B2B Buyer Report 2024: The Challenge of Web Store Adoption

Table of contents

    Inside This Report

    No matter how long you’ve been in the B2B business, you know that the only constant in this space is change. Goals can change. Strategies can change. And yes, even customers change.

    Your B2B buyers are changing at surprising speeds.

    Since 2017, Sana Commerce has teamed up with SAPIO Research to conduct a global survey of B2B buyers. During that time, we have gathered enough information to notice clear trajectories and trends within the B2B market.

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    Examining the findings of this year’s survey, the differences between B2B buyers in 2021 and B2B buyers today were extreme.

    During the last two years, there has been a substantial surge in B2B buyers embracing e-commerce purchasing, to the extent that offline sales now represent a marginal minority

    B2B Buyer 2023 vs 2021

    But there are still B2B companies who report struggling with consistent web store adoption. How can that be true if e-commerce is more popular than ever?

    Well, B2B buyers now expect more than just e-commerce capabilities from their suppliers. They demand specific criteria like real time pricing, stock level and product information, to ensure great B2B buying experiences. Their expectations for web store features and information have become table stakes, leaving little room for error.

    This research surveyed 1,000 respondents globally, all with hands-on experience purchasing from B2B suppliers through dedicated web stores.

    Does your B2B web store have what it takes?

    E-commerce is a necessity now. In the B2B space, it has gone from a nice-to-have to a must-have for any B2B business that wishes to future-proof its success. In 2023, B2B marketplace sales grew year over year by 100%, underscoring the essential role that web stores have in driving business. (Source)

    Recent research commissioned by SAPIO Research on behalf of Sana Commerce underscores this point with two-thirds of B2B buyers stating they have a preference to carry out all their supplier transactions online.

    This supermajority of B2B buyers has already driven change in the world of B2B e-commerce. B2B buying is taking place at breakneck speeds online. But according to Digital Commerce 360’s 2024 B2B Market and Customer Experience Report, while B2B ecommerce is set to reach $2+ trillion in 2024, only slightly over one-third of B2B buyers (36%) grade their B2B ecommerce site experience as excellent.

    Does your B2B web store have what it takes

    B2B suppliers have spent the past few years ramping up their capacity to handle this incredible volume of orders they are fulfilling. However, this attention to speed and capacity can sometimes leave suppliers with a blind spot where accuracy is concerned.

    B2B suppliers should not fall into this trap. Transparency and accuracy are among the most important differentiators B2B buyers consider when choosing between your web store and your competitors. Prioritizing these elements in your e-commerce experience will make it easy for your customers to adopt your web store. The more you prioritize accuracy, in terms of stock levels, availability, customer-specific pricing and detailed product information, the more customers will order from your web store and have positive experiences. No matter if they order hundreds of times a week, your web store will always be a haven of trust and integrity for them.

    The average individual, B2B buyer places orders with a B2B supplier 4 times per week, with those in the US reaching 528 orders Organizations, on average, place orders with their B2B suppliers 420 times per day, and retailers reaching 474 orders.

    B2B buyers want online buying over everything

    One of the most notable changes during and after the Covid-19 era is the extensive development of B2B web stores, specifically tailored to meet the needs of large numbers of B2B buyers.

    It’s not hard to see why when you look at the preferences B2B buyers have for online buying. You already know that 2 in 3 B2B buyers prefer to place orders online through suppliers’ websites. Additionally:

    84% of B2B buyers believe that an easy and accurate online web store experience is important. 79% of B2B buyers say they prefer to place repeat orders online. 58% of B2B buyers prefer placing complex and high value orders online, while 42% opt for offline purchases.

    That complexity is integral to B2B buyers’ customer journey. They want all their up-to-date customer account data, order histories and special pricing available in the web store. This means a lot of back-end complexity for suppliers to manage before a customer sees it on a web store.

    Personalised Information needed from suppliers when buying online

    Buyers are now in the position where they don’t have to accept a minimally viable web store. They have lists of requirements (including functionality and level of detail) that have to be met before they adopt using the web store regularly. If these requirements are not met, they have other B2B web stores to choose from.

    When it comes to solving issues like low web store adoption, it's not a question about whether or not customers want online buying. The research shows they unequivocally do.

