A Market Research Study

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We commissioned Sinclair Customer Metrics to secretly shop 250 B2B manufacturing websites, with specific focuses on item findability, access to pricing, configuration offerings and overall ease of use.

Purpose of the Study

The Importance of E-commerce in the B2B Manufacturing Industry

eCommerce is the modern-day final frontier for those in the B2B manufacturing industry. American manufacturing e-commerce generates $2.4 trillion in value annually. Manufacturers are increasingly feeling pressure from their customers and the market as a whole to adapt and enhance their customer experience across every touchpoint. In order for businesses to differentiate their experience, there has been a massive rise in the perceived importance of e-commerce. However, many manufacturers, especially those whose roots are not so digitally native, have struggled to offer experiences that meet the expectations of their digitally native customer base. Manufacturers are being forced to host a new generation of buyers, who have been “consumerized” to expect B2C style engagement in any and all scenarios.

With such consumerization, both the needs and wants of B2B manufacturing buyers are shifting radically, particularly in regards to enhanced eCommerce experiences. The global pandemic has only accelerated the shift of B2B buyer preferences, where buyers now expect the same speed, convenience, and customization out of their B2B buying experiences as they do in their personal lives with consumer goods.

Here at, we’re firmly dedicated to creating software that turns your tech stack into the ultimate power tool to sell more, sell faster, and maintain less – but, to know exactly where to start, we need to know what we have to work with. That’s why we commissioned a study from Sinclair Customer Metrics to mystery shop the websites of 250 B2B manufacturing businesses and see how they are adapting to current buyer preferences around eCommerce.

Our Main Questions

► Has the world of manufacturing matured to meet these new expectations?

► Can we get them there faster?


Study Methodology 

Sinclair researchers were given a series of key elements to identify and score across the websites, leading to aggregate totals by which the 250 were ultimately ranked.

Each researcher was guaranteed to have no prior relationship with or employment through any of their assigned sites, ensuring full objectivity in the reviews themselves.

Key Takeaways

Taking a holistic view of everything reported back by our Sinclair team, we’ve been able to distill the main survey takeaways into three different buckets:

Product Search-ability

Improving Product Discoverability and User-Friendly Navigation on E-commerce Websites

In order for a sale to be made, there has to be a clearly defined product or service for the buyer to pursue. Knowing this, it would logically track that visitors on a website should easily be able to navigate and identify the available products. For buyers without the time or wherewithal to perform such research, the existing websites don’t offer much, if any, additional support.

For buyers without the time or wherewithal to perform such research, the existing websites don’t offer much, if any, additional support.

A total of 57.9% of B2B manufacturing eCommerce sites had architecture requiring three or more clicks to land on an actual product details page.

Not providing a direct route to the product information itself is a fatal flaw for buyers favoring the quickest, most accessible paths to educating themselves and selecting their ideal option.

Requiring individual selection of desired products also leaves a massive amount of money on the table when it comes to bundling, up-selling, and recommending supplemental or complimentary items to optimize an order. Buyers can’t earmark items they don’t know exist, or don’t know the immediate relevance of.

Even the rough quarter of mystery shoppers who felt the websites offered enough business context for the items available could stand to benefit from intelligently- and intentionally-placed recommendations.

Guided selling is a consultative approach to online lead generation that focuses on providing an experience similar to in-person sales. In order to replicate the in-store experience, you need to provide online, detailed information about the product or service.

In order for customers not to get lost in all of your product information, it’s important for your site to ask them questions and respond with guidance. The best-in-class ecommerce sites have a guided selling strategy that supports customers in identifying the product that best fits their needs.

Having a guided selling experience on your website can enhance your brand image and lead generation.

Customization & Configurability

Meeting Buyer Demand for Customization

A hallmark of the manufacturing industry is the complexity of products being sold. For modern buyers, the ability to customize, modify, configure or otherwise tweak outof-the-box options is becoming more and more important, and expected out of any e-commerce or self-service experience.

Buyers want more than to see the basic product details of your base products. They want the exact configured product that fits their unique needs, and they want to understand how much that configuration is going to cost them.

Luckily, there are digital configurators that can be integrated into eCommerce platforms to accommodate those exact needs.

But, are manufacturers at a point where they’re taking advantage of those yet?

The assumption behind the lack of these configurable experiences on B2B manufacturing websites is that it is perceived as an unnecessary feature. However, this offers massive opportunity for manufacturers looking to elevate their experience from the table stakes experience offerings of most manufacturers – an opportunity to greatly reduce friction in the buying process, and accelerate sales by offering buyers the exact products they need in a low-touch model.

