In procurement, we often discuss how buyer expectations relate to the buying experiences they have as individual online shoppers. We need to make eProcurement technology more intuitive, make procurement processes less cumbersome, and emulate the overall experience that people want to have when making a purchase.
Increasing buyer satisfaction reduces the need for governance and minimizes the risks caused by off-contract purchasing. Making sure that the ‘right’ way to buy is also the preferred way increases procurement’s ability to scale their impact, bring more spend under management, and achieve higher savings.
The issue with setting the B2C online shopping experience as the target for B2B buying is that it is not a fixed point. The technology associated with consumer purchases drives competition between companies that want to be the channel for demand, even if they will ultimately not fulfill it. For instance, Amazon, Google, and Apple are locked in a competition to provide the preferred smart home device. This will lead to increased levels of performance, capability, and convenience – three categories that procurement struggles to deliver in.
To keep up with B2C buying satisfaction, procurement needs to understand the trends – not just the current state – of successful eCommerce.
Amazon Prime shoppers like to shop. Period.
In a recent article for Digital Commerce 360, Christina Pate, Senior Research Director for Digital Experiences at GfK, shared the results of “passive” research into the behaviors and tendencies of Amazon Prime subscribers. Prime shoppers spend more time on Amazon and visit the site more frequently than non-Prime shoppers, but they also spend considerable time on other shopping sites. They “…spend lots of time on other retailing apps and websites and, as a result, are good prospects for competitors who can rival Amazon’s seamless shopping experience.”
Frequent online shoppers like to shop online for everything, so procurement must support a wide range of needs with one online buying platform. If we were just looking to emulate the Amazon experience, we might focus on indirect spend or commoditized items such as office supplies and IT accessories. This might be a short-term improvement, but in order to have a significant impact on eProcurement adoption and use, direct spend, services, and complex or expensive indirects must be included as well.
What was it that I needed to get?
If making intended purchases easier is step one on the journey to consumerized B2B procurement, eliminating the need to make purchases may be step two. According to Carley Knobloch, technical consultant for HGTV Smart Home, convenience isn’t just about offering a slick UI or mobile app: “Consumers are voting again and again [through their purchases] for devices that offer peace of mind and anticipate their needs.” Not needing to remember to make a purchase or check the stock level of an item offers huge value.
Taking this advice may be particularly scary for procurement – especially bottom-line driven teams that have based their entire value proposition around managing costs and driving down demand. Anticipating needs sounds like making purchases before they are critical, increasing the risk of getting stuck with excess inventory or unwanted capacity. As with all other ‘automated’ business processes, anticipatory purchases must be based on closely tracked data and plans. That said, it does offer an opportunity to control spending. Anyone that has ever gone into a store for one thing and come out with six can see the potential for savings.
The shopping experience includes browsing as well as buying.
Deloitte’s 2016 Global Mobile Consumer Survey analyzed the role that mobile devices (predominately smartphones) play in consumer behavior. “More than half of consumers (58%) report they have used their phones to browse a shopping website or app, and more than a third (38%) say they do so at least once a week.” Whether they go on to make a purchase, and whether they make that purchase using a mobile device, is a matter being tracked closely by retailers, but procurement needs to be prepared to accommodate the desire to browse before buying.
While there is no reason B2B buyers can’t ‘browse’ in the technology they have today, it is certainly not optimized for this use. Most eProcurement platforms make it easier to ‘get in and get out’ – searching for required items in a very pointed way so that the purchasing experience is condensed, allowing buyers to get back to work. Unfortunately, if we want to think of procurement as a natural part of corporate life, we need to see time spent browsing as work, as long as the buyer does so willingly and not because of usability challenges.
Consumer purchasing is a moving target – one that B2B buying will no doubt always be chasing. Our ability to catch up, or at least close the gap, will be tied to procurement’s efforts to understand the preferences and habits driving the growth of eCommerce instead of trying to directly duplicate its appearance and conditions.
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