How has COVID-19 transformed company purchasing habits?

FEVAD study
March 4th, 2021
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The COVID-19 crisis has led to significant transformations in business strategies, from relocating and building resilient supply chains to accelerating digitisation. But what about day-to-day operations for buyers and internal customers? Are these changes simply contextual, or are they set to last? The latest study by FEVAD [1], conducted by Next Content and Médiamétrie, sheds light on some of the answers to these questions.

Digital, controlled and automated transactions

Unsurprisingly, B2B e-commerce has thrived this year. According to the study, 34% of respondents have increased their share of online orders at the expense of other channels (phone, email, sales teams etc.) and more than two thirds expect this to continue after the COVID-19 crisis. The reason behind this phenomenon is twofold: not only have buyers been favouring online orders because they are working remotely and no longer have access to the usual systems and equipment, but distributors have also been promoting online channels throughout the pandemic.

Because of the unprecedented economic crisis brought about by the pandemic, companies also want to strengthen control over their expenditure. To do this, three strategies have been especially popular:

  • Checks and verifications before all purchases and/or orders
  • Price comparators
  • Quotation requests before placing orders

Finally, some companies have also automated certain processes for their recurring product needs. For example, companies have introduced systems for batch deliveries and/or automated, repeat orders. By scaling up orders and deliveries, they can significantly improve their productivity. Although less common, some companies have even used vending machines to provide employees with the necessary PPE.

Virtual interaction, in part, here to stay

With remote working becoming the norm, channels for exchange and communication with suppliers have been completely transformed. Thanks to new technology, face-to-face meetings have been largely replaced by virtual sessions, whether it be one-to-one discussions or business events more broadly, such as trade fairs, conferences etc.

While buyers are considering going back to attending events in person after the COVID-19 crisis, the same cannot be said for meetings. Many now prefer video calls because they save time and money, and are more efficient as they cut down travel. As a result, more than a third of the buyers surveyed claim that they're happy to continue managing relationships remotely and have no particularly strong desire to resume face-to-face meetings.

Finally, a post-COVID hybrid scenario is starting to take shape: remote exchanges will likely become the norm, and face-to-face meetings will mark defining moments in business relations between buyers and their suppliers (signing contracts, responding to tenders etc.).

Procurement departments must therefore find new ways of working in order to adapt to an uncertain, fluctuating environment, while also meeting their company's needs. It's a challenging context that brings inspiring initiatives to life.

[1] Fédération du e-commerce et de la vente à distance — Federation of e-commerce and distance selling