Online shopping and buying goods and services on the Internet continues to be popular worldwide. Online shoppers in 2019 were estimated at 1.92 billion. That’s about 25% of the world’s population. When you consider that only 58% of the world population has any sort of internet access, it’s clear that those with internet access use it to shop. In the US, nearly 70% of adults shop online. And they love using mobile devices to do their shopping. Of those aged 30-49, 87% made a purchase on a mobile device. Online shopping is almost as common as watching online videos or using social networks. Recent projections from Statista indicate ecommerce will grow globally about 20% by the end of 2019, reaching an astounding $3.5 trillion in retail sales and representing about 13.7% of all sales. By 2021, the number is projected to grow to 17.5%.
The booming eCommerce sector can be attributed to the shift in the demographics of buyers. The younger generations prefer to shop online rather than in stores. Gen X consumers (born between 1966 and 1981) make more online purchases than any other age group. They take advantage of in-depth product information, explanatory videos, live chats, and customer reviews to make the best buying decision. But consumers of all ages love the convenience of modern eCommerce websites. B2B eCommerce grew from the desire of business buyers to make business purchases as easily as they make their own personal purchases. In 2012 B2B eCommerce surpassed B2C in overall revenues.
It’s clear eCommerce is here to stay. In a rapidly evolving ecosystem, here is a look at what B2B buyers wanted in 2019 and the key B2B eCommerce trends that meet those needs in 2020.
What B2B Buyers Wanted in 2019
Sapio Research surveyed buyers that purchase from manufacturers, wholesalers, and distributors to find out what they wanted most in 2019 from their buying experience. It’s no surprise they wanted more opportunities to buy online. The insights were telling.
30% of buyers wanted to purchase at least 90% of products online, but only 19% are currently doing so.
What’s holding them back? Friction in the journey. Buyers report that their online buying attempts are aborted when they can’t find the information they need online (such as product details, shipping options or payment methods) and they resort to contacting a sales rep by phone or email.
For the orders that they are able to place online, B2B buyers would like to see improvements that make their job easier. These include:
- Easier and faster checkout
- Easier repeat ordering
- Improved online order tracking
- Faster delivery
You might not be able to control the speed at which UPS or FedEx delivers, but you can address the other items on the buyers wish list. When buyers switch channels during their purchasing journey, it should be their choice and not a necessity foisted upon them by poor web store design or a failure to provide all the information they need to complete their purchase. Omni-channel options, personalization, and optimizing for voice search are just a few ways you can make the buyers job easier.
Omnichannel selling entails establishing a strong brand footprint using different channels in addition to your webstore or brick-and-mortar presence. In addition to your webstore, online channels include social platforms, online marketplaces, and even good old phone calls. The average B2B buyer uses six channels over the course of their buying journey.
Today’s buyers are increasingly more likely to choose a brand with a well-voiced outreach on social platforms, such as Instagram, Snapchat, and Facebook. 69% of US adults used at least one social media channel in 2019. Because 90% of brands use social media to build brand awareness, chances are your competitor uses social media too. In 2020, companies will continue to use social media to connect on a human level, respond when things go wrong, and use social listening to spot industry trends. Social media tools will be more important than ever.
No matter how many channels you use, make sure your network offers a consistent buying experience. Your eCommerce store should be the same quality as your eye-catching ads on Instagram to maximize the conversion rate.
These days, 62% of B2B buyers start their purchasing journey with an online search. And once they start searching, nearly 90% of shoppers consider detailed content as being extremely important to the purchasing process.
But unfortunately, analyst firm Frost & Sullivan reports that only 26% of companies have successfully mastered their B2B eCommerce channel. In 2020, B2B eCommerce, companies will customize their solutions to meet the different eCommerce needs of B2B buyers and utilize multiple channels to engage with customers and leads.
Continued customer engagement
Customer engagement that goes beyond the point of purchase will continue to be a leading B2B eCommerce trend in 2020. B2B buyers want to buy online but they still want to do business with a company that knows them and understands their needs. Many of the B2B eCommerce trends for 2020 focus on building and maintaining relationships. It makes good financial sense. The cost of acquiring a new customer is five to seven times more than retaining an existing one. The most effective strategies for continued customer engagement include targeted advertising, email marketing, content marketing, loyalty apps, and gathering customer feedback.
Advertising will continue to increase but the exact profile of advertising channels will differ depending on your product category and target audience. For example, if you are relying on social media as an advertising channel, video will be more important than ever in 2020. That’s because 70% of B2B buyers watch videos on their path to purchase. According to the State of Inbound Report, 45% of marketers are planning to add YouTube and 41% will be adding Facebook Video to their marketing mix.
Email marketing remains a reliable and ROI-proven tactic for almost any segment of eCommerce. One research suggests that email marketing stands above any other digital marketing strategy in terms of ROI. When integrated with an eCommerce web store, email marketing enables your business to connect with your customers and provide product recommendations, personal offerings/promotions, product retargeting messages, abandoned cart notifications, and more. Triggered emails will continue to rise in popularity as their open rate is 50% higher than non-triggered emails.
Content marketing and SEO are additional marketing efforts for driving traffic to your website, improving the buying experience, and winning customers’ loyalty. Detailed content is extremely important for 90% of shoppers. Long form content (over 1,000 words) became popular in 2019 and will continue to be effective in 2020 as audiences are looking for insight into a topic. Audio visual content will continue to increase in popularity as well, as shown by this infographic from the Content Marketing Institute.
Loyalty apps are still underutilized as estimates suggest that around 40% of retailers offer them to their customers. Mobile apps offer convenience, speed, and a variety of methods for continued customer engagement, such as rewards, gamification techniques, in-store notifications, and others. In B2B, mobile apps play an equally important role by enabling a smooth user experience for repeat customers as well as enabling new marketing mediums for sellers.
