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B2B E-Commerce: Shop with a Phone, Buy with a Desktop?

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One of the biggest questions for any e-commerce retailer is to find out how customers are shopping. Namely, how do customers use a company’s website to search and buy products it is selling?

Now that smartphones have reached the point of ubiquity, lots of emphasis has been shifted to making the shopping experience mobile-friendly. In fact, thought leaders are calling mobile commerce the name of the game.

There is plenty of data that supports this:

  • Mobile commerce accounts for 50.3% of all e-commerce traffic. (Shopify.com)
  • Mobile commerce is expected to reach $638 billion by 2018. (Deloitte study)
  • Mobile commerce accounts for 19% of total retail, and will go up to 25% by 2016. (Zacks.com)

Even when people are out shopping in brick and mortar stores, they shop on their phones—comparing prices and finding product information. That why many retail stores offer free Wi-Fi as an easy value-add for their customers.

With each day it seems we see a new app geared to make online shopping from a smartphone a more user friendly experience. Buy buttons coded into social media pages have become commonplace.

Naturally everyone in e-commerce wants a piece of the mobile shopping action.


Perhaps the most critical signal for e-commerce to acknowledge is how mobile shopping has begun to affect SEO. In April, Google released a significant new mobile-friendly ranking algorithm designed to favor sites optimized for consumption on a mobile phone when a mobile phone performed the Google search.

Retail marketers dubbed it #Mobilegeddon.

So like any good marketing team, we decided it was necessary to figure out how our customers shop and purchase from NeweggBusiness.com.

We already had an idea of the devices that customers are using to access the website from our analytics tools.  To confirm this data, we surveyed our customers about their shopping habits and the devices they use.

 Mobile Survey Question 1

How frequently do you use your mobile phone for the following when shopping for products or services online?

I don’t use my mobile phone for this = 1
I use my mobile phone often for this = 5

  • For researching alternatives and reading reviews:
    • 41% rarely use mobile (1 or 2)
    • 18% sometimes use mobile (3)
    • 41% frequently use mobile (4 or 5)
  • For identifying where to make purchases
    • 47% rarely use mobile (1 or 2)
    • 17% sometimes use mobile (3)
    • 36% frequently use mobile (4 or 5)
  • For completing purchases
    • 68% rarely use mobile (1 or 2)
    • 14% sometimes use mobile (3)
    • 18% frequently use mobile (4 or 5)

Here we see that customers are phones primarily for product research. It appears they also visit retail sites via mobile to do price comparisons as well. The standout metric from this question is how many respondents said they are unlikely to use a phone to complete purchase.

Mobile Survey Question 2

How do you prefer to purchase products and services online?

  • 3% prefer a mobile phone
  • 90% prefer a desktop PC or laptop
  • 4% prefer a tablet
  • 2% shop, and then call to place an order

Going into the survey we knew from our internal metrics that customers preferred to purchase items with a desktop or laptop. The extent to which survey respondents confirmed this was surprising however.

Mobile Survey Question 3

Do you make fewer purchases with online store that do not change their display to fit your mobile phone screen?

  • 47% make fewer purchases
  • 53% purchasing is unaffected

Here we try to determine whether using a mobile phone to access a website optimized for a desktop or laptop affects purchasing. It is a fairly even split here.


The idea that retailers should be catering to mobile shoppers in fairly entrenched. A Forrester study from 2014 shows 54 percent of B2B companies selling online have customers that are using smartphones and devices to make purchases.

We can say the same about our customers. Our analytics and survey data indicate some level of purchasing via mobile device.

But what is the customer’s real preference? Forbes business writer Brian Walker writes in reaction to the Forrester study that he is not surprised that B2B shopping patterns seem to be creeping toward those of B2C. He asks: “What can be easier than placing reorders on the shop-floor from your smartphone?”

Well, judging by our data, apparently placing the reorder on a desktop or laptop computer.

Voices in technology media like to pronounce the death of desktop computing because of BYOD trends and fancy new phablets. But in the middle of the eulogy, new data springs up confirming desktops are alive and well in the workplace.

Whether they are used to run production applications or placing orders for office equipment, do not count out the staying power of the desktop PC quite yet.

What is your device of choice for ordering products for your workplace? Tell us your preferred method of conducting B2B e-commerce.

B2B E-Commerce: Shop with a Phone, Buy with a Desktop?
Article Name
B2B E-Commerce: Shop with a Phone, Buy with a Desktop?
What are B2B e-commerce customers using to shop and purchase products for work?
Adam Lovinus

Adam Lovinus

A tech writer and Raspberry Pi enthusiast from Orange County, California.

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