22, 2014, 1:21 PM

Migrating more B2B customers from offline to online

86% of companies in a study by Forrester Research say they now sell online to customers who used to purchase from them only offline.

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Business-to-business companies are expanding in several ways how they reach customers through e-commerce, and in the process many are now selling online to customers who once only purchased offline through call centers or field sales reps, Forrester Research Inc. says.

86% of the companies we surveyed said they had recently migrated offline customers online, while only 14% said they had not, says

Andy Hoar, a Forrester analyst who wrote the report, “Benchmarking B2B eCommerce Sales and Marketing Initiatives.” Forrester compiled the report with data from the Global B2B E-Commerce Online Survey of more than 190 B2B professionals conducted last fall with Internet Retailer.

At the same time, many B2B companies are also looking to build customer relationships and online sales through expanded marketing, Forrester says. When asked how they planned to invest in ways to improve overall customer experience, 54% of companies say their top priority in 2014 will be marketing their products and services.

And with 75% of B2B companies getting less than 10% of their online sales outside of their home countries, “B2B companies thinking about the future will be looking to online global markets to expand their customer reach,” Hoar says. “Initially, this will include creating online sites for existing offline businesses as well as selling via established B2B marketplaces.”

Forrester also notes the following trends in B2B e-commerce:

● 50% of B2B companies plan to change or upgrade their e-commerce technology by mid-2015, compared with only 12% of business-to-consumer companies;

Mobile commerce could drive some of the technology upgrades. 35% of companies say they can sell through a smartphone and 38% say they can sell through tablet computers.

● 52% of B2B companies cite web content management tools, and 44% cite product content management tools, as top investment priorities.

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