Pandemic hastening shift to digital procurement channels

17 August 2020

The Covid-19 pandemic has accelerated the proportion of B2B purchases being made through digital channels, according to new research.

The survey found that 37% of businesses across 11 countries were mainly purchasing through digital channels, up from 29% before the coronavirus outbreak. That figure is expected to rise to 40% in the short term. 

But software firm PROS, which conducted the study of 210 procurement and purchasing leaders, said businesses were experiencing vendor challenges in buying digitally. Only a third of buyers questioned said that most of their vendors were well-prepared and had already enabled digital channels.

Businesses, it found, were more likely to purchase from vendors that offer digital self-serve purchasing channels, are quick to respond to buyer inquiries, provide personalised and consistent pricing and offer a transparent view of inventory.

 The top three challenges identified by B2B buyers in working with their vendors were slow and inefficient responses, inconsistent, highly variable pricing, and a lack of transparency around inventory.

PROS said procurement and purchasing professionals had been steadily moving away from traditional reliance on sales reps to self-serve ordering through digital channels. The pandemic had accelerated this change, the survey found.

Seven out of 10 buyers said current conditions were encouraging them to shift their vendor preferences due to challenges in working with existing vendors, while 19% of those said they were shifting preferences “a great deal”.

According to the survey, the factors driving these changes in vendor preferences are competitive pricing (40%), supply availability (39%) and better digital purchasing experience (35%). Two-thirds of North American buyers would switch to a company that offered personalised real-time pricing.

PROS solution strategy director Valerie Howard said: “Our survey confirms purchasing professionals are quickly moving wallet share to vendors that can offer competitive prices, personalised digital experiences and transparency into inventory across digital self-serve channels. B2B companies need to ensure their digital channels are delivering on these buyer expectations or they’ll risk losing market share to competitors that do.”

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