    It's the quality of what you can provide in your web store that makes the real difference in determining if they will adopt it.

    The success you can drive with steady web store adoption

    There are some obvious advantages that come from your customers choosing to use your B2B web store regularly. First and foremost, it showcases the investment B2B businesses are making in e-commerce.

    But there’s more to it than just that. When your B2B buyers make the choice to use your web store, you can be the beneficiary of direct and long-tail positive effects.

    The success you can drive with steady web store adoption

    Benefit #1

    Boosted revenue and efficiency

    Boosted revenue and efficiency
    For business leaders, meeting their revenue and growth targets are among their most important priorities. High web store adoption shouldn't be underestimated when it comes to how much it impacts the bottom line.

    When customers start using your web store regularly, the first thing you will notice is how your acquisition costs will plummet. Each sale that takes place on the web store uses digital self-service to keep consulting costs low on your end.

    From there, you can easily leverage the web store to increase your revenue in multiple ways. You can leverage the web store to offer quick service while giving your sales team more time for high value purchases. Through processes like automatic repeat ordering, tailored product recommendations and bundle pricing, you can grow your margins exponentially.

    Benefit #2

    Empowered commercial teams

    Empowered commercial teams
    Your sales teams are already swamped with the amount of work they have. But your growth targets are just as competitive as they have always been.

    When customers adopt your B2B web store, they are interacting with your sales team's best sales assistant possible. By allowing for digital service, your sales teams will no longer be tied up with sales touches that don't add up to significant revenue.

    With high web store adoption, your offline sales touches are reduced and processes such as repeat orders are handled seamlessly. This frees up time for your sales team and empowers them to target high value accounts.

    Benefit #3

    Stronger customer insights

    Stronger customer insights
    One of the greatest benefits that comes from a high traffic web store is the wealth of customer behavior data it can provide you.

    You can understand how your customers arrive on your web store by analyzing traffic patterns and sources. These analytics also let you see when customers are converting and when they’re bouncing from your site. This data can help you make informed decisions to help increase your conversion rate.

    You can take these use cases and apply them toward giving your customers more of what their behavior tells you they want. If your customers are bouncing on a specific product detail page, you can look to adding more detail and context to increase conversion.

    Where are B2B web stores going wrong in the eyes of buyers

    Even if customers are enthusiastic about making their B2B purchases online, they still have doubts about just how well these web stores work. The reason for that is incredibly simple, but difficult for the customer to overcome: B2B web stores have burned them in the past.

    91% of B2B buyers have at least one reason that prevents them from placing orders online.

    Even if buying online is their preference, B2B buyer’s past experiences make them hesitant to put all their eggs in the e-commerce “basket.”

    When you look at many of the responses from buyers, you can see a clear trend that they have run up against hurdles when it comes to the web store’s ability to handle and process complexity, which is at the heart of B2B transactions. This manifests itself in multiple ways, but to the buyer it often looks like missing or inaccurate information displayed on the web store leading to increasing order errors.

    Where are B2B web stores going wrong in the eyes of buyers

    The rising cost of order errors in B2B e-commerce

    But that’s not where this issue stops. Lack of accuracy has unfortunate knock-on effects that cause frustrating order errors. In fact, order errors due to web store inaccuracy, poor search capabilities and lack of accurate information are the top three frustrations among B2B buyers when ordering online.

    B2B buyers experience order errors on over one-third (35.6%) of total orders that place via web stores. When delving into specific buyer segments, the percentages are even higher: Retailer 38.2% Wholesaler 37.6% Manufacturer 33.5% Distributor 30.1% 68% of B2B buyers report being put off from ordering online due to order errors

    From this, you can see that honesty and accuracy on your web store about delivery times, prices and stock is not just a matter of it being a competitive differentiator. Honesty and accuracy prevent order errors from happening in the first place, saving you countless amounts of time and money.

    The real-life effect inaccurate information has on B2B buyers

    When sharing research, it can sometimes be difficult to contextualize what this looks like in reality. In order to illustrate the very real frustrations B2B buyers have with inaccurate information on web stores, we will give an example about inaccurate delivery times presented on site.

    B2B buyers do not exist independent of other vendors. The reason why accuracy on issues like delivery times are so important to them is because they have people in turn who depend on these items to meet specific timeframes.

