The way business transactions take place has changed over the past 15 years and there is no going back. Gone are the days when a cheque book and fax machine could carry a company and handle the complexities of doing business. So how are businesses transacting now? What expectation do wholesale buyers have? How can your business stay competitive in a changing procurement process? To fully answer those questions, let’s begin with how B2B buyers are beginning the buying journey.
The Buying Journey Start with an Online Search
The buying journey for a B2B customer isn’t all that different from a regular consumer; they start with a Google search. Immediately, a company that does not have an online presence is 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 depth of information goes a long way to helping your company’s website climb the ranks of search results. Once your buyer visits 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, and it is costing them customers. A wholesale customer's expectations in 2018 are different, and updates to marketing and sales process need to take place to meet those expectations. Your website is how you make an excellent first impression, and it should no longer be overlooked as a secondary access point for customers.
When a customer lands on a wholesalers website they are looking for:
- An online catalog with self-service online ordering
- Information about products and merchandising
- Contact and shipping information
- Information about the wholesale company
- 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 customer’s decision-making process takes place well before they contact you. Failing to provide the information they are seeking is almost as bad as saying “No, thank you. We don’t want you to call us.”
The Importance of an Online Catalog to Capture an Online Sale
Since the purchasing journey starts online, wholesale businesses should be able to accommodate online sales. Despite what some wholesalers believe, online catalogs don’t jeopardize your customer relationships, but actually strengthen them. Afterall, providing what your customers want is the key. Forrester Research estimates “93 percent of B2B buyers prefer to buy online when they’ve already decided what to buy.” An online catalog is the ultimate sales and marketing tool that can be configured based on specific customer segments to provide them with their particular pricing, specials and real-time product and inventory information.
“Not only are B2B buyers researching more online, but they are also becoming more independent and partial to self-service purchasing models. Only 12 percent of buyers want to meet in person with a sales representative when determining a purchasing decision, and 16 percent want to discuss their purchasing options with a sales representative over the phone”
Source: Accenture’s 2014 State of B2B Procurement study
Today, those expectations are even more important. A significant shift is taking place with the sales and marketing departments of wholesale businesses as they move away from print catalogs and manual ordering processes toward a digital catalog and online ordering. Why is this shift happening? B2B buyers are not only asking for it but consider it essential to business purchasing and order management. As online ordering becomes an integral part of the B2B buyer's purchasing process, they will favor the companies that fit with their preferred way to order.
Accommodating New B2B Buyer Expectations
Embracing and fulfilling customer expectations will benefit both parties. Online sales and marketing channels 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 saving and increased 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 technology. B2B buyers are eagerly awaiting your arrival to the world of online ordering and it is up to you to take the next step and invest in your business future.