The Top 10 B2B Sales Channels (And a Look at Omnichannel)

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Following our 2017 research into B2B sales channels, we've now released a brand new research report on B2B buyer preferences. This year, we found that digital and e-commerce have continued their reign of success. In 2019, for example, e-commerce has surpassed phone (and other historically-preferred channels) as B2B buyers' preferred sales channel.


New Research Into B2B Buyer Behavior and Sales Channels

Not sure you’re using the right B2B sales channels? Or just curious about how your competitors are reaching their audience?

You’re in luck. We recently surveyed 560 B2B companies across the globe about their preferences for and challenges with B2B e-commerce. This included questions about which sales channels they use now, what hurdles they face across channels, and what trends they expect will disrupt their way of working today.


How B2B Buyer Preferences Have Shifted Since 2017

Times have changed drastically, even just over the course of two short years. E-commerce still leads B2B buyers' channel preferences, but omnichannel behavior is on the rise. Before we dive into what's going on today, let's first look back.

Our 2017 research indicated the following as B2B buyer's preferred sales channels:

1. Own Web Store (46%) 

2. Sales Representatives (41%)

3. Physical Stores (32%)

4: Distributor Web Stores (27%)

5. Online Marketplace (26%)

6. Email Marketing (26%)

7. Social Media (23%)

8. Mail Order (19%)

9. Mobile Apps (17%)

10. Call Center (16%)

Honorable Mention: Fax (12%)

In 2019, for as many as 71% of buyers, online is the most used channel for placing orders. But this doesn’t mean B2B e-commerce experiences are meeting expectations just yet. While 30% of buyers would prefer to buy 90% or all of their products online, only 19% are doing so.

It was clear in 2017, based on our previous research, that traditional channels shouldn’t be written off just yet. This continues to be the case.

Why Omnichannel is on the Rise

While we would love to say that B2B organizations are all offering stellar buying experiences both offline and online, and that's why B2B omnichannel behavior is increasing, this doesn't seem to be a reality. Businesses have come a long way when it comes to omnichannel experiences, but our 2019 research shows that cross-channel behavior is being caused by inefficient experiences on buyers' channel of choice.

This means buyers are switching channels, not because they want to, but because there is friction in their existing buyer journey. 

  • One-quarter of B2B buyers want easier and faster checkout, easier repeat ordering, quicker delivery, and better tracking online than is available to them now.
  • Based solely on a lack of information available online (product details, shopping information, etc.), 98% of buyers are forced to pursue offline help from a sales representative at some point throughout the purchase journey.


These challenges come in addition to a majority of B2B buyers also experiencing online order errors frequently throughout the e-commerce purchase journey. Organizations should aim to improve both their online and offline experiences so buyers can purchase based on preference, and not on the channels to which they feel forced.

Get More New Data on B2B Sales Channels and Preferences

How else is ongoing digitization affecting the way B2B companies sell? How many companies have an omnichannel strategy? What are the challenges associated with the digital transformation process? What do B2B customers want to see in the next 2-5 years?

We answer these questions and more (and look as far ahead as 2020) in our B2B Buying Process 2019 Report. Download your copy now for access to new original research, insights, and data that makes a difference.


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