Trends & stats

The top B2B eCommerce trends driving higher digital sales

Over the past few years, the B2B space has increasingly relied on ecommerce strategies. The pandemic accelerated this dynamic, underlining the importance of ecommerce experiences while diminishing the importance of face-to-face interactions in B2B sales processes. Paying attention to these trends can help you capitalize on ecommerce growth opportunities, says a recent blog post from Adobe Systems

There are several specific trends that are particularly influential for B2B ecommerce in 2023 and beyond. These reflect buyers’ changing attitudes about how they interact with brands and give organizations guidance to set themselves up for success.

B2B ecommerce statistics

Recent studies regarding the B2B sector highlight the shifts within the industry towards ecommerce strategies and platforms. Digital options for buying and selling can no longer be ignored or dismissed as a sideline or trendy channel.

The rapid developments surrounding pandemic commerce have pushed these channels to the front. The accelerated adoption of online buying due to public health restrictions happened alongside tremendous technological leaps. Ecommerce apps and plug-ins are now easier to set up than ever before, creating a clear path for B2B ecommerce advancements.

McKinsey & Company found that:

  • Nearly two-thirds of B2B companies are now set up for complete online transactions.
  • B2B sellers now report they are more likely to use ecommerce channels to nurture their leads than in-person selling.
  • Ecommerce and in-person sales have already tied as top revenue-producing channels, as ecommerce’s rapid rise has overtaken other channels such as phone sales.

Buyers also seem to prefer these methods, increasing their prominence. Avionos found that:

  • 87% of B2B buyers say that they would pay more for a supplier with an excellent ecommerce portal.
  • 90% of B2B buyers report that brands could lose their business if digital channels don’t keep pace with their needs.

B2B audiences prioritize the ecommerce buying experiences when they select vendors. For your business to remain competitive, stay up to date with shifts in buyer attitudes and trends.

The research regarding shifts in B2B buyers’ priorities and purchasing trends shows a few key strategies to focus on. Adjusting to these B2B ecommerce trends will set your business up for success in 2023 and beyond.

1. Improved management technology

B2B ecommerce transactions have become the standard, and your business needs the agility and efficiency to keep up. Legacy digital systems aren’t enough for B2B ecommerce growth. You need software and tools that can accommodate new customer experience expectations, provide fast service, offer completely digital buying options, and scale with your business.

To make this upgrade effective, look at your systems holistically. Upgrading one piece at a time can make it challenging to integrate tools effectively. A complete system can work together to deliver outstanding experiences for your customers.

There are a lot of technology options available, but a dedicated ecommerce solution is the most robust choice. This type of platform provides full ecommerce capabilities like integrated enterprise resource planning, the ability to create customer-specific catalogs and rules, and the option to let customers track their orders online.

Ecommerce B2B buyers expect a seamless experience, so traditional management tools that segment different aspects of the buyer journey need a revision. Integrating your ecommerce platforms with processes such as supply chain management can help you fulfill expectations.

Some B2B merchants have taken the ecommerce experience a step further with headless commerce, which detaches your online store from the back end of the business — sales management, security, and data processing. This provides greater flexibility and speed for many businesses.

2. Personalized customer experiences

B2C merchants have employed ecommerce personalization for a while now and it’s time for B2B merchants to catch up. A McKinsey & Company study of B2B buyers found that most are looking for more personalized buying experiences and they’re willing to move their business if they don’t get it.

Personalized buying journeys revolve around relationships, which means targeted messaging should stretch from end to end — from personalized account based marketing (ABM) plays and upselling opportunities. Creating seamless and tailored interactions from awareness to purchase to ongoing support increases brand loyalty.

To achieve this, you need to go beyond segmentation. Dig into the factors that define user behavior. Incorporate AI into this process to predict customer needs and cater to their interests. Intelligence can track factors such as browsing habits and social media engagement to better predict what will interest buyers.

Your software and tools should also be updating customer profiles in real time. If a prospect engages with an ad in the morning, for example, that touchpoint should be reflected on the channel they interact with the same afternoon.

3. Fast, high-quality service

Amazon has made free, two-day shipping the standard, and people anticipate that kind of service in every avenue. Buyers expect their orders fulfilled faster than ever regardless of growing order sizes.

Many businesses resolve this issue with product information management (PIM) software. PIM software provides a central location for all the data related to your products. As you balance sales across multiple channels, PIM keeps your product information up-to-date across the different platforms.

Third-party fulfillment (3PL) providers are another channel that B2B brands can use to meet buyers’ needs faster. These partners assume responsibility for warehousing and order fulfillment on behalf of your brand. They are often better equipped to deliver fast processing and delivery than the average B2B company.

