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Understanding The Modern B2B Procurement Process

The B2B procurement process for a buyer has undergone a big change, going from a largely manual process to something that can be streamlined and digital.

The way business transactions have taken place has changed over the past fifteen years, and there’s no going back. The days of cheque books and fax machines being able to carry a company and handling the complexities of doing business are gone.

So how are businesses completing transactions now? What expectations do wholesale buyers have? How can you keep your business competitive in an era of changing procurement processes? To fully answer those questions, let’s start with a definition.

What is B2B procurement?

Business-to-business procurement is a buzzword that gets bandied around a lot, but often doesn’t have a concrete definition. This is because everyone tailors it to their unique situation.

In essence, however, it’s the entire process of sourcing the goods, materials, parts or products that you need from vendors. This includes the selection of goods & products, making the order, receiving and paying for that order, as well as creating all the required documentation along the way.

Procurement for the sake of B2B encompasses all interactions your business has with another business. 

Kato's Nursery Case Study

Your customers’ buying journey starts with an online search

The buyer’s journey for a B2B customer isn’t all that different from a regular consumer; they start with an online search. This immediately makes it so companies without a strong online presence are at a severe disadvantage.

Among the sites the search engine finds, greater importance (and better listing) goes to wholesale businesses who have further invested in their websites. Greater depths of information goes a long way in helping your website climb the ranks of search results. Additionally, once the buyer is on your site, that information needs to be easy to find and digest. 

According to Accenture’s 2014 State of B2B Procurement Study “Only 37 percent of B2B buyers who research a supplier’s website feel it’s the most helpful tool for research.”

Generally speaking, wholesalers are behind the curve on this front, and it’s costing them customers.

In 2024, your customers’ expectations are different, and updates to marketing and sales processes need to take place to meet those expectations. Your website is how you need to make an excellent first impression, and it should no longer be overlooked as a secondary access point for customers and prospects.

When a customer lands on a wholesalers website they are looking for:

  1. An online catalog with self-service online ordering
  2. Information about products and merchandising
  3. Contact and shipping information
  4. Information about  the wholesale company
  5. Testimonials or other validating information about why they should do business with the wholesale company.

It should come as no surprise that the majority of your customers’ decision making process takes place well before they contact you. Failing to provide the information they’re seeking is pretty much saying “No thanks, we don’t want you to call us.”

The importance of online ordering capabilities to capture a B2B sale

Since the purchasing journey starts online, wholesale business should be able to accommodate online sales. Despite what some wholesalers believe, online catalogs don’t jeopardize your customer relationships, in fact — they strengthen them. A study by Forrester Research found that “93 percent of B2B buyers prefer to buy online when they’ve already decided what to buy.”

An online catalog acts as the ultimate sales and marketing tool that can be configured based on specific customer segments to provide them with specific pricing, specials and real-time product and inventory information.

“80% of B2B Buyers Have Switched From Suppliers That are Unable to Align Their Services with Buyer Expectations”

Source: Accenture’s 2019 State of B2B Procurement study

These expectations have become even more important today. A significant transformation has taken place with the sales and marketing departments of wholesale businesses as they move away from print catalogs and manual ordering process into a world of digital catalogs and online ordering.

Why is this happening? B2B buyers are not only asking it, but consider it essential to business purchasing and order management. As online ordering becomes an integral part of the B2B purchasing process, your customers will favor the companies that operate with their preferred way to order.

Read why your business should commit to online ordering 

New B2B buyer expectations & your required investment

Embracing and exceeding your customer’s expectations for the ease of buying your products will benefit both parties. Having an online sales and marketing channel for your customers can help you offer efficient and meaningful transactions that provide a streamlined order management process.

Coca-Cola reported that it reduced its average cost-per-interaction by 85% by moving offline B2B customers online.”- Forrester Research 2017.

The initial investment to accommodate online purchasing is relatively inexpensive compared to the overall savings and revenue it offers over time. Online ordering removes costs, improves customer satisfaction and drives greater income — so there is little risk to an investment in online ordering technology. With B2B buyers eagerly awaiting your arrival into the digital world, it’s up to you to take the next step to invest in your business future.

Scotts Canada Case Study

As the B2B procurement process has been traditionally very manual —- the ability to take your procurement processes digital gives several other advantages beyond visibility to your customer potential. It also reduces or removes the time your organization spends manually entering orders, eliminating pesky manual entry errors. 

By having your company’s order management from a single source of truth that’s easy to search and understand, you’ll gain a more holistic view of how your company is getting orders out the door, and what your sales channels really look like. 

More and more, your buyers are having more sway than ever before. They have expectations of how they want to be sold to, and aren’t willing to jump through nearly as many hoops as they were in the past. To meet those expectations you’ll have to make some changes to fit the digital age, streamline your processes and sell to them how they want to be sold to.

OrderEase has made this B2B ordering quick and easy to implement, saving companies thousands of dollars and hours of time typically invested in building out a B2B sales website.  To learn more about how we do this, reach out to us, we’ll be happy to help!

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