Covid-19: Coronavirus pandemic speeds up growth in B2B eCommerce

The speed of growth in the business-to-business (B2B) eCommerce market has accelerated during the coronavirus crisis, but there are concerns that organisations selling in this space still don’t have the infrastructure in place to operate efficiently online.

These represent some of the standout findings from the latest report published by digital consultancy Wunderman Thompson Commerce, which found 46% of B2B purchases are now conducted online.

The B2B Future Shopper report 2020 surveyed over 200 B2B professionals in the UK and found many businesses have moved away from traditional sales representatives in favour of eCommerce. While almost 44% said their business bought directly from salespeople prior to the coronavirus outbreak, this number has now dropped to 16%.

Surveys took place between 17 April and 27 April 2020, in the midst of restrictions on people’s movement, so as organisations ramp up their operations as lockdown measures are lifted these figures could change again. However, the coronavirus crisis has highlighted a willingness for B2B organisations to sell digitally.

B2B online purchases have increased by 24% since last year, and three-quarters of respondents want to buy from a platform similar to Amazon Business. This figure rises to 87% for medium-sized businesses.

Despite growing demand for eCommerce in the B2B world, 43% of businesses still find buying online more complicated than buying offline, according to the research. The top reason why businesses switched supplier was because their existing partner was out of stock, highlighting ongoing issues facing the supply chain as a result of Covid-19.

Some 43% of those surveyed claimed they had changed suppliers because of a lack of online ordering capability, while 42% changed due to the supplier’s inability to offer delivery during lockdown.

Neil Stewart, CEO of Wunderman Thompson Commerce, remarked: “We’ve seen Covid-19 dramatically shake up consumer retail, so it is unsurprising to see a similar pattern in the B2B landscape.

“However, with supply chains heavily impacted by the pandemic, businesses are struggling to match this demand and need to have the infrastructure in place to cope with surging online sales. Many buyers may not be comfortable, or even able, to purchase items in person and will therefore look to the plethora of other options available online.”

He added: “The number one priority for B2B retailers over the coming months will be to ensure they can provide the same services online as they do via physical channels.”