B2B Digital Marketplaces: Paving The Way Forward In Procurement And Sourcing

Sharon Ruddock

Growing a recognizable brand while remaining cost-efficient are two key imperatives for businesses as they continue to transform their organizations digitally. Procuring software through digital channels and online solutions is increasingly popular as a way to keep pace with these initiatives.

In fact, the 2019 B2B Digital Buyers’ Journey Report, conducted by Futurum Research in cooperation with SAP Digital Commerce, found that a strategic shift to the cloud and digital transformation, coupled with improving operational velocity and cost-savings, are all driving businesses towards making purchases online.

As such, B2B solution providers are seeing significant changes in buyer preferences and how companies choose to procure software. The report also uncovered that more than 80% of organizations no longer rely on calendarized buy cycles when purchasing their software. More than half of the respondents said they are ready to make a purchase as soon as the need arises, rather than waiting for the next upgrade or purchase period.

Buyer demands for faster, more accessible purchases in the consumer space are at the core of these changes. They are having a massive spillover effect on how B2B purchases are made. Things like the “Amazon Effect” and the ability for consumers to make immediate purchases through digital platforms are challenging the status quo methods of B2B buying. Traditional models around procurement buy cycles are being flipped on their heads, with more and more businesses favoring digital buying options that create a quicker and more seamless path to purchase.

B2B buyers buck tradition in favor of solutions on demand

As more B2B buyers and decision-makers turn to digital channels and e-procurement options, a paradigm shift is occurring – impacting not only how they buy but when. As noted above, our survey data shows that businesses are not only moving away from traditional purchasing timelines, they’re also letting in-the-moment needs guide their decision-making. This is a staggering shift given that less than a decade ago, IT departments were still largely or entirely relying on calendarized buy cycles, especially when purchasing enterprise software solutions.

This move is also indicative of cultural changes and shifts in operational mindsets across organizations as they continue on their digital transformation journeys. Technology is critical to everyday business operations and has been for many years now. It guides improvements in speed and agility, making businesses more efficient and leading to direct business outcomes. These improvements can be applied to the identification, testing, purchasing, and deployment of enterprise software solutions, especially cloud-based tools. Therefore, digital solutions that can be discovered, tested, purchased, and provisioned in minutes become far more attractive to businesses as a way to meet their immediate needs, rather than keeping with traditional weeks- or months-long procurement processes.

Transparency will pave the path to success

While the instantaneous transactions of B2C purchases are influencing B2B transactions, B2B customers still have a far more complex bill of materials than everyday consumers. Because of this, they tend to focus on more specific aspects of the buying process, such as the ability to test products in real time and being presented with all relevant information clearly and in one location.

Our report found that things like product trials and tests are such a key focus because B2B buyers crave more transparency and freedom along their entire buyer journey. They want to be able to see precisely what they will be getting and exactly how much it will cost from the very start of their journey. Additionally, they crave the autonomy to test products or make purchases at any point.

The discovery phase is where this is especially relevant. In fact, 90% of respondents note that they consider product trials to be an essential feature. This isn’t surprising, given that a clear understanding of a solution and the ability to experience its functions hands-on are absolutely crucial to a buyer’s decision-making process. On top of this, 88% of respondents cited price transparency as a top advantage for a digital-buying program to have.

For example, say you’re a B2B customer in need of an analytics platform and say you needed it yesterday. Access to a comprehensive, digital B2B marketplace lets you bypass traditional buying processes and instead go online for a single source of products and transparent prices. Similar to what consumers might find scrolling through the Amazon app or a retail website, solution pages contain all relevant information and clearly defined paths to purchase in one spot. B2B customers have everything they need to make a purchase in mere minutes – from specific offerings, including ratings and reviews, to quick navigation to product trials and clear calls to action for purchasing.

The future of procurement is undeniably digital

In B2B, many purchases do still require a higher level of interaction with a direct salesperson or team. Given the complexity and scale of many B2B purchases, that need isn’t going away. But digital buying also frees up both the procurement team and the vendor to make the most out of their interactions. However, as needs become more immediate and more in the moment, businesses are increasingly showing a desire for more options in how they buy – particularly faster options to help them meet these challenges and needs. Our report notes that nearly two-thirds of organizations say time and resource efficiency are their primary reasons for purchasing software solutions digitally.

When it comes to B2B procurement and sourcing, organizations have realized that to keep on pace with the rate of change and advancement across industries, they need to adjust quickly and implement new solutions faster. Online digital marketplaces uniquely designed for B2B transactions are continually growing in popularity as a solution to this market challenge. The direct way forward is for B2B organizations and solution providers to use an omnichannel approach in connecting with – and selling to – their customers. It requires an approach with digital buying as a core tenet, helping businesses meet specific goals and mapping to their unique digital-transformation journeys.

Learn more about SAP Store and how it can help you bypass the traditional procurement process.

This article originally appeared in Future of Sourcing and is republished by permission.

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Sharon Ruddock

About Sharon Ruddock

Sharon Ruddock serves as head of SAP Digital Commerce, providing customers one seamless experience across all digital channels. She oversees digital customer strategy for SAP across sales, customer success, support, and marketing, and has enabled and exemplified the digital transformation of SAP. Previously, Sharon was responsible for all learning in the Global Customer Operations organization within SAP and served as chief operating officer, Mobility.