B2B e-commerce is growing fast and furious. The reality is that the once-dream scenario of a global economy is fast becoming a reality. And B2B e-commerce might just be one of the first sectors to feel the full weight of a market with truly global competition: no real location barriers, nor technological gaps.
Obviously, this will still take some time to become a reality. And yet, it might be less than what you think. That’s why today, we want to review the key challenges that B2B e-commerce needs to tackle before 2025. A two-year time span that will define the future of B2B e-commerce.
Let us begin!
B2B e-commerce key challenges
1. Prolonged resource shortages
This one is a no-brainer: if something taught us about the Covid-19 crisis, is that global supply chains are fickle and fragile. And things can go south pretty fast. That’s why since 2020 almost all companies involved in B2B need to have a plan B for possible prolonged resource shortages.
And we are talking about not only the supplier companies, or the manufacturers, but also if you are a B2B consumer company, that buys products via B2B e-commerce, for a later B2C operation.
In any case, you need access to multiple links in your supply chain. Links that should not be located in the same geographical regions. And you need the tools to understand what your customer needs from you, to increase the level of trust your B2B business can offer them.
These two elements will be vital for dealing with prolonged resource shortages.
Multiple possible sources for your B2B operation
The first challenge is to spread the risk: of having multiple possible sources for your B2B operation in different geographic locations.
To do so before the outbreak of B2B e-commerce would have surely required a massive logistic and administrative operation.
Nowadays, it is a different story. With the help of B2B e-commerce platforms like, for example, Intershop, your company could automatize, simplify, and generally speaking multiply the administrative and logistics capacity of your B2B operations.
So handling multiple possible B2B suppliers and customers, regardless of their location, has not only become technologically achievable, but you can also top it all by adding personalization to each and every one of the links in your B2B operation chain.
So you won't lose track of who is who, who does what, and where and when you can count on them.
Increase the level of trust of your B2B partners and customers
The second key element to contain or minimize the effect of future prolonged resource shortages is to constantly work toward increasing the level of trust your partners and customers have in your brand and business.
For this, building a customer journey is vital. You need to understand all the steps your customers take, before and after the purchase. Or at least most of it. So you can realize which areas have more impact in their decision-making process, to focus all of your resources on actually improving their experience in these areas.
A frictionless buying experience is your go-to. From product discovery to after-sale services, your B2B platform needs to have the capability to provide a satisfying frictionless experience and also, to gather the data in a comprehensible and useful manner, so you can later improve upon it.
2. New payment options
A key element of the near future of B2B e-commerce is going to be payment options. As more and more Millennials reach decision-making positions inside companies from all over the world, more and more out-of-the-box payment options are being requested.
What are we talking about here? We talk about the possibility – in the near future – of using platforms that are digital native payment solutions like PayPal or Stripe for B2B e-commerce.
Currently, this is not a real possibility due to this kind of platform's inherent caps in the volume of transactions. But in a near future, it is most likely that this kind of platform will offer more competitive fees for large-volume transactions.
And why is it important that native online payment solutions join the battlefield of B2B e-commerce? Because the likes of PayPal and Stripe are optimized for mobile purchases and also, are the payment platforms that have dabbled – in a more successful way – with cryptocurrencies. Something that will surely become a popular global payment option before 2025.
Now let’s address the elephant in the room: in light of our tumultuous times, many companies have found that being offshore is perhaps not the best course of action.
Reshoring is slowly gaining traction among companies from the EU, where the global supply chain shortages hit harder, perhaps, than in the U.S. Also, the EU now faces what looks like a possible massive energy crisis derived from the war in Ukraine.
So if you are in the EU, take this with a grain of salt. Regardless, reshoring is slowly becoming a trend for many global companies, especially in the U.S. where offshoring heavily impacted and defined the economy of the late 90’.
According to a report published in 2014 by a group of professors from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), the U.S. lost approximately 2 to 2.4 million jobs between 1999 and 2011 due to the increase in imports from China.
Since then, the phenomenon of offshoring, particularly to China, has been declining as the Asian giant's economy has grown and with it, the wages of its employees. Add to this the situation with Covid – that hit China harder than any other country – and you can pretty much paint a clear picture of why reshoring is becoming a thing.
But, what advantages bring reshoring for B2B e-commerce? Well, mostly it allows companies that are B2B dependent on other offshore production centers, to have a local supplier or plan B.
Or, in some cases even shift their entire B2B supply chain to local suppliers. Something that, thanks to the ease of use and ease of handling that B2B e-commerce platforms provide, can be achieved in but a few simple clicks.
4. Hybrid work is a reality
The possibility to work from anywhere is something deeply connected to the Internet and so, to all kinds of e-commerce. For B2B e-commerce, this is no different.
Current B2B e-commerce platforms need to take into consideration that employees no longer will be working from an office or – as matter of fact – from the same physical location all the time.
This means that any B2B e-commerce platform that wishes to remain relevant in the near future, must be able to bridge the gap and allow employees and users to connect from anywhere they please.
Intershop has tackled this issue going one step beyond: not only allowing users to connect from multiple different locations but to work online and offline.
This is achieved thanks to Intershop's progressive web application capabilities, which allow its e-commerce B2B platform to work online and offline from anywhere in the world.
5. Corporate environmental sustainability and social responsibility
Finally, B2B e-commerce needs to be absolutely aware of both, corporate environmental sustainability and social responsibility.
People all over the world are keener and keener on environmental issues. According to the latest Tetra Pack Index, 62% of consumers are paying more attention to the quality of what they eat and drink, while 54% are throwing away less food now than before the pandemic.
And notably, 72% of the people surveyed claimed that they will take into consideration the environmental impact of brands and companies, before purchasing their products.
This is why your B2B e-commerce platform needs to be efficient and environmentally responsible, and also, to look like it. Meaning, you need tools inside your B2B e-commerce platform to communicate where you stand regarding the environmental matter to your B2B audience.
Something that can be achieved by some B2B e-commerce platforms thanks to solutions like Intershop’s Customer Engagement Center and Order Management System (OMS). The Customer Engagement Center provides any B2B business with the tools to locate and identify the customer journey points of your audience, and their preferred communication channels. Intershop's OMS enables efficient order routing that can reduce CO2 emissions by ensuring perfectly coordinated fulfillment processes.
We have no doubt that, if you tackle the majority of the key issues for B2B e-commerce that we mention here, before 2025, your business will be in a great position to keep growing and increase its profitability!