What does it say about the state of the market if more buyers are reporting moderate to extreme difficulty than satisfaction when it comes to configuring their product in a manufacturing eCommerce setting?

Calling back to the importance of a guided selling integration, 29.2% of configurators available on manufacturing websites were designed with a product-based focus. This means that buyers are again left to leverage their own product knowledge to configure their product, opening the door for user error, missed configuration aspects, or overall frustration with the product that can drive buyers away.

Consumerized buyers have less and less disposable time and energy for failing configurators, and an earlier than not investment in solidifying your tech stack to include proper CPQ is the easiest way to future-proof eCommerce offerings – on the parts of both administrators and buyers.

Pricing Transparency 

An integral component of the CPQ process as a whole, accurate and accessible pricing still remains missing in the vast majority of manufacturing eCommerce environments. When partnered with the configuration statistics provided to the left, an interesting picture forms around pricing. Remember, just 19.4% of shopped sites had a configuration option to access.

For sites that did allow buyers to directly submit support requests in relation to their desired buys, 70.4% noted a response time of over 48 hours. In 48 hours, what is stopping a prospective buyer from simply moving to a more responsive, self-sufficient site?

Pricing and trust are inherently linked. When you display even basic pricing information on your website, it builds trust with your customers and makes them more comfortable doing business with you.

Adding pricing to your site also saves time for both you and your prospective customers. If your pricing is transparent, the customers within your budget will make their way to the checkout cart and you won’t have to have conversations with prospects that are out of your budget range.

Purchasing Power

Addressing Friction in Manufacturing E-commerce for Improved Sales Success

When looking at the success of eCommerce setups for manufacturers, we need to stay focused on the final sales themselves – after all, that’s what each business is going to do. And in these early stages of manufacturing commerce advancement, we are still seeing quite a bit of friction being reported by shoppers.

Buyers have become accustomed to getting what they want, when they want it.

Once you’ve shown your expertise through a guided selling experience with easily customizable options and proven your trust by allowing customers to view pricing structure, the best way to increase your conversion rates is to allow them to actually purchase on your website.

Studies show that purchases from manufacturer websites account for just 1% of all e-commerce transactions.

This figure is grossly underestimated for B2B manufacturers because purchases from distributors and resellers are included in the total.

Make the sale easy for buyers by giving them the ability to make an informed purchase.

Looking Forward

Crafting an Effective E-commerce Strategy

The data yielded from this study was illuminating, and an unprecedented summary of the modern market as we know it. Buyer preferences have started to coalesce around themes of accessibility, efficiency, personalization and autonomy. There are some clear prescriptions for B2B manufacturers as they construct their eCommerce strategy with this all in mind:

Accept the Reality of Consumerized Buyers: They have outlined their non-negotiables as they relate to the buying process, and are not afraid to take their money to a business that meets them. 

Future-Proof Your Tech Stack: Investing in proper CPQ to support your eCommerce experience is a front-loaded process. Taking the time now to implement a proper system helps you establish yourself as a differentiated competitor early on, and saves you from having to play catch up later down the line.

Read the Room and Adjust Accordingly: Understanding exactly what your buyers expect allows you to coordinate a targeted, scalable strategy. Keeping your finger on the collective pulse and releasing the status quo of direct sales routes keeps you dynamic enough to grow along with your clientele.

Make it Easy: At the end of the day, a buyer wants to give you their money – don’t get in their way. Making it as simple as physically possible to configure, price, quote, and close a sale in your eCommerce environment needs to remain the key focus underscoring any developmental moves.

As a B2B manufacturer, the question of enhancing your eCommerce environment is less of an “if,” and more of a “when” and “how.” That’s where Commerce Engine comes in to assist.

How Can Help

Empowering B2B Manufacturers with Advanced CPQ and E-commerce Capabilities Commerce Engine is the world’s premiere headless configurator, supercharging both CPQ and eCommerce experiences for B2B manufacturers and more.

We are the “C” of CPQ. was designed by top veterans in the field with decades of experience to easily handle complex configurations with simple implementation and easy maintenance. It’s native to Salesforce, so it has powerful and simple tools baked right in. Plus, their integrations easily connect.

We’ve also partnered with Threekit to allow for added features and powerful visualizations to be at your fingertips. These three businesses are all made up of top experts in their respective fields that have each proven to be the best at what they do.

The State of B2B eCommerce for Manufacturers 

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