A 2020 Industrial B2B eCommerce and New Research Update

What engineers want from websitesWhat Engineers Want From a Website? Image credit: IEEE GlobalSpec

Avoiding Covid-19 will obviously drive more B2C and B2B eCommerce as people avoid unnecessary contact. It will also further expose companies that haven’t yet built their eCommerce channel or transitioned to a customer helpful, online presence. Even before the pandemic, the trend to eCommerce was accelerating. Covid-19 will quicken the pace, at least in the short term. If eCommerce is found more convenient, that change in buyer behavior may become permanent.

The Trend Towards eCommerce Continues…

Across the industrial space eCommerce continues to increase in importance for revenue growth, customer satisfaction and competitive differentiation. Here are a few examples:

  • W.W. Grainger's 2019 10K financial statement reveals total orders from its three groupings of digital channels: website, 30%; EDI and e-procurement, 25%; and its KeepStock inventory management services, 16%. That totals 71% of orders through its digital channels, with the remaining 29% through its physical branch network and via telephone.
  • Fastenal’s Q4 report illustrates how customer needs are changing. Where local branches and account management were #1 and #2 in 2013, they are now #2 and #4 and eCommerce is #1. Fastenal customer drivers in order of importance
  • B2B buyers Amazon purchase percentagesAmazon now accounts for 49% of US B2C eCommerce, is #1 for product search (Google still #1 for all searches) and Amazon Business (it’s B2B side) is its fastest growing part (it grew 1.6 times faster last year than Amazon Web Services, and 3 times faster than Amazon itself). Amazon Business 2019 revenue is estimated at $16B, expected to exceed $24B in 2020 and $50B by 2023. According to a Digital Commerce 360 August 2019 survey, 50% of B2B buyers’ allocate more than 10% of their spend on Amazon Business. In a recent survey by Corevist 70% of manufacturers believe Amazon will be a ‘significant player’ in their industry within 5 years.
  • And it’s not just the biggest names. Here’s a case study on $70M Royal Brass and Hose’s roadmap for growth via eCommerce.

Bottom line: most B2B companies expect their eCommerce sites to generate more than 40% of their total revenue by 2025, according to an international study of 700 business professionals by Episerver, "B2B Digital Experiences Report 2019: How Companies are Meeting Rising Expectations."

Amazon Business as a Channel

Amazon Business may already be a competitor for you, or may become one, but either way, they can also be a sales channel for you. The Corevist survey (linked above) also revealed that:

  • Nearly 70% of manufacturers say their products are on Amazon already
  • 56% are already selling direct on Amazon Business, though the main reason others aren’t is fear of channel conflict
  • 72% expect to be selling on Amazon Business within 5 years.

Manufacturers product sales on Amazon

Bottom line: 70% say resellers are selling their products on Amazon but when asked most don’t know who those resellers are. As a result most are not controlling their brand image in this emerging channel.

Forrester’s Latest eCommerce Research

Please read the article on the report yourself, but here's a few of its key points:

  • 61% of business buyers now prefer to do their product research online, up from 53% five years ago
  • 67% of B2B buyers prefer not to interact with a sales representative as their primary source of information, “they want to buy when they find it most convenient, and that can be from any channel
  • 62% say they can now develop selection criteria for finalizing a vendor list based solely on digital content
  • 70% say that buying from a website is the most convenient way to buy business products or services
  • 77% want integrated customized data or insights from sellers and 77% also want sellers to “help me learn something new
  • 75% want sellers to use eCommerce to “show how their products and services impact my business
  • 94% of B2B marketers say it is important to deliver a consistent online and offline experience, “two-thirds of B2B buyers want access to products, parts and inventory availability online

Conclusions

1. eCommerce is a change in B2B buyer channel preferences. Most manufacturers now recognize they need to meet that new channel need. If fear of channel conflict is constraining you, there are multiple ways to tackle that issue so don’t let it hold you back!

2. Your own eCommerce website, Amazon Business and possibly other similar marketplace sites are the platforms. Many manufacturers don’t yet realize they need to control their brand and product representation on all platforms and that starts with excellent and consistent product content as the foundation (product descriptions, features, benefits, pictures, 2D and 3D CAD, Augmented reality using CAD, videos, case studies, reviews, online advertising and more…)

3. The GlobalSpec image and linked study at the top of this blog shows some of “what engineers want from a website.” but the two most important things are useful and helpful content plus the ability to search that content to quickly find what they need. Engineers conduct the majority of their buying research online before contacting a company, your website is your most important marketing asset. So, make sure it lives up to their expectations?

4. The Covid-19 pandemic will further accelerate eCommerce adoption and growth - including for industrial B2B suppliers.

Lastly, we hope you all stay healthy in these difficult times and if you'd like our opinion on your particular situation with industrial B2B marketing, please call or click either button below:

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