The transformation of B2B e-commerce is well underway. This year, however, we should reach a crucial turning point – with market developments and technological innovations that will change the industry for good. We take a closer look at the seven most spectacular B2B e-commerce trends because they all have the potential to take your online business to a whole new level:
If you compare the status quo of B2B e-commerce to two years ago, you will be surprised. B2B e-commerce always lagged a bit behind B2C commerce in terms of innovation and adaptation. This was because there were many traditionally minded wholesalers and manufacturers, and often rather basic digital tools were used. However, the B2B industry has since caught up, with all the opportunities and challenges that entails.
Now that the pandemic is largely over, new crises are emerging, from uncertain energy supplies to faltering supply chains to geopolitical saber-rattling. At the same time, technological progress, demographic change, and the advent of millennials and digital natives are opening up new possibilities, markets, target groups, and opportunities.
These are the seven most spectacular B2B e-commerce trends:
1. AI-powered search and recommendations
More than just hype? The fact is that the introduction of ChatGPT is widely perceived as a turning point. The increasingly engaging and diverse user experience (UX) offered by new AI assistants will be of great benefit to B2B e-commerce companies. In particular, because B2B vendors often have large assortments with many products and particular specifications, AI-driven search and customized, data-driven recommendations can help customers find exactly what they need. Just think of spare parts, extensive catalogs of upgrade parts, and parts that may not fit a particular configuration. Using AI saves staff resources, improves service, and delivers personalized offers. The hybrid application is where the biggest gains lie right now.
2. Digital self-services
As mentioned earlier, one important difference between B2C and B2B e-commerce is the level of complexity. In B2B e-commerce, digital customer portals are the perfect solution for providing B2B customers with practical self-service functionalities and thus boosting after-sales business, for example. After all, keeping machines running requires services, spare parts, and consumables. All this can be ordered much more quickly and efficiently via self-services in the digital customer portal than by contacting sales staff who are only available during business hours. However, B2B companies also benefit more than B2C providers from self-service options because they are much more likely to have long-term customer relationships. According to McKinsey, 86 percent of B2B managers would rather use self-service solutions for repeat orders than talk to a salesperson. With a customer portal, your customers have 24/7 access to relevant functionalities which is a big plus in terms of customer satisfaction and retention!
3. Visualization (virtual commerce)
Humans are visual by nature. Accordingly, more than 22 percent of all Google searches are also focused on images. According to a report by JustUNO, online buyers consider visual content, i.e., images, graphics, and videos, to be a vital component of their decision to buy or not any given product or service online. In B2B e-commerce, online buyers sometimes lack a visual experience when making a purchase. Virtual commerce is used to solve this problem, but so far mainly as a marketing cantrip or gimmick. This is now coming to an end, with a range of new practical applications, from video tutorial support to 3D configuration setups, full product rotations, product explosions, direct access to PDFs and visually presented instructions and manuals. According to the PwC report Seeing is Believing, the virtual commerce sector will create 24 million new jobs by 2030.
4. Progressive web apps
More and more companies around the world are turning to progressive web apps (PWAs). The advantages are obvious: They are flexible, very user-friendly, available offline, and can be customized to every user’s needs and insight goals. That's why PWAs are the ideal solution for mobile B2B commerce. They combine the best of both worlds: The classic e-commerce website is optimized for the web browser and just as accessible on mobile. And all without the hassle of creating and maintaining a mobile app. According to a study by Google, PWAs can increase conversion rates by up to 20 percent. For B2B brands and businesses, using a PWA is therefore one of the most effective and easiest ways to create powerful (mobile) websites that require no app development, download, or installation.
5. Packaged business capabilities for composable commerce
Today, the relationships between B2B organizations and their value chain partners are constantly changing. No one-size-fits-all solution can represent and manage our complex world with its endless technological advances and constant changes. That is why hybrid commerce is an indispensable solution to give companies the flexibility to respond to market dynamics and quickly reap the benefits of new technologies. Composable commerce, combined with packaged business capabilities (PBCs), offers the best balance between the traditional e-commerce platform approach and various other microservices. PBCs offer companies the flexibility to customize (“compose”) their e-commerce solution while using as many off-the-shelf components as possible. After all, B2B companies don't have to reinvent the wheel when it comes to e-commerce.
6. Sustainability in e-fulfillment
Another important trend is achieving e-fulfillment sustainability. Order management systems play an important role here. Sustainable e-logistics not only increases the profitability and overall efficiency of e-commerce operations, especially in B2B e-commerce. It also contributes to environmental protection, which is becoming increasingly important to customers. According to a NetO report, 73 percent of online consumers consider climate impact when choosing a brand. A Wunderman Thompson survey also shows that 65 percent of B2B buyers are willing to accept a longer delivery time if it makes delivery more environmentally sustainable. Keep in mind that, in the long run, these statistics also reflect the generational shift in the executive suites of global e-commerce companies. After all, we are talking about Millennials and the Digital Native generation here, and these and subsequent generations are becoming increasingly important and powerful when it comes to B2B purchases.
7. Autonomous commerce
The last trend is more than just a single trend in itself: Autonomous commerce combines all six of the above trends. It is not only a logical and natural evolution of global e-commerce development, but also a pretty efficient way to handle B2B e-commerce. In the future, buyers and sellers will be increasingly supported by AI and automation to make work easier on both sides. Autonomous commerce offers B2B commerce companies the perfect approach to improve or optimize online shopping. This is all about increasing convenience and options for potential buyers, lowering transaction costs, speeding up e-logistics, and reducing waste. The result is an improvement in the overall profitability of the complete B2B business.
Would you like to learn more? Then download our Digital Trends Report on the seven most spectacular B2B e-commerce trends in 2023 now: