Blog 3 minutes

B2B buyer behavior explained: Online, offline or omnichannel?

Denise Castillo
November 1, 2021

Our latest research tells us that when it comes to B2B buyer behavior, e-commerce is buyers’ preferred avenue for completing purchases. But the purchasing process today has its hurdles — and these hiccups are forcing buyers to look offline for help.

New data: An overview of B2B buyer behavior

We recently commissioned a research report analyzing the B2B buyer behavior, preferences and challenges of over 1,200 global B2B buyers that are (or that purchase from) wholesalers, manufacturers or distributors.

Today, despite a long-standing inclination toward phone orders and email orders (to avoid data entry errors and purchasing challenges), B2B buyers are leaning toward e-commerce — even over historically preferred sales channels.

For buyers today, online is the most-used channel for placing orders. In 2019, only 28% frequently used e-commerce. Fast forward two years, and e-commerce now outperforms phone and email as the most popular channel.

But this doesn’t mean B2B e-commerce experiences are meeting user expectations:

  • 50% of B2B e-commerce sites are not fully meeting expectations.
  • 94% of B2B buyers suffer customer experience challenges online.

What this tells us is that B2B buyers are likely turning to online channels for a baseline level of convenience, rather than turning to e-commerce because the experiences themselves are up to par with their expectations. This also means they’re often looking offline for answers. 
Graph - 2022 B2B Buyer Report - Sana Commerce - 50% of B2B web stores are not meeting buyer expectations

Online vs. Offline: How purchase journey roadblocks impact buyers’ channel choices

Ultimately, the core of B2B buyers’ challenges is centered on the buyer journey — and more specifically, the friction and hurdles caused by poor experiences throughout the journey. For the purposes of this blog, we will refer to the following four stages of the buyer journey:

  1. Problem identification
  2. Information search
  3. Evaluation of alternatives
  4. Purchase decision

B2B web stores aren’t solely for purchasing. Users navigate through your website to identify and evaluate new suppliers, learn more about your product and product availability, and re-order from previous purchases.

Are you meeting your buyers’ needs?

Over 50% of e-commerce stores are not meeting B2B buyers’ expectations. Find out why in the latest B2B Buyer Report.

Once buyers are completing a purchase (or at least trying to), the challenges continue. As many as 94% of B2B buyers surveyed indicated that they encounter customer experience challenges online.

What are the biggest issues?

  • Delivery and tracking (44%)
  • Relationship with suppliers (39%)
  • Visibility of product features (34%)
  • Payment terms (34%)
  • Ease of checkout (33%)
  • Ease of repeat ordering (33%)

In turn, we’re seeing omnichannel B2B buyer behavior happening as a result of insufficient experiences both online and offline — rather than as a choice based on preference. B2B organizations should strive to improve experiences across all channels, so that buyers are free to engage and purchase via their avenue of choice, and not just be boxed into the least frustrating option.

Fortunately, there’s a solution to these cross-channel customer experience challenges (and others). And it starts with your ERP.

ERP-integrated e-commerce: Addressing B2B buyers’ top hurdles

When talking about ERP systems, B2B businesses often overlook the potential of ERP e-commerce.

If your business is among them, we’ve got news for you:

Your ERP system is not just a hub for your business logic and data; it can also solve some of the B2B buyer challenges we’ve already outlined, drive a more customer-centric e-commerce experience, and help meet B2B organizations’ key performance indicators (KPIs) and goals.


Header image displaying ERP integration for enterprise solutions - Sana Commerce


1. Cost savings

E-commerce, even in its most basic and rudimentary form, addresses the cost-savings issue simply by eliminating the time and resources needed to take and manually enter offline sales orders. With ERP-integrated e-commerce, cost savings can be realized even further, thanks to the reduced time and effort required to manage and synchronize web store data.

2. The efficiency of the purchase process

If the major challenges during the B2B purchase process revolve around data availability and order errors, then ERP integration is a clear answer. By leveraging your Dynamics or SAP ERP with Sana, you can pull real-time ERP data (like inventory information and product data) into your web store to keep your customers fully informed 24/7. This rich product data can also significantly minimize order errors, such as those caused by incorrect product, inventory, or account data entry.

3. Client satisfaction

There will always be a margin for error when it comes to online purchasing, and it’s likely you’ll not be able to provide all the information online that every single customer may need online. This is why — in addition to mitigating current e-commerce challenges as best as you can — it’s also important to focus on an effective omnichannel strategy. By doing so, you can not only minimize the extent to which customers are forced offline due to online challenges, but also provide a smooth and seamless experience for those customers who do switch between online and offline channels by choice.

See exactly how your buyers have changed

We surveyed 1,200 B2B buyers about their current online buying experience. See what they had to say.