A survey of 600 industrial buyers in three Asia-Pacific countries found that buyers rely as much on traditional forms of procurement channels as they do on e-commerce, and that so-called offline relationships are as valuable as ever.
The survey of buyers in China, Japan and Thailand appears to support the age-old relevance in Asia of face-to-face interactions in cultivating successful and sustainable relationships. Consumers in those countries are connected to the Internet and their mobile devices than consumers anywhere in the world. By contrast, business-to-business professionals, though they conduct much of their purchasing on-line, still require a personal touch in their business relationships, especially when it comes to post-sales support, according to the study, which was commissioned by transport and logistics provider UPS Inc. (NYSE:UPS) and released Wednesday.
“What we see in Asia is that business relationships are not one-dimensional – online channels are popular, but so, too, are more traditional forms of buying,” said Sylvie Van Den Kerkhof, vice president of marketing for UPS’ Asia-Pacific region. “The data suggests that businesses wanting to work in Asian markets need to ensure that their e-commerce and bricks-and-mortar operations are both optimized and integrated, while ensuring that post-sales services, such as returns, offer a seamless experience for buyers.”
Asian respondents said they plan to increase e-commerce activity during the next five years. About 31 percent of Japanese procurement professionals said they buy online, while 14 percent of Chinese and Thai buyers use e-commerce for their transactions.
the report also indicates that speaking over the phone or in person happens more frequently in Asia than in the United States or Europe. Asian buyers especially value establishing a relationship in person before purchasing online, according to the survey. This attitude is most pronounced in China, where first winning a decision-maker’s trust is a key part of the deal-making process. It is not unusual for a foreign seller to make multiple trips to China and meet with a prospective buyer before any deal is finalized.
About two-thirds of of all B2B purchases in Asia come from domestic suppliers, according to the survey. That compares to 73 percent in the U.S. and 64 percent in Europe. However, Japanese professional buyers source 90 percent of their goods domestically.
Asked to name the barriers to making international purchases, 60 percent of the Asian respondents cited longer transit times as the main deterrent, 55 percent cited customs delays, and 45 percent cited issues with returns.
About 32 percent of Chinese and Japanese buyers expect their international orders to arrive within a month. Half of the Thai respondents expect their orders to arrive within a week.
Because most Thai buyers’ international orders are already sourced from within Asia, 57 percent of them require same day delivery on at least part of an order, according to the survey. By contrast, Chinese buyers who source more frequently from other continents, expect only 21 percent of international orders to be delivered on the same day.