The Pros and Cons of E-Commerce, According to B2B Decision-Makers

October 16, 2018

One in every 5 decision-makers at B2B companies across the world is getting a majority of sales from e-commerce, according to a survey from PROS [download page]. But fast-forward 5 years and triple that number – 3 in 5 – expect to be seeing most of their sales come from e-commerce, per the report.

It may be that these respondents are overly enthusiastic: a Forrester Research forecast last year called for e-commerce to account for one-eighth of US B2B sales in 2020. And the most recent CMO Survey found B2B respondents saying that about one-tenth of their firms’ sales are currently made through the internet.

There certainly appears to be some room for maturation in this area: 3 in 4 B2B procurement officers report experience pain points during the e-commerce buying process.

Nonetheless, B2B decision-makers see the potential in e-commerce, with 72% of respondents to the PROS survey feeling that it can be advantageous for them.

The main benefits provided by e-commerce, per these respondents, are:

  • The potential to reach more customers (52% selecting as a top-3 benefit among 6 listed);
  • Satisfying customer expectations for self-serve buying (49%);
  • Reduction of overhead costs (46%); and
  • Automation of sales processes (44%).

Pricing Is An Issue, Though

There are a range of benefits afforded by e-commerce, but also some concerns. Among 8 concerns listed, the largest share of respondents pointed to the following as being among their top 3:

  • Maintaining competitive pricing (37%);
  • Protecting price attainment (34%); and
  • Directing customers to the products they need (33%).

Other concerns include enabling personalized offers, maintaining updated pricing, and presenting relevant promotions.

The report suggests that B2B firms are making investments in these areas, but far fewer have actually implemented technologies. For example, while 81% have invested in dynamic, real-time pricing technology, just 39% have implemented one. Likewise, although 8 in 10 have invested in personalized prices and promotions technology, only around half as many (43%) have implemented such a technology.

The full report – which contains many more results – can be downloaded here.

About the Data: The results are based on a survey conducted by Hanover Research among more than 700 decision-makers at B2B companies in a variety of industries.

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