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The trends driving change in the post-COVID era of eprocurement

Presented by Amazon Business

Digital transformation has spurred a significant trend in the procurement landscape for years. New technological solutions have pushed the boundaries of what’s possible, and what’s affordable, for organizations of every size to evolve their operations and unlock areas of growth. But the pandemic has accelerated this shift online, explains Rob Green, General Manager, Amazon Business Public Sector at Amazon Business.

The new Amazon Business “B2B E-Commerce in Evolution” report dives deep into the trends reshaping B2B ecommerce for midsize to enterprise businesses, as necessitated by the shift to remote work and the demand for cost containment. The goal: to capture the insights buyers and sellers need to know to evolve their operations and achieve success in the rapidly shifting landscape of procurement.

“This shift towards eprocurement is important because it will accelerate lasting changes across the entire organization that will positively impact growth, efficiency, and more,” Green says. “When B2B buyers incorporate more digital solutions into the purchasing process, operational efficiencies are felt across the entire organization.”

The eprocurement trends to watch

“Our data shows that the B2B purchasing experience is showing customer demand for more selection and shipping options that are eco-friendly and sustainable; organizations are increasingly setting goals to support buying from local businesses; and, there is a greater emphasis on sourcing from diverse sellers,” Green says. “All of these trends play a larger role in B2B procurement.”

For sellers, one of the largest trends was the role eprocurement has played in opening new channels and opportunities to have a global reach. The survey found that 59% of sellers reported expanding their customer base is a top priority in 2021, and selling products globally is a top priority for 40%. A global audience offered by online channels means that sellers have unprecedented ability to expand their business significantly.

In ranking the most valuable features of the purchasing process, buyers overwhelmingly indicated that online features are more valuable than traditional ones, like phone calls or viewing products in person. This means sellers can lean on online procurement features to make their selection stand out, such as improving their product detail pages and images. These efforts will give their items a virtual shelf that has no geographical boundaries and can reach a wider customer base outside their historical reach.

“This ability to scale is spurred by more global visibility, but also by increasing desire from B2B buyers for a more consumer-like experience where self-service is the expectation,” Green points out. “Buyers value convenience, and sellers that can offer this benefit along with robust product detail will be well-equipped to grow.”

For buyers, social and environmental considerations are playing a larger role in the procurement process, particularly for mid-sized and enterprise businesses. Research revealed a few key trends reflecting industry shifts towards value-based buying and selling decisions: 83% of buyers surveyed said their companies plan to increase spending reserved for Black and minority-owned businesses in 2021 and of those, almost half (48%) plan to increase their budgets for spending with diverse sellers by 20% or more. While increasing efficiency was the top buyer procurement priority for 2021 at 40%, improving sustainability was of almost equal importance at 39%. Amazon Business provides the tools for buyers to easily identify and connect with brands and products that align with those values.

 

“As the line separating consumer and B2B purchasing blurs, procurement teams and professionals can support meaningful causes through their business purchasing decisions,” Green says. “Sustainability is top-of-mind as buyers look to reduce their carbon footprint.”

Facilitating diversity in the procurement world

“One of the most positive shifts we’re seeing in the business world right now is towards more equitable work practices, and as an extension, a greater emphasis on supporting small, local, minority, women, veteran, and LGBTQ-owned businesses,” Green says. “By supporting these diverse businesses, buyers can help spur economic development in their communities.”

According to the survey, 39% of buyers consider increasing diversity among suppliers a top priority this year. However, matchmaking or finding a small or diverse business to purchase from is not always simple, Green adds. Amazon Business connects a wide audience of buyers with small, diverse, and local sellers through advanced search and filtration features, as well as tools for diverse sellers to upload their national or state-recognized credentials and increase visibility with those businesses looking to purchase from them.

Transition and growth in a digital procurement world

One of the biggest benefits of a digitalized procurement world is that sellers and buyers are realizing brand-new opportunities that weren’t possible via traditional commerce channels. For instance, digitization opens the door for small sellers to connect with large buyers who they may have trouble reaching.

“For example, certified Black- and veteran-owned small business Aldevra increased its sales by more than 300% since 2016 on Amazon Business,” Green says. “The company now works with customers across the nation, signaling the long-term positive effect of ecommerce on the success of smaller sellers.” To achieve the same growth, small businesses should take note of buyer preferences and align their online presence accordingly. The survey found that more than 80% of buyers highly value detailed product descriptions. Sellers can leverage online tools, such as pricing comparisons, listing optimizations, and customer reviews to meet the expectations of larger buyers.

On the other hand, larger sellers can focus on reaching buyers of any size online and improving operational efficiency to drive down costs and focus business improvements elsewhere.

The future of procurement

The biggest trend might simply be that procurement is moving online. The survey found 85% of business buyers’ organizations were propelled to move more of their procurement online and 96% said they anticipate their organizations will continue doing more purchasing online, even after pre-pandemic business functions resume. And more than a third (36%) of buyers said they anticipate their organizations will make 50% or more of their purchases online this year.

The momentum towards online purchasing is likely to have major implications on the future of business buying, Green adds. The vast majority (91%) of buyers prefer eprocurement over traditional methods, citing product range, competitive prices, and order speed as the top benefits. Additionally, the adoption of more consumer-like purchasing capabilities is spurring the adoption of additional B2C trends in the B2B world.

“Expectations between consumer and business purchasing experiences have blurred as buyers expect the same fast, convenient, and personalized digital buying capabilities they’ve grown accustomed to at home,” Green explains.

With procurement shifting online, sellers can prepare by leaning into digital features like enhanced product content, business pricing, and quantity discounts as well as advanced fulfillment that will provide customers with the experience they seek as expectations continue to shift.

“For seller organizations, adapting to meet buyer demands will allow them to remain relevant with their B2B customers, to make the most of the huge opportunity to engage more deeply with customers via digital channels,” he says.

For a closer look at the most important digital procurement trends impacting buyers and sellers, download the free “B2B E-Commerce” in Evolution” report from Amazon Business.

Amazon Business B2B E-commerce in Evolution Report methodology

Amazon Business surveyed 250 B2B buyers and 250 B2B sellers across the U.S. in 2021. Buyer respondents included full- and part-time employees across a range of job levels who worked at organizations of various sizes in the following sectors: government, education, healthcare, and commercial industries. All buyers’ organizations made an annual revenue of more than $25 million. All buyer respondents played an influential role in their organization’s procurement process. Seller respondents included full- and part-time employees across a range of job levels who worked at organizations of various sizes that sold products across a variety of categories.

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