The Purchase Order App: Customer Expectations| By |Samantha Selsky

Many manufacturers and distributors must decide whether or not to offer a purchase order app to their B2B customers. This decision can impact the future of their business. After all, the world of procurement has changed quite a bit since the days of paper purchase orders. Today’s buyers are increasingly moving toward mobile devices and online purchasing to research and complete their orders.

Current trends have proven that B2B buyers will continue to move toward mobile in the future. And that means B2B firms will need to determine whether offering a purchase order app will help them meet the changing expectations of their customers.

What Customers Expect from a Purchase Order App

In this article, we’ll explore changing customer expectations in B2B and how that drives demand for a purchase order app.

Why Customer Experience Matters

For many B2B companies, the questions around implementing a purchase order app centers around customer expectations. What does today’s purchasing agent or buyer expect? Are they satisfied with paper processes or simple eCommerce—or are they looking to move their processes fully online and mobile?

According to McKinsey and Company, B2B customer experience ratings significantly lag behind those of retail customers. B2C companies typically score in the 65–85% range for customer satisfaction, while B2B companies average less than 50%.

What accounts for this difference? McKinsey reports that B2B companies’ lag in adopting and offering new technologies like mobile apps accounts for at least part of the difference. More than half of online transactions today are now taking place on mobile devices, and a growing number of B2C transactions can now be handled via apps, such as online banking, grocery ordering, and retail ordering.

In B2B, this transition towards using a purchase order app has been much slower. McKinsey contends that this delay in adopting technologies that are closely associated with customer satisfaction is potentially very costly for B2B companies. According to the report, B2B companies that focus on customer satisfaction have higher average margins than less customer-focused competitors.

How much of an impact can customer satisfaction efforts like the implementation of a purchase order app make on margins? McKinsey reports that these efforts can reduce cost by 10–20% and contribute to revenue growth of up to 10–15%.

Where to Focus

A general focus on customer satisfaction is great, but for many B2B companies the question is: “What aspects of our customer experience should we focus on?” To answer this, let’s take a look at how today’s buyers make their purchasing decisions.

A recent survey by Forrester Research revealed that B2B buyers typically begin their purchasing research on brand manufacturer sites (32%) and search engines (25%). However, nearly half (49%) of those surveyed stated that they prefer to make work-related purchases on the same websites they use for personal purchases.

This figure illustrates the threat the B2B companies face as their buyers increasingly move online and toward mobile devices to complete work-related purchases. Buyers are starting their purchasing journey on supplier websites, but they often finish elsewhere, or, at the least, they express a preference for a more B2C-type experience.

How Purchase Order Apps Improve the Customer Experience

So, what do B2B buyers expect from their purchasing experiences? And how do purchase order apps improve the customer experience in targeted ways?

Forrester survey respondents indicated that they were looking for the following improvements to their B2B purchasing experience:

  • 74% of buyers report they want the ability to look up past orders.
  • 78% want to track and trace purchased products across channels and delivery options.
  • 70% rate inventory visibility as being important or very important.

A purchase order app that allows customers to browse products and research and track past orders all while delivering insight into inventory levels meets these customer expectations. In addition, purchase order apps offer greater convenience for B2B buyers and can improve the customer experience by allowing buyers to enter purchase orders from anywhere through any mobile device, including mobile phones and tablets.

Moving toward Mobile with a Purchase Order App

For many B2B companies, the question of whether to provide purchase order apps to customers may not be a question of if, but when. Although the B2B space generally been slower to offer mobile apps for its customers, B2B sellers are catching on to the business benefits of having a purchase order app: Forrester’s research indicates that 39% of B2B sellers plan to provide access to their websites with mobile apps in the near future.

Adapting to the demand for mobile devices isn’t just a customer satisfaction issue, it’s quickly becoming a business necessity: Wired magazine reports that global PC sales have been on a downward trend as mobile devices replace desktop and laptop computers. In fact, in many emerging markets, many business users are already “phone first,” or “phone only,” meaning that enabling mobile is key to delivering a user-friendly experience that translates into global sales.

Apps a key component of enabling mobile purchasing. Studies indicate that mobile users spend up to 90% of their time in apps when using mobile devices. Most of this time is spent on social media, but growing numbers of users are also spending time in shopping apps. And as mobile traffic to B2B sites continues to grow, it’s expected that B2B shopping apps will follow.

So, for B2B companies that want to remain competitive, implementing a purchase order app to enable mobile and online purchasing is a way to help meet changing customer expectations.

Is your B2B company planning to offer a purchase order app? What is driving your decision? Tell us about it in the comments.

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