4. Omnichannel experiences

Omnichannel is another area that B2C merchants have long dominated, but B2B merchants have begun to take notes. Buyers encounter an increasing number of touchpoints across different channels before they make a purchase, and according to McKinsey they want even more. Ensure they have positive, integrated experiences on every channel.

In the B2B industry, customer touchpoints often include mobile apps, websites, social media platforms, and marketplaces. If a prospect engages with your mobile app or website before reaching out to a sales representative, they expect that rep to know about that previous interaction. This insight can provide key details to help draw the buyer in with an appealing offer.

Start by examining your target audience to understand where they are most likely to go looking for you. Select one or two channels and master them before stretching your team too thin across too many platforms. Remain actively engaged so leads don’t experience delays when they reach out, and integrate tools so the data from these channels is shared. Once you have the most important channels working smoothly, expand to another one.

5. Changing marketplaces

The shift toward ecommerce models has expanded interest in marketplaces. Instead of running sales exclusively through traditional channels like a brand website or a team of sales reps, B2B merchants have begun adapting to marketplaces formerly dominated by B2C merchants. Large and small companies can use marketplaces to reach prospects, but there are different types of marketplaces that B2B companies are likely to select.

Smaller companies typically make use of third-party marketplaces such as Amazon Business. Onboarding with a third party is often easier and more affordable than trying to create an independent marketplace.

On the other hand, larger businesses often create their own marketplaces, such as Yakima Chief Hops’ Spot Market, which sells a variety of hops to breweries all over the country. Third-party marketplaces don’t offer much customization, and mass B2B marketplaces do not care which company gets the sale. Building an independent platform might require more time and money upfront, but many merchants find them more valuable in the long run.

6. Social commerce

Social commerce is another channel commonly associated with B2C selling, but B2B merchants are poised to grow social selling dramatically in the coming years. According to Gartner, 46% of your buyers already use social media when researching solutions, so embrace social media to reach and engage them.

B2b social commerce stat

Social media isn’t just a place for a business to promote itself and build brand awareness — it’s a marketplace itself. Companies can build a store directly on Facebook, Instagram, or other social media channels, allowing customers to buy instantly without leaving the app or network. Selling directly from social media is an important part of the larger trend toward fast, convenient, personalized service, no matter the channel.

7. Self-service portals

To answer buyers’ expectations for fast, seamless experiences, many B2B businesses are offering self-service options throughout the buyer journey. Self-service portals for B2B ecommerce allow users to find answers to their questions, submit a support request, schedule an appointment, and more.

With these capabilities, customers can research their product options and purchase without directly interacting with sales representatives. Self-service options streamline the purchasing process and can make the transaction smoother. According to McKinsey & Company, self-service options have become as popular for buyers as face-to-face transactions or digital engagements with a sales rep.

As companies implement these portals, many start with simple options that track orders or accept payments. Later, the company can scale up to offer more advanced self-service options like browsing the entire B2B catalog or initiating tech support.

8. New payment options

Pandemic restrictions cut into the revenue of many organizations, and payment options that helped to alleviate the stress became increasingly popular. These options allow installments or delayed payments, helping buyers get what they need despite low cash flow. B2B buyers today expect the same flexibility when they make their purchases, including access to mobile wallet transactions. Credit-as-a-service platforms allow businesses to set up postponed payments or to help manage invoices.

Automation has also become critical for B2B ecommerce payment options. When you automate systems like accounts payable and receivable, your company can save time and communicate with customers faster. Ensuring that bills and receipts of payment are tracked seamlessly reduces frustration for your buyers.

9. Focus on existing customers

B2B merchants are putting renewed emphasis on existing customers, particularly when rolling out new ecommerce capabilities. Retaining and marketing to current clients and known buyers costs less than acquiring new customers and generates a better ROI on marketing efforts. B2B ecommerce provides unique opportunities to deepen existing customer relationships.

Bringing current customers into ecommerce capabilities can help build loyalty, which contributes to retention. For example, many B2B businesses are prioritizing existing relationships through early access to new features and priority service to increase customer loyalty and improve retention.

Focusing on your existing customers can also help you maximize customer lifetime value. Buyers who appreciate your ecommerce capabilities and self-services tools will be more open to upselling and cross-selling opportunities.

10. Mobile optimization

As B2B ecommerce grows, there has been a significant jump in mobile engagement. The pandemic pushed buying online and onto mobile devices, and B2B buyers were not left behind. According to McKinsey & Company:

Mobile b2b stats
  • B2B mobile ordering has increased 250% the past two years.
  • There was a 30% increase in buyers who prefer to use mobile devices to make purchases.