    Order placed

    A construction firm, Chi Builders, has scheduled with their client to install flooring on the 12th of October. Months in advance, the B2B buyer from Chi Builders is browsing the B2B web store of their supplier to order flooring. The buyer finds the correct materials and sees they are scheduled to ship within 4 to 6 weeks, which fits their timeline.

    August 8 Solution Scroller Image

    Delivery date missed

    Six weeks pass. Nothing from the flooring manufacturer. The buyer from Chi Builders now has to call the manufacturer and get clarification on delivery. But in the meantime, October 12 has come and gone. Chi's client is frustrated now that the project is behind schedule, and they will have to reschedule the flooring installation.

    October 12 Solution Scroller Image

    Unhappy customers

    This problem has now snowballed and is costing Chi Builders a lot of money and resources to rectify it. The sad part is it could have been easily avoided. By giving buyers complete transparency on what they can expect with up-to-date estimates, you can mitigate frustration and prevent them from going to another supplier.

    Error Solution Scroller Image
    August 8 Solution Scroller Image October 12 Solution Scroller Image Error Solution Scroller Image

    So now that we know what B2B buyers don’t want, how would they articulate what it is they DO want?

    What do b2b buyers really want

    This is the clear mandate B2B buyers are giving their suppliers on B2B web stores: provide us with accurate information at every step in the online buying process for every transaction we complete if you want us to adopt your web store.

    Get the full scoop on how to solve web store adoption struggles

    Access the full-length adoption improvement guide here.

    What are the consequences if accuracy isn’t prioritized in B2B web stores

    At the beginning of this report, we presented the statistics on the frequency of B2B buying transactions. It’s time to reexamine those in the context of the drastic consequences of B2B web store inaccuracy and failure.

    B2B buyers are placing multiple orders per day. This means B2B suppliers have multiple opportunities to go above and beyond to earn the trust of their customers. But they also have multiple chances for inaccuracies and order errors to break that valuable trust. B2B buyers confirm that the stakes are high.

    consequences if accuracy isn’t prioritized in B2B web stores

    74% of B2B buyers said they would switch suppliers if another B2B web store offered a better experience.

    US buyers in particular have little patience for negative experiences as this percentage spikes to 91%.

    For the majority, though, that’s almost 3 buyers for every 4 that are willing to jump ship if they can get a better experience elsewhere. Your customers are making these decisions in real time. They could easily browse between your web store and your competitor’s web store. If your competitor offers more information about the product, specific stock level information and/or more precise delivery updates, you may lose that customer before you ever make the sale. In fact, retailers in particular are at high risk. 86% of retailers would be the most likely to switch to another supplier vs manufacturers (78%), distributors (75%) and wholesalers (68%).

    74% of B2B buyers said they would switch

    But even if your customers still order from you despite issues with customer experience, it is only a matter of time before these issues become a problem during further business.

    Almost 9 in 10 (87%) B2B buyers believe that a bad buying experience impacts their relationship with the supplier to some extent.

    87% Graph

    The last thing you want is for customers to harbor frustrations with you and your business. Your business relationships are built on the trust they have in you to meet their specific and complex needs whenever they need an order.

    Going further in B2B sales with trust and visibility

    Most B2B suppliers have their customer’s interest at heart. They aren’t trying to deceive or trick their B2B buyers. However, for B2B buyers, the difference between a disappointing web store and a great one is being upfront with all the information you have.

    By giving your buyers more information, you are actually giving them more control. You return the power to the buyer, and they will reward you for providing them with that choice.

    Going further in B2B sales with trust and visibility

    B2B Buyer Report Appendix & Methodology

    This report is based on an online study conducted in the summer of 2023 by SAPIO Research on behalf of Sana Commerce. A group of 1,000 buyers from manufacturers, retailers, wholesalers and distributors across the United States, United Kingdom, Mexico, Germany, Australia, and the Netherlands were surveyed.

    We surveyed professional buyers across various industries, but most of our respondents work in the construction & industrial, electronics, and food & beverage sectors. Over half of them identify as both business buyers and consumers. Additionally, over half of respondents hold management positions within their organization.

    Want to know more about data in the 2024 B2B Buyer Report?

    Get in touch with one of our B2B e-commerce experts!