Our latest original research reveals which B2B sales channels are the most popular today, and which ones will be two years from now, with some surprising results.


 New Research Into B2B Sales Channels

Not sure you’re using the right B2B sales channels? Or just curious about how your competitors are reaching their audience?

You’re in luck. We recently surveyed 300 B2B companies across the globe about their approach to digital transformation and B2B e-commerce. This included questions about which sales channels they use now, how this compares to the channels they used two years ago, and which they expect to be using two years from now.


1: Own Web Store (46%)

When you think e-commerce, you might think consumer purchases, but that’s set to change.

In our survey, own web stores proved to be the most popular B2B sales channel — even surpassing the familiar sales rep to take the top spot. This is a dramatic increase compared to two years ago, when just 29% of respondents were selling through their own B2B web store.



2: Sales Representatives (41%)

It wouldn’t be B2B sales without sales reps. They might have been relegated to second place, but they’re still miles ahead of number three.



Good news for sales teams? Yes, though our research indicates this might not remain the case for much longer. While 41% of respondents currently sell through representative, this number is set to drop to 37% in two years’ time. Is this nothing more than a blip in the B2B sales landscape, or a sign that digital channels are making sales representatives obsolete? Only time will tell.


3: Physical Stores (32%)

Physical stores and depots come in a distant third, with less than a third of respondents using them as part of their omnichannel approach to sales.

Much has been written about the (alleged) demise of the brick-and-mortar in retail. The numbers for B2B commerce also indicate a slight downturn: 33% of respondents used a physical store or depot 2 years ago, 32% do now, and 31% expect to in 2 years’ time. However, with such minor year-over-year declines, B2B brick-and-mortars should be safe for the foreseeable future.


4: Distributor Web Stores (27%)

B2B e-commerce is so prevalent that it extends beyond a company’s own web stores, as we can see in numbers 4 and 5 on this list.

In addition to own stores, selling through distributor web stores is rapidly growing in popularity. Two years ago, just 20% of respondents were using this B2B sales channel. Since then, that number has skyrocketed to 27% and is set to grow to 34% in 2 years.



5 (Joint): Online Marketplace (26%)

No interest in launching your own web store, and no distributors who use e-commerce to reach clients? That doesn’t mean you can’t offer your buyers the ease of online ordering.

Selling through online marketplaces like Amazon can boost your brand’s visibility and let your company benefit from an established and advanced e-commerce platform. However, it does mean that you have to surrender a certain amount of freedom. Learn more about the pros and cons of selling through online marketplaces at our blog.


5 (Joint): Email Marketing (26%)

Much like brick-and-mortars, there’s been a lot of talk about the death of email marketing (and a lot of articles arguing the opposite).

No matter where you stand on the matter, it’s clear that email marketing is still alive and kicking in B2B sales. This isn’t surprising when you consider that it offers an ROI of $38 for every dollar spent. Visit our blog to find out how you can use abandoned cart emails and personalized email marketing to your advantage.


7: Social Media (23%)

It doesn’t matter whether you sell to professional buyers or consumers: you want your message to be where your audience is. Considering that the average internet user now spends more than two hours a day on social media, it’s little wonder that the use of social media channels in B2B sales is also growing.

According to our research, 19% of respondents were selling via social 2 years ago. Since then, that number has grown to 23% today and is expected to grow to 25% in another 2 years.


8: Mail Order (19%)

It’s not all digital, though: 19% of survey respondents indicated that they still use mail order to sell their products. This is the same as 2 years ago, and this number is set to grow to 20% in 2 years’ time.


9: Mobile Apps (17%)

A modest percentage of respondents are truly dedicated to being where their audience is at all times and offer a mobile app. While this is just 17% today, it’s a significant increase from 12% just two years ago. Moreover, 26% of respondents indicated that they plan to use mobile apps as part of their B2B sales strategy in 2 years.


10: Call Center (16%)

Finally, closing the gates of the top 10 is one of the most traditional channels on the list: the call center. Call center use saw a drop from 21% 2 years ago to just 16% today.

However, this doesn’t mean this channel is on the way out entirely. Our research indicates that some respondents are rescinding their decision to jettison call centers as sales tools, or they’re trying them out for the first time, with 18% expected to use this channel in 2 years.


Honorable Mention: Fax (12%)

It’s no secret that the fax no longer reigns supreme in B2B sales. That makes it worth mentioning that our research indicated it’s having a bit of a revival at the moment.

While just 10% of respondents used a fax two years ago, this number has actually grown to 12% today. Don’t starting off dusting off your old fax machine just yet though — this seems to be only a temporary second wind. Only 11% projected to use this channel 2 years from now, even if it’s still more than 2 years ago.



It might be digital channels like web stores, email marketing and mobile apps showing the most significant growth, but this goes to show that traditional channels shouldn’t be written off just yet.

Get More New Data on B2B Sales and Digital Transformation
How else is ongoing digitization affecting the way B2B companies sell? How many companies have an omnichannel strategy? What are the challenges associated with the digital transformation process?

We answer these questions and more in our Digital Transformation and B2B E-Commerce Report. Download your copy now for access to new original research, insights, and data that makes a difference.