Optimize mobile channels so your prospects and buyers can make purchases as efficiently as possible. For example, a mobile app is an excellent means of standing out from your competitors and offering something unique to entice potential buyers. If you do not think a mobile app fits well with your business, then a well-optimized, mobile-friendly site with a catalog of products and purchase options can keep your business ready for mobile customers.

11. Metaverse and augmented reality

Some of the hottest tech trends over the last few years include virtual and augmented reality (AR), and developments will likely continue at a rapid rate. According to Statista, between 2022 and 2025, the market for virtual reality is expected to grow from $12 billion to $22 billion.

B2b ecommerce trend: metaverse and augmented reality

B2B merchants are beginning to pay attention to the significance of these developments. Projected uses include the ability to create immersive exhibits or product demonstrations. For example, Cisco has been using AR for years to give product users instant access to specs and installation instructions — just by pointing their device’s camera at the equipment. More recently, Cisco announced an AR meeting solution to improve remote collaboration and training.

12. Sustainability initiatives

Concern about climate change and sustainability also impact B2B buying decisions. The American Marketing Association-New York’s Future of Marketing study revealed that a company’s commitment to sustainability is a priority for 24% of B2B buyers.

More companies have prioritized sustainability efforts to cater to this increasingly environmentally conscious market. Sustainable packaging for your products, environmentally friendly shipping options, and net-zero emissions programs are a few popular strategies for emphasizing your business’s commitment to sustainability through your ecommerce portal.

Get started with B2B ecommerce

Omnichannel marketing, personalized customer experiences, social commerce, and mobile optimization will be some of the most important ecommerce trends in 2023. Each one represents a tremendous shift in how B2B merchants have traditionally engaged with prospects and customers, and they require that B2B companies pay closer attention to the entire digital customer journey.

Omnichannel marketing and social commerce have stretched B2B ecommerce businesses to engage in new areas. At the same time, mobile optimization and personalized experiences require the integration of new technology and finding new opportunities to engage with customers.

When you are ready to put these insights to work for you, make sure you are in a position to upgrade from a legacy system. Having the right technology in place will be your first step toward implementing these B2B ecommerce strategies.

If you are looking for solutions that will allow you to integrate your B2B sales with an ecommerce platform, Adobe Commerce can help. With the ability to manage multiple sales channels, create personalized experiences for customer segments, and scale as your business grows, this platform can take your business into the future.

FAQ

If you still have questions about the latest B2B ecommerce trends, that means you’re probably paying attention to the rapidly changing industry. Here are some of the most common questions asked.

B2B ecommerce has seen a few tremendous shifts over the last few years, including:

  • Improving management technology
  • Providing personalized customer experiences
  • Offering fast and high-quality service
  • Building omnichannel experiences
  • Taking advantage of changing marketplaces
  • Creating social commerce options
  • Building self-service portals
  • Offering new payment options
  • Focusing efforts on existing customers
  • Remembering the importance of mobile optimization
  • Stepping into the metaverse and augmented reality
  • Integrating sustainability initiatives

As a B2B merchant, evaluate each emerging trend in light of your company’s goals and strategies. While businesses need to stay on top of all the different trends to get a feel for how the industry is evolving, not every new strategy will be the right fit for every company. Focus on those that align closely with your company’s goals and fit within your available resources.

How big is the B2B ecommerce market?

The B2B ecommerce market has shown tremendous signs of growth as the pandemic, emerging technology, and shifting consumer preferences have all placed pressure on the sector. According to McKinsey & Company, two-thirds of B2B companies now offer different ecommerce options when engaging customers. Ecommerce has also risen so sharply that B2B sellers are now more likely to provide customers with ecommerce options than traditional in-person selling options.

Customer preferences play a huge role, and 87% of buyers say they would pay more for a supplier that can offer them an excellent ecommerce portal, according to an Avionos report. Companies that do not meet customers’ digital expectations may also experience problems with customer retention, as Avionos also reports that 90% of B2B buyers say they would go to a competitor if their digital needs were unmet.

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About the B2BEA

The B2B eCommerce Association is a global network and resource hub for B2B practitioners, offering invaluable opportunities to connect and learn. Our mission is to empower manufacturers and distributors in their eCommerce and digital transformation journeys through useful tools, practical resources and exceptional networking opportunities. Join us to thrive in our dynamic industry

Want to become a member?

Become a member of the B2B eCommerce Association for free today. Connect, learn and find new opportunities. 

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