Voice search and mobile will continue to shape UX
20% of all searches in the Google app are by voice now. With over 119 million smart speakers in the US alone, people are getting used to talking to their devices. Optimizing your digital experience for voice search and mobile display is mission critical for B2B eCommerce success.
Mobile has been a significant B2B eCommerce trend to watch in the past and 2020 will be no different. According to Google and Boston Consulting Group projections, the share of mobile traffic will take up as much as 70% of B2B search queries. Voice search is much more conversational, so long keywords will become the norm instead of the exception.
Since Siri and Google Assistant often only provide the Search Snippet as the answer, this search engine result position will be more coveted than ever. Companies will find themselves creating long FAQs in an effort to score the Snippet spot.
Because voice searchers most likely are using mobile devices, it’s more important than ever that every page of your website is optimized for the mobile experiences. Mobile apps may be key to getting the most from your marketing efforts. 90% of B2B buyers are willing to make another purchase from a vendor that provides a superior mobile experience. A mobile app may just be the difference between a ho-hum experience and a driver of repeat sales.
B2B eCommerce Solutions
B2B eCommerce is estimated to be nearly 2.5 times larger than B2C online retail and growing rapidly, which represents a treasure trove of opportunities for any business. However, in order to tap into B2B segments, eCommerce companies have to address the specific needs of the corporate buyer and provide B2B-oriented eCommerce solutions that enable the following:
- Vast personalization – managing different prices for the same product for different customers, providing unique loyalty programs, and offering personalized custom catalogs on the same eCommerce store.
- Longer sales cycles – due to larger order values in B2B and multiple stakeholders, a typical sales lifecycle involves multiple interactions between a buyer and a seller. This requires specific features to streamline these interactions on an eCommerce portal.
- Support of different types of buyer-seller interaction – B2B eCommerce companies may be largely different in how they do business, which usually requires the support of unique business processes for their eCommerce store. Whether you sell through sales reps, a self-service model, or you want to create a multi-vendor marketplace, select the platform that can fit your business processes.
- Scalability for global development – a scalable B2B eCommerce solution allows for unlimited growth of your eCommerce web stores. Be sure your solution can address all multi-websites, multi-brands, and multi-locale requirements should your business need them.
Upgrading traditional eCommerce solutions to support B2B use cases will be a major priority for companies competing in the B2B segment.
B2B eCommerce trends that impact organizational structure
eCommerce integration will continue to impact organizational structures more than ever before. While a Frost & Sullivan study pointed to technology integration as the biggest barrier to B2B eCommerce success, for the companies that do make the transition to integrated eCommerce, the transformational affect is felt throughout the organization.
The new era of digitalization requires new digital tools, people with new skills, and multi-system integration. Sales, marketing and insights teams will transform how they operate, and new positions will be created. As a result, sales teams will be more efficient, processes optimized, and data will flow freely between your ERP and your eCommerce solution. To help you better understand these trends, we’ve put together several guides. In Building a Winning eCommerce Team you’ll discover the major roles involved in eCommerce and how your organizational structure will change. In Mastering ERP for B2B eCommerce Success you will learn how to plan and execute a successful ERP and eCommerce integration.
Companies will rely more heavily on their CRM. In the transformed digital organization, the CRM will be used by more than just the sales force. Technical support and customer service will rely on CRM access to get a 360° view of every customer and every customer touchpoint and interaction.
B2B eCommerce As a Strategy
In 2020, successful operations will no longer consider eCommerce a function, but it will become a strategy. B2B may trail B2C in terms of digital maturity, but for the companies that adopt a digital strategy the results are highly profitable.
One of the most important B2B eCommerce trends to watch in 2020 is how well digital leaders continue to perform. B2B ecommerce digital leaders generate 3.5% more revenue and are 15% more profitable.
Once digitizing is a strategy, future-proof solutions will be more important than ever to continued success. Flexible and purposefully built B2B solutions will replace B2C platforms repurposed for B2B. No longer will B2C solutions offer the customization and scalability necessary to meet the financial goals of modern B2B eCommerce. A $1billion investment by GE in a digital strategy in 2015 is estimated to payoff in $15 billion of new revenue in 2020.
Offline B2B eCommerce Trends
The use of 3PL will continue to rise as companies focus more on the journey to the customer purchase and leave the journey of the product to experts in warehousing and transportation. Amazon has set the bar high for B2C and B2B eCommerce. 3PL allows companies to scale without major investments in facilities or infrastructure. Increased globalization and the ability to handle all modes of transportation will also be factors that make 3PL services more attractive. Additionally, as the cost of freight continues to rise, freight consolidation services will serve as a way to hold down costs. If you have not investigated 3PL for your business, 2020 will be the time to start.
Key Takeaways from these B2B eCommerce Trends
eCommerce will continue to grow in 2019, throughout 2020 leave its mark on B2B eCommerce trends 2021. This will be true for B2C and B2B companies.
Delivering what buyers want with an omni-channel approach will be key. Customer engagement may be through personalized and targeted emails, videos on social media or through webinars and podcasts. Voice search and the mobile experience will be key differentiators between those that succeed and those that struggle with B2B eCommerce.
Companies that successfully digitize their operations will find their entire organizations transform. And this transformation will be for the better as they reap higher sales and profitability than their analog counterparts.
Reliance on technology will make integration and adoption of future-proof solutions more crucial than ever. In 2020, eCommerce will no longer be a sales channel, it will be a company-wide strategy. And as companies focus more on customers and products, 3PL will play a larger role in back of house operations.