B2B ecommerce trends

Updated: August 10, 2020 | Ilse Lauwens, Marketing Director

2020 is finally over. Learn about 10 most strategic B2B ecommerce trends in 2021

According to Forrester analyst reports, the business-to-business ecommerce market is currently at a $1 trillion+ mark and is expected to grow up to $2 trillion by 2020. This means that for B2B sellers it is now more important than ever to keep up with the quickly changing surroundings. Below we take a close look at the rising B2B ecommerce trends for the coming year that you can incorporate into your B2B strategy to help increase your competitive advantage.

Technology investments are set to grow

The latest development trends of B2B ecommerce marketplaces have made them a more favorable option for wholesalers, than retail stores. B2B ecommerce platform vendors have become robust and very adaptable to changes. Let’s take the example of the Virto Commerce ecommerce platform. It is very affordable and flexible to use. By investing in the integration of such platforms, your business can grow rapidly and give you the smoothest experience of expanding your outreach.

B2B ecommerce has gone mobile

One of the biggest B2B ecommerce trends of 2016 is the accessibility of marketplaces on mobile platforms. M-commerce is accessible to its customers and is becoming a fast-growing platform. It is easy to use; the client can access the platform anytime, anywhere and quickly place orders by product. On top of that, it does not take many resources to open a mobile app for a platform. As recent Frankwatching research shows, about 52% of B2B customers prefer to buy their products using their smartphones. This represents half of all clients and is a huge number to deal with. To provide the best experience for your customers, you need to invest heavily in mobile research and marketing. This trend will most likely continue to evolve in 2017 as more and more purchasing decisions will be made through a mobile device.

The customer experience is essential

The UX should be the primary focus for the retailers who sell their products at B2B marketplaces. Good UX helps to convert by passers on your web-store into loyal customers and promotes your website as convenient to navigate. This B2B ecommerce trend plays a significant role in differentiation and profitability. Buyers always demand high-resolution product images, an accurate description of the product, rich content, including many answers on F.A.Q.s, etc. Use your B2B ecommerce platform not only to sell products but to educate and inform buyers about the industry.

Multichannel

There are two main sales models in the B2B industry. You may have your well-designed website and sell your product locally, but still not reach maximum profits. Allow your business to reach out to important platforms that connect thousands of manufacturers and are now becoming a vital place for the online presence of B2B sellers. Besides creating a responsive and perfectly-designed website, we highly recommend dedicating some time to omnichanneling your online presence as marketplaces have become much more attractive to manufacturers, wholesalers, and distributors.

Some of the most prominent B2B ecommerce trends on the market

Omnichannel customer care

Following the trend of a great customer experience, omnichannel customer care has appeared. The customer service, only available via email, is now totally unacceptable. B2B customers need even more attention than B2C ones and for that to happen, websites need to have online customer service chats, the availability of web calls and focus on individual customer experience. This includes optimizing navigation for customer needs, adding search filters and other helpful perks. A smartly personalized B2B buying experience will be the way to go for the vendors.

Video marketing

The strategy for video content marketing strategy is gaining more and more prominence in the increasingly crowded B2B marketplace. It has become a standard for increasing the websites’ audience and has played a major role in attracting and retaining customers.

Switching to open source

Since all B2B ecommerce platform vendors have to adapt to an ever-changing battlefield, open source will most likely give them the out-of-the-box functionality and make them easier to configure and update. We can see this clearly with Virto Commerce, which has become one of the prominent open source platforms, serving a variety of customers, ranging from wholesalers and distributors of complex products to those who sell only maintenance products.

Focus on global markets

The most important thing for an owner of a B2B ecommerce platform is to concentrate beyond his local area and beyond the existing customer base. In return for the risks that may appear, the business can gain millions of potential customers from the ever-growing Asian markets. This bold move may entail selling the products in local currencies, accepting local payment methods and providing an entirely different customer experience that is oriented towards a different culture, with different laws and government regulations.

Fast implementation & integration

Implementation speeds have increased drastically in recent years. It no longer takes months to implement a B2B ecommerce platform. These days you can complete the entire process in a few weeks. The platform itself offers sophisticated technology that allows customers to review their past purchases, monitor inventory levels in real-time, place and track orders, and more.

Flexible payment options

Processing a variety of digital forms of payment for business sales can be complicated but is absolutely critical for ecommerce companies these days. Not offering a buyer the flexibility to pay with their preferred method is likely to result in a sale loss. B2B platforms offer variousof payment options, like PayPal, invoicing, e-checks, purchasing or commercial cards, physical checks, purchase orders, etc.

