An Update on the Latest 2019 Industrial eCommerce Research

B2B electronic transactions now exceed manual ones Image credit - B2B eCommerce World

The latest 2019 B2B eCommerce research confirms the continued adoption of B2B eCommerce and expectation of accelerating adoption over the next few years.

2019 U.S. B2B Ecommerce Market Report

According to this report, eCommerce sales on websites, login-portals and marketplaces exceeded $1 trillion for the first time in 2018. Manufacturers, wholesalers and distributors used to take most orders in person, by phone or by fax - now they increasingly process electronic transactions. B2B sales through websites and online marketplaces grew at the fastest rate yet; B2B eCommerce sites, log-in portals and online marketplaces last year accounted for 14.3% of electronic sales and 7.2% of total B2B sales.

B2B eCommerce sites weren’t the fastest-growing electronic sales channel nor were they the biggest channel but eCommerce site transactions (the online B2B commerce that originate on a manufacturer’s or distributor’s eCommerce site, log-in portal or on a marketplace (such as Amazon Business)) reached an all-time high in 2018. An increased volume of transactions through electronic data interchange, e-procurement and other “many to many” internet networks are originating on the web and concluding as an online transaction on a B2B eCommerce site. B2B transactions often go through more than one channel, for example, a buyer may start a purchase in an e-procurement software but punch out to a supplier’s website and place the order through a site’s shopping cart, or a purchase initiated on an eCommerce website may be completed with an invoice transmitted via EDI.

US B2B eCommerce Will Hit $1.8 Trillion By 2023

Forrester's landscape report within its B2b eCommerce Playbook for 2019 forecasts that US B2B eCommerce will reach $1.8 trillion and account for 17% of all US B2B sales by 2023. At the end of 2018, Forrester expects eCommerce to have reached $1.1 trillion and represent 12% of total B2B sales in the US. They forecast a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 10% for B2B eCommerce over the next five years.

Bearing this out in the Industrial B2B space, here are a couple of examples:

  • For the year ended Dec. 31, 2018, Grainger reported a 14.5% year-over-year increase in web sales to $6.74 billion, or 60% of total sales of $11.22 billion.
  • For the fiscal year ended Sept. 1, 2018, MSC reported total net sales of $3.204 billion, up 10.9% from the prior year. eCommerce sales came in at close to $2 billion, or about 60% of total sales.

2019 Social Media Use in the Industrial Sector

IEEE GlobalSpec's report gives us up-to-date information on the role of social media in modern industrial marketing - here are some of their conclusions:

  • Social media holds a steady place in the engineer’s work life, although it is not their primary digital destination for work-related purposes. Still, technical professionals are absorbing information through social media channels. 51% read content or product/industry news on social media at least a few times a week, and 31% research companies or suppliers. When it comes to social media outside of work, 54% of engineers check their accounts at least once a day. For millennials, that number jumps to 78%. 
  • LinkedIn and Facebook remain the most popular social media platforms among technical professionals, with 81% and 80% having accounts on those platforms, respectively. YouTube, Twitter and Instagram also have some penetration among the engineering audience. No other social media platform appears to be particularly relevant to engineers.
  • Across all platforms and for all work-related uses, millennials turn to social media more often than their older colleagues and are more likely to check social media for work related purposes throughout the day. This makes sense, as this group grew up during the digital age, and is more familiar and comfortable with digital technologies, including social media.

Conclusions

This news should raise industrial suppliers sense of urgency for eCommerce and supporting digital marketing. Some, like Grainger and MSC noted above, have been selling online for years, but that’s not the case for all industrial manufacturers, and distributors. Other 2018 B2BecNews surveys showed that just over half of manufacturers and distributors did not yet have an eCommerce site. But, of those companies that did not have an eCommerce site, 75% had plans to launch one within two years, including 59% that said they would do so within 1 year. More power to them!

Last year we published a B2B Industrial eCommerce maturity assessment tool to help you plan your eCommerce approach or monitor your progress.

As always, if you have comments or suggestions please make them below, click to ask us a question or call for a discussion. In the meantime we'll continue to keep you up-to-date on eCommerce and new technologies impacting industrial suppliers

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