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Knowledge Center Blog E-Commerce: Item Recognition Ordering Growing in Importance for B2B Buyers

Research conducted recently for the National Association of Wholesaler-Distributors suggests that the Covid-19 pandemic has caused B2B buyers to increasingly utilize digital purchasing channels (email, website, text, EDI, item recognition, voice ordering via digital assistants, etc.) versus traditional channels (phone call, via a sales rep, etc.).

Distributors surveyed were already conducting over half of their purchases online prior to the research, but since the beginning of the pandemic online sales have increased 16%, and most do not expect their online purchasing habits to return to pre-Coronavirus levels. 

Among the emerging digital B2B purchasing options, two technologies stand out as important: voice ordering and item recognition ordering.  Amazon, Google, and Walmart all offer B2B products on marketplaces currently, and each continues to improve its hardware and software applications to allow purchasers to more easily buy products using their voice.  The three companies are not as consistent currently in their ability to offer camera-based item identification ordering.  Over the next five years, however, purchasers are more excited about the impact of image-based ordering than that of voice ordering, with a significant impact likely to be felt among construction and industrial end customers. 

One key advantage of voice ordering is that it allows buyers to shop while they continue to work on other tasks. A downside is that voice does not allow purchasers to read technical data or compare items easily. Image ordering requires the user to point a smartphone at a product and then execute the transaction on the device’s screen.

In the future, both technologies will likely be used together to create a seamless and efficient B2B shopping experience. For example, a general contractor involved with a large construction project notices a looming shortage of a critical supply, takes a quick picture of the product, asks a digital assistant to identify it, and then orders it from his provider of choice. 

Ultimately, most distributors are more optimistic about the future of image-based ordering than they are about voice ordering. Over the next five years, more than half of distributors expect item recognition to become important, while only 20% feel the same way about voice ordering.  The reality is that most distributors don’t have the required expertise to develop either technology themselves, so this presents a ripe opportunity for solution providers to step in and lead. 

Mountain Leverage is happy to provide this educational content regarding trends surrounding B2B online ordering.

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