B2B eCommerce and the Sad Majority

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We recently attended the annual eBay Enterprise/Magento Imagine 2015 and the big take-away for me was all around B2B eCommerce. B2B (Business to Business) sellers have a massive opportunity to use online sales to increase revenue and create loyalty with business buyers — right now. I attended two presentations from Forrester Research, who validated this sentiment with some very compelling data.

The Next Wave of eCommerce

Forrester recently released a new research paper focused on the topic of B2B eCommerce.  They predict incredible growth in B2B eCommerce over the next several years and it will dramatically outpace B2C eCommerce growth.  In 2015, according to Forrester, the total transaction value of all US-based B2C sales will be $325 billion.  By comparison this year, the total B2B transaction value in the US will be over twice that, at $780 billion!  More dramatically, that huge number makes up less than 10% of the total B2B spending.  The image most of us have when thinking of eCommerce is a website that sells consumer goods to people like you and me; sites like Rapid Refill, for example, which is a client of ours.  However it’s now obvious that B2B sellers are also taking advantage of online selling in a big way.  Well, at least some of them.  Only 25% of all B2B providers are currently selling their goods and services online!

The Sad Majority

Forrester offered some startling statistics.  If you are a B2B provider and are not yet selling online, you might be missing a huge revenue opportunity; and are probably over spending on sales.  Forrester’s research shows that 74% of B2B buyers prefer to buy from a website rather than a sales rep.  What’s more, they said 93% of B2B buyers like to research online and when they find what they are looking for they prefer to buy immediately.  As a reminder, only 25% of all B2B companies sell online.  Together, these numbers mean several things to me:

  • 1/4 of B2B companies have an opportunity to win 3/4 of the available business. I am hoping you are in the happy minority, not the sad majority.
  • If you are selling exclusively through reps, your cost of sale might be higher than it needs to be.  I have yet to read a study that shows the cost per unit to be higher when sold online vs. sold via sales reps; even via a sales call center.
  • If you do not offer an online purchase option, your customer satisfaction may not be as high as it could be, and the likelihood they will return to buy again may be less than it could be.  If 74% of buyers prefer to buy online, and 93% want to buy the moment they find what they are looking for, these buyers are probably not returning your sales reps’ calls and may easily abandon you for a competitor who will be happy to sell to them online.

Clearly, Forrester has good reasons to see B2B companies moving aggressively to online sales.

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