10 biggest B2B ecommerce trends in 2021 and beyond

As a B2B ecommerce platform vendor, we at Virto Commerce have compiled a list of 10 B2B ecommerce trends to help you elevate your business in 2021. For different market niches, some trends will have more priority than others. Therefore, listen to your sense of the market and brainstorm with your team and partners. Your agility and perseverance have never been more in demand.

To ensure that your efforts hit the bull's eye, we have broken down these B2B ecommerce trends into those that impact business processes [i.e. the back end] and others that focus on getting the best user experience for customers [i.e. the so-called front end]. In this list, the first 3 trends, which include composable commerce, AI support for business logic and the organic adoption of corporate customers, tend to be mainly related to the server side, while the other 7 ones concern the front end.

Improving the user experience (UX) [usually described as customer experience, CX] is undoubtedly a king B2B ecommerce trend for 2021 and beyond. Typically, UX improvement based on various technologies is referred to as the front end, although of course, they are implemented with the support of the ecommerce platform server side.

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B2B ecommerce trends in 2021

1. API-driven composable ecommerce

Gartner introduced the term composable business in 2020 as "creating an organization made of interchangeable building blocks". Essentially, in ecommerce business processes, the term refers to the implementation of flexible and modular business scenarios based on applications of both the ecommerce platform provider and other leading components of the market.

The first B2B ecommerce trend, API-driven ecommerce, works like glue to connect data from the ecommerce back end and middleware to a broad range of digital touchpoints at the front end and vice versa. Various third party solutions can be connected to the business logic to get a flexible system tailored to your business requirements.

Compose ecommerce that fits your needs perfectly

2. AI support in B2B ecommerce

AI (Artificial Intelligence) provides an intelligent digital landscape where time-consuming tasks may be automated to achieve swift results. Such intelligence is able to increase revenue, lower costs and boost customer satisfaction.

The most reasonable application of AI in B2B ecommerce is assistance with routine data processing over large quantities of SKUs. Some business processes can be automated very efficiently in this way. With a well-organized catalog, visitors can quickly find the goods they need by navigating the catalog or using the on-site search engine. By adopting this B2B ecommerce trend, the ecommerce experience will be optimized because users can easily find what they are looking for.

Read more about B2B personalization in this blog: Machine learning in ecommerce product categorization.

3. eCommerce adoption for B2B customers

The term ecommerce user adoption refers to efficiently guiding business customers through the transition from in-person offline sales to online ordering without disrupting their user experience, loyalty and trust.

For many years, B2B commerce has traditionally been the practice of an in-person service by account managers. Any customer who was previously used to personal service might reject the new ecommerce practice, which involves learning a new and unfamiliar interface for placing orders.

To successfully adopt B2B users for purchases in the online store of your brand, you are advised to develop a step-by-step expansion strategy for the services functions of your website. Customers should feel the attention and care of the sales team and their desire to help in choosing the right products at the best possible prices.

If you are interested in implementing this B2B ecommerce trend in practice, the Virto Commerce team is on hand to advise you.

4. Educational content in B2B ecommerce

Clients conduct most of their research online before ordering or contacting a sales representative, so the quality of that research is critical. Focus on demonstrating the competence of your company through blogs, videos and other content that improve the user experience. Given the lack of in-person communication with the salesperson, it is important for the end customer to immediately choose the right product and convince them to buy.

“We advise clients to slow or stop spending on promotional ads, continue publishing educational content and even take advantage of low CPMs in digital to promote helpful guides and webinars," said Michael Brenner, founder and CEO of B2B content agency Marketing Insider Group for eMarketer review.

Download ebook to learn the top 10 strategic B2B ecommerce trends for 2021.

5. Growth of niche B2B Marketplaces

Finding the right product on massive marketplaces like Alibaba or Amazon with hundreds of similar offers can be a time-consuming process. Unlike personal shopping, which is a positive and pleasant way of spending time, business purchases are practical in nature, and the buyer's time costs money for the company.

Niche marketplaces focus on offering a range of specialized products as opposed to general stores with all kinds of different goods. For example, a marketplace for nursing products and clothing for medical staff targets medical personnel only. In general, niche marketplaces are useful for establishing a presence in new geographic markets where local companies are accustomed to working with certain reputable marketplaces.

