The mood among German B2B companies is very good on the whole. Almost 60 percent have a positive view of current sales according to the B2B e-commerce economic index study conducted by IntelliShop AG together with IFH Institut für Handelsforschung (trade research institute) at the end of 2013. Satisfaction is especially pronounced with regard to e-commerce sales. The surveyed executives, managing directors and decision makers predict a higher growth in B2B online sales than in overall sales in the next 12 months.
This matches the results of the study “Online and Mobile are Transforming B2B Commerce” conducted by Forrester Consulting, according to which the B2B sector is in a major transition with regard to customer acquisition and retention. For example, 559 billion US dollars in B2B e-commerce transactions are already being achieved annually in the US, which is more than twice the amount achieved in the B2C sector.
An important finding is that sales via the online and mobile channels are not only opening up new and attractive opportunities for B2B companies, but are almost compulsory. B2B players who are not jumping on the online and mobile bandwagon run the risk of losing market shares on the short to medium term and even losing their competitive edge on the long term. After all B2B customers are human beings too and, in their private lives, they are also B2C customers who are used to obtaining information about and purchasing products online. And they are increasingly expecting to be able to do so in the business world as well.
69 percent of the B2B companies with an online shop are therefore also planning to stop publishing printed catalogues within the next five years. After all, they are not as promising. As Forrester analysts found out, online customers are more likely to place more items in their shopping carts, order larger quantities and place repeat orders than those customer who only shop offline.
But even though e-commerce has tremendous potential for B2B retailers, the online marketing essential to its success has not been prioritized thus far. An empirical study conducted by the PFH Private University of Applied Sciences in Göttingen, Germany at the beginning of 2014 indicated that almost 60 percent of B2B companies consider online marketing to be of only little or medium importance. This is also reflected in their budgets. In almost 60 percent of the surveyed companies, less than ten percent of the overall marketing budget are spent on online marketing.
Conventional measures like websites, email newsletters and search engine marketing are a well established part of B2B business. Email marketing is at the top of the list, accounting for 78 percent. Interactive channels including pricing calculators, online surveys or automated product configuration are used much less.
However, the study also indicates that online marketing will become considerably more important in the B2B sector in the next two to three years.