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Avionos research shows most procurement officers are bypassing supplier portals in favor of some consumer-friendly search options

Even though they work in B2B firms, 78 per cent of procurement managers begin looking for product searches on Amazon or Google rather than a vendor’s own site, and most are disappointed by what they find, according to a new report from Avionos.

Avionos, a digital marketing firm based in Chicago, surveyed 160 U.S. B2B professionals for its 2018 Procurement Officer report. The vast majority, or 98 per cent, said they were making more of their purchases online today compared with the year before, and 97 per cent said a supplier portal was a critical factor in selecting a vendor. That may be because, according to the data, 43 per cent found inaccurate or irrelevant product information once they looked at a supplier’s portal.

The research is intended to show the particular e-commerce expectations and behaviors of procurement officers because this is a group that has traditionally been among the most cost-conscious and risk-averse, Avionos president Scott Webb said. The fact they’re researching and making more purchases online speaks to a shift that may be related to a growing contingent of Millennials or digital natives in the workforce.

“Historically it was viewed as, I have a direct sales person who knows me, who knows what I’m looking for and I search through a catalogue,” he told B2B News Network. “Now it’s evolved to a point where they’re staying, ‘You need to give me self-service tools, a platform to transact.”

Webb said B2B suppliers should think about how to evolve beyond the “spec sheet” that is highly technical and oriented to an end user versus the actual purchaser on the procurement team. Instead, vendors should add compelling visuals and make it easier for portals to surface only the products a procurement person is entitled to buy based on their contract versus wading through everything in a particular portfolio.

While consumer sites like Google and Amazon emerged as key channels for initial exploration, Webb said B2B vendors should remember they are appealing to clients with who they often have long-term relationships.

“Our advice often to clients is don’t try to replicate or chase Amazon or Google from a user experience (standpoint), because you’re constantly going to be a step behind,” he said. “The way you get around Amazon and Google is making ti that much easier to get to the relevant information, because on a broad-based search, it’s very hard to compete.”

In fact, 83 per cent of those surveyed specified that they want “robust” e-commerce experiences — something that’s at least on par with the kind of attention they get when dealing with a company’s rep, Webb said.

“I think a lot of companies have lulled themselves into a false sense of security — ‘My customers expect that personal touch,’” he said. “What i hope people take from this is, your buyers see value in your direct sales force, but they also see value and expect to be abel to do some of these things themselves. This is not one or the other — this is part of providing a compelling experience to your customer.”

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Shane Schick
Shane Schickhttp://shaneschick.com
Shane Schick is the Editor-in-Chief of B2B News Network. He is the former Editor-in-Chief of Marketing magazine and has also been Vice-President, Content & Community (Editor-in-Chief), at IT World Canada, a technology columnist with the Globe and Mail and was the founding editor of ITBusiness.ca. Shane has been recognized for journalistic excellence by the Canadian Advanced Technology Alliance and the Canadian Online Publishing Awards.