If the last couple of years has taught us anything, it’s this: change is inevitable.
The world has changed in the wake of the pandemic, and so have all the previous predictions about B2B eCommerce and the emerging trends. The size of the global B2B eCommerce market in 2020 was USD 6.64 trillion.
Between 2021 and 2028, this number is expected to increase at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 18.7%.
Initially, B2B brands were hesitant about adopting eCommerce. However, with the rise in popularity of Amazon Business and the changing buyer demographic of B2B brands, they are looking to improve sales by embracing digital methods.
What’s Different About the B2B Sector?
Over the last decade, the B2B sector has evolved significantly in one aspect: the audience. 59% of the B2B buyers in 2020 were millennials, which is twice what it used to be in 2012.
Before 2020, it was mostly Baby Boomers and Generation X who made up the audience. Baby Boomers likes to get their information from sources such as:
- Sales literature
- Product trials
Generation X, on the other hand, prefers sources like:
- Print ads
- Trades shows
Now, Millennials have grown up alongside technology. They like to conduct online searches before coming to a buying decision. And they seek similar personalized experiences that a sales representative provides, but digitally.
Furthermore, they are the generation with the most college degrees yet. They are also the generation with more student loan debt yet. This is probably why they are cautious when it comes to spending money. And why they want more transparency from the brands they want to buy from.
As of now, 73% of Millennials are involved in the B2B buying process. The “traditional” B2B buyer has changed. So, it should come as no surprise that the sales process should follow suit.
Trend 1: More Brands Are Accepting B2B Mobile Commerce
There’s no denying that a seamless mobile experience for B2B buyers has become a necessity for your business. The following table shows some recent data to back up this claim:
So, what does this mean for your business? It means that before you get your B2B business online, you must first prioritize making it mobile-friendly.
You may think that even though mobile commerce is growing rapidly, it still accounts for a small percentage of your traffic and even a lower fraction of your conversions.
And with desktop still being the primary device for your customers, senior executives will not want to invest in mobile.
What this translates to is:
- Fear of adopting a new channel due to lack of experience
- Fear of the new channel or medium causing paralysis
- Fear of losing revenue due to laggard activity
And you don’t want to be shackled by this fear. Businesses who embrace mobile commerce sooner see more profit through the channel when compared to businesses that wait.
Many brands, such as Atlanta Lightbulbs, went as far as creating a digital commerce app for their B2B customers. This gives their customers the benefit of logging in to the app to see their specific pricing and checking out using a vaulted credit card. All that in a matter of minutes.
Plus, recurring orders can also be carried out faster with an app. Having an app for your brand also helps your sales team with on-the-go sales that sync up instantly with your systems.
“I sometimes start my research for B2B products/services via mobile if something pops into my head when I’m not at a desktop PC, like when I’m traveling or in the evening. If I like what I see, I’ll follow up later via desktop to make a decision.”
-Phil Mackie, Senior Digital Analyst/Owner of Top Sail Digital
Trend 2: Provide B2C-Like Experiences for Your B2B Buyers
More and more B2B buyers are now searching for products online. It’s a fact that B2B customers conduct thorough research on businesses and their products or services before they even think about contacting a sales rep.
This is, again, since a large portion of B2B buyers are now Millennials.
To that end, you must plan and design your website so that your B2B customers can relate to your brand. The way to do this is to think of your customers as B2C shoppers and provide them with a similar experience.
Of course, the mindsets for B2B and B2C sales are not the same. However, any business model has to do the same thing to approach customers: develop a buyer’s journey and target a particular persona.
Some B2B marketing trends that you can adopt for your B2B business are as follows:
- Content marketing
- Data-driven marketing
- Customer experience management
- Building partnerships and relationships with prospects
Additionally, you must also prioritize the User Experience (UX) and User Interface (UI) of your website. You want to make it easy for your shoppers to efficiently find what they are looking for.
This is more important when it concerns B2B customers because they already know what they are looking for even before they land on your site.
Having a highly functional website is now a necessity for any B2B business.
Trend 3: Advancement of Online Marketplaces
In 2018, online marketplaces like Catch, Alibaba.com, Amazon, eBay, and Etsy dominated the retail B2C industry. In fact, they were responsible for more than half of global online retail sales.
Alternatively, B2B eCommerce sales via websites and online marketplaces are advancing and growing at an astonishing rate. So much so that 75% of B2B procurement spending in the next 5 years is expected to happen through an online marketplace.
According to Gartner, the ease of doing business in such a way is most likely to “create a butterfly effect on the eCommerce trend”.
Driving this fast accelerating trend is a highly digital-savvy demographic. Millennials are now seated in executive positions and they are transforming the procurement process.
Since 97% of Millenials typically buy through marketplaces for their own needs, their personal preferences are carried over in their professional practices. 26% of B2B buyers already refer to marketplaces as their choice of purchasing channel.
In ‘Predictions: B2B Commerce and Marketplaces”, Forrester says that buyers “will begin to prefer marketplace buying” for several products, and “many companies will start to expect their tech providers to offer their services through a marketplace approach”.
To be able to keep up with the ever-changing demands of the customers, B2B brands have to start thinking about the role they need to play in a marketplace. They can either take part in a third-party marketplace or go all-in and make their own.
Either solution will create new revenue streams for the brand by embracing channels beyond the company’s web store. They may even be able to access new audiences.
Trend 4: Embrace Direct-To-Consumer (DTC) Channels
Direct-to-Consumer businesses are continuing to flourish as they sell a wide range of products by eliminating middlemen like wholesalers and retailers. And this trend will accelerate as new eCommerce tools and preferences come into play.
The Direct Selling Association UK conducted a survey in 2020 that showed its member companies grew 45.5% on average in sales by launching direct channels.
This means that DTC competitors are one of the major hurdles that many B2B brands are coming up against at the moment.
On the flip side, a DTC channel provides businesses with several benefits, such as:
- Reaching new buyers directly who are willing to buy from the brand
- Assisting traditional brick-and-mortar stores
- Selling unique products that your partners don’t have space for
New Source of Revenue
Many traditional street-side businesses have permanently closed down and some still have not opened their doors to customers yet. These customers are now searching for online sources to buy products they would have typically bought from a store.
This has put manufacturers in an interesting position. They can now meet the customers’ demands and make up for lost sales.
Get Consumer Behaviour Data
You can understand your customers better if you combine their first-party data with their transactional data from retailers.
With the help of this data, you can make strategic business decisions on several aspects of your business such as product development, pricing, and packaging.
Win Your Customer’s Loyalty
By launching a Direct-to-Consumer channel, you start gaining control over the entire buyer’s journey. You can monitor everything from the moment they visit your website until the consumer gets their hands on your product.
This can help you design a highly customized and individualized customer-centric experience for your consumers.
Pick a Trend That Makes Sense for Your Brand
B2B eCommerce has made it out of the pandemic stronger than ever. The trend of consumers anticipating B2B is greater than ever before. For you, as the manufacturer, it’s imperative to understand the right trend worth jumping on.
Some trends may deserve your time and effort, while others might not resonate too well with your target audience. Or, they might prove to be too expensive for your business and make maintaining a reasonable ROI tough.
One trend that you should jump on is having a functional, high-performing, and result-driven website on Shopify PLUS.