Omnichannel

This is definitely one of the most prominent B2B ecommerce trends by the end of this year that will become even bigger in the next, so be prepared to deliver a true omnichannel buying experience. B2B sellers need to embrace that all their customers are now omnichannel and work to ensure they can accommodate them.

Forrester confirms that 51% of B2B sellers stated their omnichannel customers increased spending with them in the past year, with only 7% saying those customers decreased spending. Thus, gaining and retaining omnichannel buyers should be crucial for B2B sellers in 2018.

More and more B2B online buyers prefer to do their own research (68%, up from 53% in 2015). Needless to say that in this environment, the expectations of the digitally connected customers should influence an organization’s B2B selling priorities.

Organizations striving to be successful players on the B2B ecommerce market need to have a flexible, scalable commerce infrastructure to support an integrated selling platform.

The data indicates that B2B buyers do not seek to make every purchase via either self-service or full service. Instead, they switch to a mix of both modes in different purchasing scenarios. The new B2B ecommerce trends offer both self-service and human-assisted options and put extra effort into migrating B2B buyers online to convert them into higher value customers. eCommerce cannot be independent of traditional direct and indirect channel sellers. All the back-end data around products, pricing, contracts, rebates, and promotions would need to be consolidated, and the front-end touchpoints have to accommodate the needs of that channel. The best approach would be to start from the back-end and work your way to the front to keep consistency in the process while providing unique experiences for every user persona.

Forrester believes that B2B sellers should turn to flexible and scalable ecommerce infrastructures that can offer a full spectrum of options, from pure self-serve websites to full service delivered by sales staff and with hybrid selling models.

From a technological point of view, this means an organization requires at minimum, a B2B ecommerce platform, but also a strong CRM system, which would help create a comprehensive picture of the B2B buyer, their organization and their preferences. A CPQ system is also essential for expediting full-service sales and letting the ecommerce platform effectively support complex products and variations in product lines.

Personalization

For a business that offers multiple product lines, uses a large catalog, and operates in several different sectors, dynamic personalization can help to substantially increase online revenues. Marketing technology innovators have significantly developed marketing personalization tools , and it will become even more personal in 2018. This is why it is becoming one of the leading B2B ecommerce trends as we approach the new year.

Dynamic personalization is adjusting the content of your website according to each visitor’s requirements and needs. For example, you want to show a different view of your website to a first-time visitor than to an existing lead or a returning customer. With online store personalization, you can present the right content to the right person - to deliver timely and relevant content and time your calls to action perfectly without overwhelming your customers with a multitude of various messages.

The more sophisticated AIs now offer personalization techniques as a package instead ofseparate services as before - push notifications on mobile phones, email messaging, and content recommendations on social media and websites, can all be customized. They are personalized for each customer, using machine learning with the data gathered about an individual across all channels. This means that instead of just personalizing select interactions with the customers, you are now able to personalize an actual customer journey and walk them through it, offering personalized content at every point.

User experience and mobile

M-commerce is one of the B2B ecommerce trends that started a few years ago and is only getting stronger year to year as mobile technology continues to evolve.

By now, a B2B company that wants to be successful on the market pretty much has to provide a functional shopping platform for smartphones and tablets, from optimizing the online store for smaller screens to creating apps, etc.

Many B2B operators now prioritize making their services as convenient as possible for their customers, which means strong mobile support in a lot of cases. With many warehouse workers routinely armed with smartphones and tablets for performing their daily functions, and more and more buyers make purchases while on the road as they move from venue to venue for their job, B2B vendors really need to consider making their websites m-commerce friendly.

AI for content marketing

AIs may not be ready to craft high-quality content yet. With tools like generation analytics and predictive analytics, AI can participate more and more noticeably in the creation process and in some cases, it can even generate actual content.

AI in content marketing can already help with research, outcome tracking and microtargeting. As machines also develop better content editing skills, they could also help streamline content creation and reduce costs in the future.

These are just a few ways, discussed on the media web, that could improve your customers’online experience. The B2B market is more complicated than the B2C – it uses massive online catalogs and additional payment methods. It needs to respond to very diverse customer needs, adding a new level of complexity that is not present in traditional consumer sales. But if a company can adopt these B2B ecommerce trends, it will always stay ahead of the game!

Ilse Lauwens
Director Marketing