U.S. Companies Lead in Delivering B2B E-commerce Experiences

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2013 E-commerce Report from Intershop reveals that customer demand and expectations are driving change for B2B organizations

When it comes to selling online, B2B organizations have to adapt to changing customer expectations, driven by trends such as smartphone usage, social media and the consumerization of IT, according to the multi-national 2013 E-commerce Report from Intershop. Respondents in a survey of 400 companies across six countries agreed that the world of B2B commerce is evolving fast, and B2C trends are reflected in the B2B environment. The U.S. is at the forefront of this change.

Almost one third (120) of the 400 respondents were American B2B organizations of which just under three quarters (72%) felt that B2B commerce is shifting from offline to online and self-service. Driving offline to online is not without its challenges and struggles, many of which were identified in this survey.

For the majority of American companies surveyed (63%) adopting B2C best practices is seen as a path to optimizing B2B purchasing experiences. However, organizational challenges persist. 61% of U.S. respondents said the internal organization has to adapt to meet new online goals. The same amount (61%), U.S. respondents say it is difficult to manage complex organizational structures such as different user roles, multiple business models, multiple commerce touch points and multiple data domains. This is significantly higher than the multi-national average of 48%.

The survey also revealed other challenges faced by American B2B online retailers. More than half of U.S. respondents (58%) find it difficult to provide intuitive and user-friendly interfaces for multiple touch points such as B2B online stores, mobile apps etc. This is higher than the multi-national average of 50%. Bringing customers from offline to online self-service was also highlighted as a major challenge in the U.S. (56%).

When asked which touch points respondents currently use to sell their products/services, more U.S. respondents (53%) are using self-service B2B online stores than any other region. In terms of their commerce vision, respondents want to use a combination of mobile apps and self-service for their B2B offer. 33% of U.S. respondents will integrate new touch points such as mobile apps for order entry, order history and status as well as sales rep apps and 24% will provide self-service ordering and consistent purchasing experience across multiple touch points.

This change to a more consumerized commerce approach is driven by multiple factors, from customer demand and expectations (81% globally; 88% U.S.) to developing technologies (74% globally; 85% U.S.) to the fact that business buyers engage through various offline and online touch points with their peers and use multiple information sources to make decisions (73% globally; 84% U.S.). The U.S. appears to be facing more drivers with regards to changes in e-commerce than those in Europe, with these top three drivers selected by well over eight in 10 respondents in the U.S.. Competitor activity and performance (72% globally; 85% U.S.) is also another significant driver in the U.S.

Almost half (globally 49%; 50% U.S.) of all respondents agreed that bringing business buyers from offline to online could result in a higher overall bottom line. Higher average basket values and more return customers and higher brand loyalty were both cited as major benefits by 53% of U.S. respondents.

Jochen Moll, Member and Spokesman of the Board of Management at Intershop explains, “Where there is complexity, there is also opportunity. Organizations that can develop their B2B commerce channels now and offer a consumer-like approach will be well placed to capture market share. They will need to understand how to manage the complexities around their new channels, but the effort will pay off.”

Of the B2B organizations surveyed in the U.S., 96% already sell online, and the remaining 4% have plans to. Those who currently sell online say that 42% of their B2B revenue comes from online sales at the moment. 97% of these organizations have a goal to increase this – on average by 31%.

When it comes to the features their customers expect, U.S. respondents rated these much higher than other regional respondents did. Intuitive search and navigation are understood to be important by 90%, whereas the average across respondent countries was 77%. U.S. respondents felt category and product pages (88%), and self-service account management (84%) were more important than some of the other international respondents.

U.S. organizations also realize how important search engine optimization and search engine marketing are (83%). 76% are trying to encourage ranking or scoring of their organizations’ products on social media sites; higher than the multi-national average of 63%.

Almost two thirds of U.S. respondents (65%) want the ability to enable B2B buyers to better manage routine orders whereas that number falls to 55% across the other respondents. Customization of the storefront based on corporate purchasing policy was also rated higher in the U.S. at 58% than the multi-national average (44%).

Conquering Mobile
Intershop’s 2012 E-commerce Report revealed that conquering mobile commerce was the top business challenge facing B2C retailers and the same holds true for this year’s B2B respondents. Mobile channels are gaining in importance in B2B across the U.S. When asked what new touch points organizations plan to use in the next 12 months, mobile stores (33%) and mobile apps (31%) were the most popular choices. These figures were higher in the U.S. than the other country respondents.

Of those U.S. organizations that say mobile commerce will be important in the next 12 months, 78% are planning to create a mobile-optimized store version that allows business buyers to see products, to purchase, to access their account profile and to track orders. 66% plan to create a mobile app that allows business buyers to see products, to negotiate the price, to click and buy and to track orders.

The findings from the survey underline that the transformation of B2B commerce is hitting a tipping point in 2013. The pressure in B2B is to cope with a large number of challenges and fast changing expectations, both from inside and outside their business: Integrating processes and systems, providing consistent cross-channel experiences and embracing mobile and social media, to name but a few.

“B2C has become the test ground for B2B companies to understand how e-commerce technologies can support their sales strategies,” adds Moll. “After all, every B2B customer is also a B2C customer so if you want to understand the future of B2B, that is where to look.”

Moll concludes, “There is a noticeable disparity between the U.S. and other countries in terms of how sophisticated their B2B e-commerce strategy is. E-commerce really is a global market place and B2B organisations need to raise their game to meet the highest benchmark.”

To download the full report, visit http://www.intershop.com/e-commerce-report.

Note to editors:
Info graphic available. Contant intershop[at]proudpr.com.

About the research
The research was conducted by Vanson Bourne, a specialist, technology-focused market research agency. Vanson Bourne interviewed 400 senior IT and business decision makers from retailers with a B2B focus and annual online revenues ranging from £1 million to more than £100 million, in April and May 2013. Specific industry sectors were targeted and 75% of the respondents were from the automotive, high-tech manufacturing, retail, pharmaceutical, and telecoms sectors. The remaining 25% came from other sectors. 120 interviews were conducted in the U.S., 60 in each of the following countries; UK, France, Germany, Nordics while 40 were conducted in Benelux.

About Intershop
Intershop Communications AG (founded in Germany 1992; Prime Standard: ISH2) is the leading independent provider of omni-channel commerce solutions. Intershop offers high-performance packaged software for internet sales, complemented by all necessary services including online marketing consulting. Intershop also acts as a business process outsourcing provider, covering all aspects of online retailing, including fulfillment.

Around the globe more than 500 enterprise customers, including HP, BMW, Deutsche Telekom, and Mexx run Intershop solutions. Intershop is headquartered in Jena, Germany, and has offices in the United States, Europe, Australia, and China. More information about Intershop can be found online at http://www.intershop.com.

This news release contains forward-looking statements regarding future events or the future financial and operational performance of Intershop. Actual events or performance may differ materially from those contained or implied in such forward-looking statements. Risks and uncertainties that could lead to such difference could include, among other things: Intershop's limited operating history, the unpredictability of future revenues and expenses and potential fluctuations in revenues and operating results, significant dependence on large single customer deals, consumer trends, the level of competition, seasonality, risks related to electronic security, possible governmental regulation, and general economic conditions.

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