6. Customized personalization in B2B ecommerce

Orders from B2B customers are usually placed by the customer’s employees [and only a small part of orders are automatically made by servers]. These people have already formed personalized requirements and shopping habits from B2C ecommerce experience. Therefore, buyers have strong expectations about the ability of B2B companies to respond to their needs and personalize customer interactions.

According to the established practice, B2B personalization operates on 2 levels. On the one hand, personalization is focused on the specific buyer organization, and on the other hand, it is aimed at the exact end user. Consider providing the buyer organization with personalized credit limits, catalog, order processing and delivery. End users would have a personalized order processing and purchase history based on their user profiles.

Your B2B customers are consumers like everyone else. They have strong expectations about B2B companies' ability to respond to their needs and personalize the customer experience.

Read more about B2B personalization in the Virto Commerce blog: Defining personalization in B2B ecommerce and why it’s crucial.

7. eCommerce unification for B2B & B2C

The key driver for the majority of enterprises when selling to both businesses and consumers is to gain market share and grow sales.

B2C (business to consumer) ecommerce is the most developed sector of online commerce in terms of functionality and customer experience, so B2B (business to business) and B2G (business to government) commerce will increasingly look like B2C as people making business orders continue to expect for the same kind of online experience as if they were retail consumers. This is especially true now that millennials, passionate about the Internet, are becoming a large part of the decision makers.

It is not enough to put a catalog of your products online; you also need to offer your customers more functionality to research these products and services more easily. It is also advisable to generate recommendations for the purchase of related products, such as consumables or repair kits. Involve loyal customers in writing reviews as a measure to guide purchasing decisions.

8. Direct-to-consumer (D2C) sales model in B2B ecommerce

Considering that B2B commerce is increasingly approaching B2C commerce, companies that usually deal with intermediaries such as wholesalers and retailers have the ability to bypass them and interact directly with the consumer. Companies can add a direct consumer sales channel (D2C). Direct sales of a brand deliver very valuable customer data and feedback on products and services.

Think of managing a D2C platform that also generates sales profits for partner companies throughout the supply chain. These could be limited editions of certain products, white label products and services for partners and so on.

9. Progressive web apps (PWAs)

Due to the growth in mobile traffic, companies had to develop the same UI for a mobile browser plus a mobile application in addition to the desktop version. Supporting 3 versions of the same front end at once became quite expensive for IT budgets until the relief came with progressive web apps (PWAs).

PWAs behave like mobile apps using common web technologies available on any mobile device. For the IT team of a company, PWA is much easier to maintain and update. Customers simply navigate to the website of the company instead of downloading a mobile app. PWAs can be integrated with smartphone features such as camera and messaging, allowing B2B vendors to empower their customers with a wide range of features.

10. AR, VR and voice search

Promotion of complex equipment and can be done effectively using augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) tools. These tools are ideal for showing suitable spare parts and for the replacement process.

Customers spend a significant amount of time researching and evaluating products before making a purchase decision. Therefore, the more convincing the information presented on the B2B ecommerce site, including using AR/VR, the better the conversion rate will be. Also consider the great potential of voice search and voice ordering. In combination with an AI virtual assistant, voice search can be a good sales channel.

Conclusion

In the next years, the B2B ecommerce industry will bring huge profits to those who have done a great job developing their rich-featured sites. Manage your IT team's efforts to implement as many of the latest B2B ecommerce trends as possible to start attracting business customers from all over the world.

If you would like to have a closer look at these trends, just consult our ebook where each trend is described in even more detail or create your B2C, B2B or B2G ecommerce platform with Virto Commerce. We will be happy to answer all your questions.

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About the author of this article

Ilse Lauwens
Director Marketing

As Director Marketing, Ilse Lauwens is driving and executing the marketing campaigns for Virto Commerce looking for synergies and opportunities, while understanding customer & partner needs in the different markets. Ilse has held marketing management roles on a Belgian and European level at different industry leaders in IT, such as WordPerfect, SAS Institute, Cognos, Microsoft and Sitecore.