Surveys after surveys show that B2B e-commerce is growing faster than B2C. Having watched this sector for a long time, here are 9 trends that we believe are going to be the future of B2B e-commerce.
1. COVID-19 has accelerated the digital initiatives in B2B: There has been a decline in traditional sales channels in the B2B sector due to COVID-19, and an upward trend in investments by the B2B sector in digital channels to compensate for the losses in traditional channels.
2. Personalization gap between B2B e-commerce and B2C e-commerce will narrow: Most B2B e-commerce has been slow to personalize. Historically, personalization has always been the forte of the B2C sector. Yet, studies show that 73% of B2B buyers want B2C kind of personalization. In recent times, there has been an increase in the opinion that B2B and B2C are more similar than different. A business whether B2B or B2C is ‘human to human’ and there is a growing realization that personalization is as important in B2B as it is in B2C.
3. Segmentation and AI-based personalized recommendation in B2B e-commerce will work in tandem: To be successful on the digital channels’ personalization is crucial. The personalised recommendation is becoming more relevant in B2B. A system that allows B2B businesses to segment their customers and personalize the recommendations is required so that customer communication is always relevant.
4. The importance for AI-based personalized search in B2B e-commerce will grow: AI-based search, leveraging NLP/AI, decodes customer queries and understands the customer intent like a human do and maps the customer intent with past behaviour return results and content that is unique to the customer, taking the B2B customer digital experience to the next level. Visual search uses computer vision to search using an image. B2B customers can upload an image and the search engine returns results basing the uploaded image. This is immensely useful if as a customer cannot express things in words. Voice search uses voice recognition and NLP to decode the customer question and return results making typing redundant. Both contribute to enhanced B2B customers’ digital experience.
5. Setup your own shop instead of joining a marketplace will become a trend in B2B e-commerce: B2B industry is recognizing that joining a marketplace such as Amazon will lead to a loss in strategic autonomy. Moreover, B2B companies have unique needs that might not be met by marketplaces. So there has been a trend of ‘setting up your own shop instead of joining a marketplace’ in the B2B sector. A lot of B2B companies have been doing this in the last few years and building strategic autonomy and competitive advantage over their competitors.
6. Instore experience with AR/VR will become a trend in B2B e-commerce: Augmented and virtual reality, which are part of computer vision, are playing a big part here.AR and VR can be used to virtually try products before shoppers can buy and create the in-store experience. Experiencing a product before buying assumes high importance in B2B sector as AR/VR blurs the lines between physical and virtual stores and revolutionize trading.
7. Headless e-commerce will assume more importance in B2B e-commerce: The ability to customize according to the business and customer needs is far more important in B2B as compared to B2C. For example, a company selling machinery has different requirements and customer needs to a company that is selling building and materials. Headless commerce gives the option to customize and innovate with both front-end and back-end. Also, headless commerce allows the B2B companies to continuously evolve to meet the ever-changing customer expectations.
8. CDP/Marketing Automation will become a norm in B2B e-commerce: Nurturing and understanding the prospects assume more importance in the B2B sector than in the CDP/Market automation platform improves sales and revenues by mapping prospect/client journeys and automating personalized marketing communication.
9. Omnichannel communication is more important in B2B compared to B2C: Omnichannel requires purchasing experience to be no different than if the buyer had placed the order on the webshop himself/herself. But it must also follow that, having purchased through one of the agents, the buyer can check the details of his/her consignment by logging on to the webshop. This can be achieved by eliminating the risk of saying different things on different channels, an omnichannel communication strategy.