December 16, 2021
Average Read Time: 4 minutes
Business buyers continue to step up their digital purchasing, using the web to identify and evaluate new suppliers and place orders at a significantly higher rate than they did pre-COVID.
Here’s a before-and-after snapshot courtesy of a recent survey by ecommerce technology services company Sana Commerce:
This latest survey simply confirms a trend toward digital purchasing that began before the pandemic. For example, 2019 marked the first year that fewer than half of B2B payments were made by check, a study by the Association for Financial Professionals (AFP) found.
With face-to-face sales curtailed, self-service and sales via the web were critical during COVID-19. Buyers discovered that websites and ecommerce make it much easier for them to do research, purchase products, and arrange for service. And buy they did. One estimate valued the global B2B ecommerce market at $14.9 trillion in 2020, more than five times larger than the B2C market.
Not surprisingly, most people don’t want to give up the convenience of ecommerce even after the pandemic ends. Only about 20% of B2B buyers say they hope to return to in-person sales, recent McKinsey research shows.
And that development has significant implications for B2B sellers going forward. If they want to keep and grow their business, speed and ease are paramount. In a world where personal purchases can be made with only a few clicks, B2B transactions need to be just as fast and just as seamless.
B2B sellers need to offer online purchasing and payment options that look more like B2C offerings. Ecommerce sites for consumers remain significantly more user-friendly and easier to navigate, and they also are more likely to provide useful features that facilitate sales, PYMNTS.com research indicates. For example, according to that research, 11% more B2C sites currently allow users to rate products or write reviews than B2B sites. To meet customer expectations, B2B firms must catch up – or at least get closer – to the look, feel, and function of retail B2C sites.
In addition to ratings and reviews, other effective ways to make websites purchasing- and payment-friendly include:
Companies should carefully consider which online or electronic payment methods or features could prove most beneficial to their clients who still pay by check. Those could include electronic invoicing, which is easier, faster, and less expensive than manual invoices paid by paper checks. Customers can click a link in an email or invoice, open a secure payment page, and immediately input payment.
In fact, an APQC study found that businesses that send 80% or more of their invoices electronically have significantly lower days sales outstanding: 30 days versus 55 days for companies that e-invoice 20% or less of the time.
Text-to-Pay is another quick and convenient option that helps businesses get paid faster. Also known as SMS (Short Messaging Service) payment, Text-to-Pay allows customers to make a payment via texting on their smartphones. A business sends a notification via text when an invoice payment is due. Customers can authorize the payment with a simple reply to the text on a smartphone.
The path ahead for B2B payments is clear: with the advantages it offers to both buyers and sellers, online is in and here to stay. As ecommerce grows, so will the businesses that embrace it. B2B sellers who ignore the trend do so at their peril. So if your ecommerce and electronic capabilities aren’t where they need to be, overhaul your website and payment processes. Make sure you’re ready to take advantage of those 80% of B2B buyers who are going to stick with online sales, pandemic or no pandemic.
If you want to learn all the ways MerchantE can help you optimize how you accept payments and expand your revenue, watch our Money In video.
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