Buyers opt for digital, remote interactions with suppliers

In response to the pandemic, B2B companies needed to go digital and increase their tech-centric roles in order to improve efficiency and effectiveness with suppliers. The following article shares how buyers are enhancing omni-channel interactions.

Dive Brief:

  • A year into the pandemic, B2B buyers are choosing omnichannel interactions instead of purely in-person, indicating that the practice is “here to stay,” according to analysis by McKinsey & Company.
  • In February, more than two-thirds of respondents chose to do their ordering through remote human interactions and digital self-service, with a little less than one-third opting to order through traditional interactions.
  • A portion of corporate buyers, 20%, said they are “willing to spend more than $500,000,” with 11% willing to spend over $1 million, through fully remote and digital transactions.

Dive Insight:

Buyers are choosing a mix of channels – remote, digital self-serve and in-person – to facilitate their procurement needs. The switch beyond just in-person interactions is changing the future of how procurement officers buy from their suppliers.

Many companies learned that deeper relationships with suppliers were key to endure the pandemic and add much-needed resiliency. With in-person meetings out of the question, relationships were supported through remote and digital technologies, allowing for more ways to communicate and share information.

Buyers “found much to like” about the digital changes thrust upon them during the pandemic, according to McKinsey, and 80% of business leaders surveyed said omnichannel is “as or more effective than traditional methods.”

Multiple channels offer buyers flexible options such as video chat and digital problem solving, but that also necessitates changes in how procurement offices structure their investments in people and processing systems to maximize the new potential.

In this new landscape, with so many ways to exchange information, data can be available but overlooked. Procurement leaders realize the need for tech-centric roles to handle increasing levels of data.

Nearly half of procurement leaders have created roles for robotic process automation. Data professionals and scientists on the team could help B2B buying mirror the digital B2C transactions already in play.

Many suppliers beefed up their websites and utilized e-commerce marketplaces, enhancing their ability to correspond with buyers. Alibaba surveyed small businesses last year and found that the use of email and phone for purchases dropped, while the use of e-commerce increased over the same period.

The use of legacy technologies is still common, but digital methods are gaining ground and offering a wider array of vendors, and more product and pricing transparency, while also making it easier to transcend time zone differences

As the rate at which businesses go digital picks up, upgrades in company infrastructure and resource capabilities may need improvement, with investments to modernize hardware and software. B2B budget projections indicate a willingness to spend, despite ongoing instabilities in the economy. For operational expenses overall, 60% of respondents plan to maintain or grow their spending in the coming years, according to McKinsey.


This article was written by A.B. Brown from Supply Chain Dive and was legally licensed through the Industry Dive publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to