While a majority of B2B buyers say they still want to deal with sales reps for complex configurations and special pricing, 48 per cent told a survey from PROS they would spend five per cent more to get pricing information right away, and most don’t want to wait more than two hours to hear back from a vendor.
Houston-based PROS included the data in its report, What B2B Buyers Want In 2019, which was released on Wednesday. Conducted on the firm’s behalf by Hanover Research, the survey examined the expectations of more than 1,000 procurement and purchasing leaders from 10 countries.
Given that PROS makes artificial intelligence (AI) tools to assist with B2B e-commerce, the company has a vested interest proving that attitudes towards such technology in the enterprise are charging. However some of the data also showed how customer behaviors change as their relationship with a particular vendor deepens.
The report showed, for example, that 63 per cent of respondents already work with certain suppliers in part because they have been given self-service capabilities.
“Often buyers are leveraging digital channels to purchase simple goods or place repeat orders, but as they grow increasingly comfortable with the digital purchasing experience the range of products and services they are willing to purchase online expands,” the report said. “Now, salespeople have greater resources available to them to focus on higher value efforts which often lead to higher value sales.”
This was borne out by other data included in the research, such as the 61 per cent who said they prefer human beings to discuss not only special configurations and pricing. Nearly as many, or 58 per cent, said the same thing about purchases that might require special terms. And despite the digitization of marketing across every channel imaginable, it’s worth noting that a slight majority of 52 per cent said they still prefer to hear about new products and services from living, breathing sales reps.
The PROS study is coming out not long after a report from DHL Supply Chain that suggests many B2B firms are slow to make the best use of the technologies available to them, however. The data showed 60 per cent of B2B companies are still working towards the full implementation of their strategy, for example, even though 70 per cent of respondents rate e-commerce as ‘Very Important’ or ‘Extremely Important’ to their business in terms of volume and revenue.
PROS also offers tools that assist with personalizing the selling experience, and while it’s not surprising that an overwhelming majority of 92 per cent told its survey they wanted recommendations tailored to their firm, almost half, or 44 per cent, described this as a need. The results were similar around personalized pricing. This is not always as easy as it sounds, the report warned.
“The relevant information used to calculate the market accurate price may need to consider continuously changing data points. For example, if a supplier serves a highly competitive market, they may need to stay cognizant of the alternate supplier’s price points in their price strategy – and that competitor may be changing published pricing daily, hourly or even in real-time!” the authors write. “The only way to confidently maintain a competitive price in this situation is to leverage real-time, algorithmic calculation for each price request.”
When companies get this right, the benefits can be huge. The DHL Supply Chain study, for instance, reported that 60 per cent of B2B firms cited their e-commerce experience as having the biggest impact on customer satisfaction and retention.