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How COVID-19 Changed B2B Buying

The COVID-19 crisis has impacted businesses across industries and around the world. To better understand how B2B buying habits and preferences are being affected by the pandemic, PROS worked with Hanover Research to conduct a global survey of 210 purchasing professionals. B2B Buyers expressed frustration with slow, inefficient responses and pricing that was not competitive or market relevant. This report provides a global perspective as well as breakdowns in the regional differences on how B2B buyer preferences are changing as a result of COVID-19. 

Procurement and purchasing leaders across the globe had already been steadily shifting purchasing from traditional reliance on sales reps to self-serve ordering through digital channels, but this survey shows that COVID-19 dramatically accelerated this shift. Since COVID-19, B2B buyers primarily purchasing through digital self-serve channels have increased by 28% (from 29% to 37% saying that more than half their spending is happening without the aid of a sales rep). Regional perspectives show that the accelerated shift to digital is even more pronounced in North America with as many as 47% of buyers primarily purchasing through self-serve channels since COVID-19.

Key findings from the report include: 

  • Only 1/3 of buyers stated that most of their vendors were well-prepared and had already enabled digital channels
  • Top three challenges identified by B2B buyers in working with their current vendors were (1) slow and inefficient responses, (2) inconsistent, highly variable pricing and (3) a lack of transparency into inventory
  • 39% of B2B buyers in Oceania indicated they had no challenges with their current vendors, while only 15% of North American buyers and 12% of European buyers expressed such positive sentiment

COVID-19 is changing vendor preferences significantly:

  • 70% of buyers reported that current conditions are compelling them to shift their vendor preferences due to challenges in working with existing vendors – 19% of which said they were shifting preferences “a great deal”
  • Competitive pricing (40%), supply availability (39%) and better digital purchasing experience (35%) are top drivers of change in vendor preferences
  • 2/3 of North American buyers would switch to a company that offers personalized real-time pricing

The implication is clear:

Customer experience will be the new battleground for organizations to compete. Businesses that can deliver personalized offer recommendations to their buyers through all possible sales channels with competitive, market-relevant pricing will be able to sustain a competitive advantage in this new digital reality.

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