Nov 15

B2B and digital transformation in the relationship between enterprises

The research “B2B and digital transformation in the relationship between enterprises” conducted by Ricerche Valdani Vicari (RVV) and commissioned by Netcomm Italia is especially aimed to understand the broad adoption of digital tools and services in the Italian B2B trade, highlighting also the current hurdles at local level.
Such a research was focused on +20 million euros revenue seller/supplier companies and +10 million euros revenue buyer companies (not in the distribution sector) or +2 million revenue (in the distribution sector). In this set of reference, a sample of 500 cases was chosen, divided in 200 buyers and 300 manufacturing and commercial sellers (of which 100 had already adopted e-commerce).

One of the most interesting fact that emerged by the research was that 56% of interviewed sellers still has no digital process in the trading processes, 24% has introduced at least one digital step just in pre/post sales, 8% just in EDI (Electronic Data Interchange), while only 12% already uses online sale (of which 44% sells directly to final customers, bypassing various retailers).

How does e-commerce impact on seller companies? The digitalization process is intended more as a development opportunity then a business model changing disruption. Still in fact 20% of enterprises does not even consider digital as an incremental opportunity. In fact, when studying digital adoption, 40% of the interviewed stated that these digital processes still matter to only a few large companies.
According to research results, companies expect that digitization will support brand development and communication, facilitate sales and customer management, help to retain and find new customers / retailers by offering new way to cooperate with them.

Another important takeaway from the research was that the main benefit of introducing digital best practice for the supply chains is to improve and renew customer service (42%) and to find new customers and markets (37%).
During the last 12 months, more than half of the companies (53%) invested in digitazing some aspects of the commercial process, such as implementation of product information and web marketing. About one company out of three stated that digital transformation has been carried out without particular difficulties and 50% chose to train existing staff members then to recruit new employees (23%), while 31% relied on freelances or outside companies.
Generally enterprises rely most of all on software suppliers and ICT (49%) and 30% on web agencies.

The interviewed enterprises did not distinguish markedly between online and offline customers in terms of economical return; about one company out of three considers more profitable a customer who purchase both online and offline.
Companies mostly think that B2B e-commerce will affect logistics, basically to speed up delivery time (70%). Almost 60% is interested in logistics outsourcing: one out of three is focused only on transports outsourcing, while one out of four opts for warehouse and transports outsourcing.

From the buyers' perspective, 77% of the companies said that they already use some digital tools during buying processes. The remaining 23% does not use any digital tool, but rather relies on trusted relationships already built with traditional suppliers. Among these non-digital users, 30% states that will start digitalizing within three years. 37% of buyers also points out that they had found on the web (or through other digital tools) the suppliers whom they started a commercial relationship with. Also 13% of non-digital buyer companies stated they found their suppliers on internet. Furthermore, 30% of buyers always (8%) or often (21%) uses the supplier website as a way to learn about its products and services. Nevertheless, the lack of digital tools is not seen as an important aspect to judge a supplier value nor to influence purchasing choices.

Digital skilled buyer companies' main aim is to find suppliers (54%) and digitalize entry procedures and order management. Buyers requires their suppliers to start or increase online services connected to avail of online catalogues & product information (63%) and order fulfilment (51%).
The level of satisfaction emerged towards digital services offered by seller companies was good but not high. 40% of buyers is equally satisfied with Italian and foreign companies in all three stages of the commercial process (pre-sales, sales, post-sales).

In conclusion Italian B2B companies, both sellers and buyers, showed a lukewarm attitude toward digital. Nowadays sellers focus mostly on communication and processes simplification, less on new customer finding and a little on direct online selling. Hence, the research identified a low aptitude to use B2B marketplace and it is widely believed that the sales networks will maintain or develop their role. Buyers consider digital as a resource aimed to research of new suppliers, from digitalization process, they expect in particular product time reduction, services innovation and more information.


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