5 B2B eCommerce Trends to Watch Out for in 2021
Things have changed in the dynamic B2B commerce world. Relentless technological innovation has driven digital transformation in marketing, with B2B at the forefront of this lucrative industry. According to reports, the global B2B eCommerce sales are to reach over $6.6 trillion by 2020, surpassing business-to-consumer (B2C) valued at $3.2 trillion by 2020.
At the same time, a generational shift has occurred. Millennials lead the new wave of B2B buyers, where 73% of millennials provide input and 34% act as decision-makers. Such influential roles mean that their different demands cannot be taken lightly. This generation views the B2B purchase process through the lens of a B2C consumer. Used to superior B2C experiences as personal consumers, they arrive at B2B websites with lofty expectations of similarly exceptional customer experience. B2B businesses can expect a few areas where this next generation will increase how eCommerce will be conducted.
Below are the top trends that will shape the B2B eCommerce world of 2021, presenting the most significant opportunities for forward-thinking businesses to ignite their B2B growth.
Acceleration of Online B2B Marketplaces
Online marketplaces such as Amazon, eBay, Alibaba.com, Etsy have dominated the retail B2C industry, accounting for more than 50% of global online retail sales in 2018. On the other hand, B2B eCommerce sales through websites and online marketplaces are accelerating, and growth is at an all-time high. Only 6% of B2B buyers do not currently use online marketplaces, and 75% of B2B procurement spending is projected to happen via an online marketplace within the next five years. Gartner predicts that the simplicity of doing business this way is likely to “create a butterfly effect on the eCommerce trend.”
This fast accelerating trend is being driven by an increasingly digital-savvy demographic. Millennials in executive positions are changing up the procurement process. 97% of millennials generally buy through marketplaces for their personal needs, and this preference carries over into professional spheres. Even now, 26% of B2B buyers already identify marketplaces as their most preferred purchasing channels. In ‘Predictions: B2B Commerce and Marketplaces”, Forrester notes that buyers “will begin to prefer marketplace buying” for a wide range of products, and “many companies will start to expect their tech providers to offer their services through a marketplace approach.”
The time for action is now. To keep pace with the evolving demands of buyers, B2B businesses should start thinking about what role they want to play in a marketplace. They can participate in a third-party marketplace or go one step further and create their own. Both will generate new revenue streams through selling beyond the company’s web store and accessing new customer pools. For businesses who choose to orchestrate their own, here are some questions to consider:
- What niche will your marketplace be catering to?
- What business model will your marketplace use?
- Who are your target users? And how will you attract them to your platform?
After nailing down the concepts and direction of the marketplace, the next step would be bringing it to life. While developing one from scratch is undoubtedly an option, a faster and low-cost alternative would be to use a B2B marketplace software.
A shift towards Lightning Fast Order Fulfilment
As more and more B2B companies cross the digital threshold, the need for fast and efficient fulfillment processes has become increasingly urgent. In a post-Amazon world, millennials are driving this demand. They expect B2B companies to provide quick shipping options on par with B2C merchants, with 56% of millennials expecting same-day delivery. “We see across the board increasing demand over the last couple of years for same-day delivery, but particularly for millennials,” said Sean Spector, CEO of Dropoff. “And businesses that don’t figure out how to do this will struggle.”
Automating the warehousing process reduces human error and time taken to store and pick products, making the B2B order fulfillment process more efficient. With growing labor costs and customer expectations, those with the financial firepower to keep pace with technological advances may find automating their warehousing a worthy investment to achieve that lightning-fast order fulfillment.
Creating Seamless Omnichannel Experience
Omnichannel selling refers to building a solid physical and digital brand presence. This means that customers could be on the web stores, social platforms, or even in brick-and-mortar stores, and the shopping experience would be the same. The average B2B customer uses six different interaction channels throughout the buying process. Establishing an active and consistent omnichannel presence is becoming increasingly crucial for B2B companies to adapt to changing buyer behavior.
Around 61% of B2B companies plan to implement omnichannel initiatives soon, while 36% have already taken the first step. In 2020, companies will be working towards engaging customers with effortless transitions between channels. Key questions businesses should consider when deciding which channels to be active on:
- Where are our customers most active? — and where do they expect us to be?
- Which channels can we deliver the most value on?
The channels with an overlap between the two factors are those with the most returns. Making every touchpoint up-to-date and relevant and bridging the gap between online and offline is critical in providing customers with a fully integrated shopping experience.
Growing Expectations on Customer Personalization
As the B2B eCommerce world adapts to create a more B2C-like customer experience, the importance of personalization cannot be understated. Research has found that 50% of B2B buyers identified improved personalization as a critical feature when searching for online suppliers to build relationships, with consumers spending 48% more when their experience is personalized.
Amazon has already employed these personalization features skilfully — log in to your Amazon account and see categories based on your previous searches, ads tailored to your browser history, and recommended products based on past purchases. Amazon Business has also followed the footsteps of its B2C counterpart to replicate success in the B2B market. They did this by personalizing customer content on an individual level.
Examples of good personalization features include:
- Services based on customer location
- Recommendations based upon historic purchases
- Follow-up emails or personalized newsletters based on customer behavior
- Recent products sorted by interest level
- Customized product catalogs, navigation experience, and checkout processes
It is common knowledge that acquiring a new customer is always more costly than retaining an existing one. A study by Bain & Company shows that B2B companies can expect between a 25% to 95% increase in profits with just a 5% boost in their customer retention rate.
Loyalty programs are all the rage in B2C retail. In B2B, customer loyalty takes on an even more crucial role. Smaller customer pool, higher acquisition costs, longer sales cycle, and much higher sales value are all contributing factors. The B2B industry thrives on retention and repeats purchases, where established, steadily growing companies generate 60% to 80% of their revenues from existing customers.
In 2020-21, companies that successfully convert new customers into steady, recurrent revenues will evade stagnation and come out in front.
However, not all B2C loyalty strategies will work with B2B buyers. Each customer’s business model is different, and you can come up with a set of value-driven loyalty programs that maximise the value to their businesses.
With these approaches, B2B companies will be better positioned to tap into the unseen ROI of each customer and build a continual business, paving the path to profit in the long run.