B2B Buyers Purchasing Online

According to the Acquity Group’s annual State of B2B Procurement study of corporate business procurement professionals in the U.S. with annual purchasing budgets in excess of $100,000, 68% of B2B buyers now purchase goods online, up from 57% in 2013.

Additionally, business buyers’ purchasing habits and preferences included in the report show that:

  • The number of respondents who spent 90% or more of their budgets online in the last year doubled from 2013, increasing from nine to 18%
  • 44% of respondents have researched company products on a smartphone or tablet in the past year, compared with 41% in 2013
  • 30% of B2B buyers report they research at least 90% of products online before purchasing, up from 22% in 2013

Although buyers are researching and spending more online, suppliers are not capturing a large enough share of the market, says the report. 57% of business buyers have made an online purchase of $5,000 or more in the last year, and 66% of business buyers say they make a major purchase of $5,000 or more (online or via print, or telephone) at least once per month. But only 48% of respondents purchase goods online directly from suppliers, opting instead for third-party websites and other purchasing channels.

17% of B2B buyers use Amazon Supply, the most popular third-party website from which to make a business purchase regularly, and 38% of B2B buyers make a purchase using the service at least once per quarter. 

The B2B Procurement study uncovered massive growth in online research and spending by B2B buyers across multiple devices. Study highlights include:

Electronic Purchasing Platforms In Which Users Participated


% of Respondents

Supplier’s website




Oracle procurement


Amazon supply


Do not purchase online




Source: AquityGroup, October 2014

B2B organizations are undergoing a major shift in customer behavior, marked by a steady increase in online research and browsing across multiple sources before purchasing. Overall, 94% of B2B buyers report that they conduct some form of online research before purchasing a business product, while 55% of B2B buyers conduct online research for at least half of their corporate purchases.

Additionally, procurement teams are spending more time researching products and comparing prices online for goods at all price points. 40% of buyers research more than half of goods under $10,000 online. 31% of buyers research more than half of goods costing $100,000 or more online. For larger corporate purchases of $5,000 or more, 34% spend more than three hours researching products.

Most Popular Online Sources Used To Make A Purchase Decisions (% Using)

Online Source

% of Respondents

Google search


Supplier’s website


3rd party website


Userreview of products




Social media


Do not participate




Source: AquityGroup, October 2014

Although, according to 83% of respondents, supplier websites are the most popular channels for conducting research online, only 37% of B2B buyers who conduct research through a supplier’s website said it was the most helpful channel for this purpose.

According to the report, these findings reveal a significant gap between the information procurement officers want and the content that B2B websites currently provide, despite the fact that many suppliers appear to be adapting to changing preferences among B2B buyers.

71% of respondents prefer to conduct research and purchase on their own with access to a sales representative via the phone or online chat when needed, demonstrating the importance of a highly integrated, omni-channel eBusiness approach to sales and marketing. Respondents reported:

31.6% said Research and purchase on my own online, but would like phone support with any issues

  • 16.2% want to speak to someone directly via telephone to discuss options and walk through the entire process
  • 15.8% research and purchase on their own online, but would like live chat support with any issues
  • 13.4% like to do their own research, but talk through purchasing on the phone
  • 12.4% would like to speak with someone directly in person to discuss options and walk me through the entire process
  • 10.5% research and purchase on their own online, no sales person necessary

In addition to online research, online procurement spending is also on the rise, with 68% of B2B buyers making online purchases in 2014 versus 57% in 2013. 46% of buyers spent at least 50% of their corporate procurement budgets online in the last year. 18% of buyers spent 90% or more of their corporate procurement budgets online, double the amount in 2013. 

Percentage of Company’s Procurement Last Year Budget Spent Electronically

% of Procurement

% of Respondents

10% or less 


11% – 49% 


50% – 89% 


90% or more 


Source: AquityGroup, October 2014

This upward trend to continue, says the report, as 46% of respondents said their companies will increase online purchasing next year. This growth will transcend all product categories with 41% of procurement officers indicating they feel comfortable purchasing any type of B2B product category online.

Procurement officers, especially in the millennial generation, are relying more on mobile and tablet devices to conduct research and purchase business goods. In fact, mobile purchasing and research habits generally diverge among the youngest and oldest generations of workers:

  • Millennial workers ages 18-25 use mobile phones for procurement research, compared with 36% of respondents over the age of 45
  • Half of millennial B2B buyers use tablets to conduct research, while 31% of buyers over the age of 45 use tablets for product research
  • 35% of millennials have made a corporate purchase using a mobile device, compared to only 19% of buyers over the age of 45

When price is not a factor, says the report, 71% of B2B buyers would switch suppliers if the overall digital experience was better with another organization, while 53% of respondents would switch suppliers for easier electronic search processes and 49% would switch for better electronic purchasing capabilities. Perks such as free deliveries and secure transactions also rank high among B2B buyers:

  • 58% of business buyers would be more likely to make a major purchase online if free delivery was included
  • 49% would be more likely to purchase online if a site offered enhanced security measures
  • 75% of millennials indicated improved security would make them more likely to purchase from a supplier

The key for B2B organizations, concludes the report, is to transform their customer’s online journey into an omni-channel experience that emphasizes digital channels, especially since younger, tech-savvy generations will soon make up the majority of corporate procurement departments.

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