2023 and beyond will radically change how online retailers change how to do business. Learn more about 18 key B2B e-commerce trends 2023.
Although retail has been in a state of evolution since the dawn of the internet and as the world staggers from one global catastrophe to the next, brands are being forced to re-imagine the future and adapt to the changes before them. As emerging technologies transforms science fiction into reality, it’s more than just entertainment. Brands can co-create experiences and interact with customers in new and exciting ways. But be aware of some key trends.
Digital commerce in B2B has been predicted as the next big thing by specialized analysts for years. Still, year after year, growth forecasts fell flat. The pivot to digital has been slow, with B2B companies having a digital presence being the exception rather than the rule. Then Covid-19 hit and forced businesses and consumers to embrace the “new normal” in an unprecedented digital shift.
1. Massive growth in B2B e-commerce
Mature players will soon benefit from massive growth in B2B e-commerce. Just before the pandemic, an eMarketer report found only 9% of B2B product sales in the US took place via e-commerce websites. However, Forrester predicts online channels will account for 17% of all B2B sales in the US in 2023, reaching a total of $1.8 trillion. That’s a big jump.
Recent events in our world history have driven inflation to surge across the globe. The impact is being felt across industries and in households everywhere.
A reason for these eye-opening numbers is that B2B players are midway through a rather steep learning curve; they are experiencing first-hand that going digital is not just creating a rudimentary self-service portal and calling it a day. Now, B2B firms have to digitally transform not only their “commerce,” but also their entire business, from marketing and content to checkout and fulfillment, to achieve a true end-to-end customer experience. With the B2B trade about 3x the size of B2C, it’s no wonder digital commerce is the next frontier for B2B players to grow.
According to a McKinsey report, 66% of buyers now opt for remote human interactions or digital self-service. They also expect personalized services and recommendations based on their specific needs, interests, and previous purchases.
2. Rising Acquisition Costs
Rising acquisition costs have proven to be a significant challenge for retailers everywhere, impacting profitability and long-term sustainability. But, it’s not all bad news. The additional pressure fueled by inflation is thrusting retailers into action with the realization that if they adopt new marketing strategies and improve customer retention, they can mitigate the impacts of rising acquisition costs and remain competitive in the market.
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3. Shift in B2B Byer Expectations
The traditional B2B relationship between buyers and sellers has been slowly changing in the last few years, but only when the pandemic hit did the buyer/seller dynamics dramatically transform. Customer behavior was forced to change; instead of in-person meetings or events, interactions pivoted to video calls, online chat and eCommerce. 83% of B2B buyers now prefer ordering or paying through digital commerce.
4. B2B buyers jump between channels
Humping between channels, B2B buyers are mirroring the habits of B2C shoppers. A Salesforce survey found 78% of buyers use multiple channels to start and complete a transaction. The same study discovered buyers use an average of 9 different channels to communicate with companies.
5. Rice in Dynamic Pricing
The adoption of dynamic pricing is imperative of retailers today as many brands turn to dynamic pricing to remain competitive, optimize their revenue, and rapidly respond to changes in real-time under the weight of inflationary pressure.
6. Increased Personalization
Deep personalization has been the bread and butter of traditional B2B sales, with one-to-one communication throughout the sales cycle up to closing the deal. However, with eCommerce performing a more significant sales role, it’s important that these personalized interactions can be carried through the entire digital shopping journey. After all, 73% of B2B buyers want a personalized B2C-like experience.
7. Hybrid Sales
Despite the preference for digital channels — 66% of B2B buyers prefer remote human interactions or digital self-service rather than one-to-one sales talks. B2B buyers want a hybrid sales approach mixing in-person and digital self-service interactions. In practice, each channel is employed at different stages of the sales process: a) In-person sales are ideal for establishing a relationship and/or catering to high-value customers. b) Digital self-service channels best fit the needs of existing customers for finding and researching products and reordering, as well as being better suited for lower transaction value and/or less complex sales. All in all, digital channels and in-person communication complement each other and should be used throughout the customer journey.
8. Product Information is Increasingly More Important
Product information makes or breaks the digital buying experience Technology makes or breaks the digital buying experience, which is why so many companies rely on the latest software to help them build compelling buying experiences online. The best e-commerce experiences are built on accurate product information. To ensure this product information can support an omnichannel strategy, manufacturers should increasingly be looking to product information management PIM software (Product Information Management) to set them apart from the competition.
9. Information Clarity
It is not yet entirely clear how all this complex information will need to be communicated. During the sales phase, much of it can be incorporated into existing product descriptions. On the product itself, the information can be stored on a GS1 barcode, QR code, or something similar that facilitates easy information retrieval.
10. Cloud-Native Architecture
According to Forrester, cloud-native architecture is a crucial criterion B2B firms should look for when shopping for a commerce system as “the solutions upgrade seamlessly, they interoperate with decoupled components through APIs and events, and your custom code is isolated from the core product.” Also, versionless solutions that bypass costly and high-maintenance upgrades are supported by cloud-native infrastructure, and auto-scaling means companies don’t have to worry about pre-provisioning servers and software to handle traffic peaks anymore.
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11. More Transparency About Environmental Impact
Consumers across every industry are making more and more conscious buying choices. According to the most recent EY Future Consumer Index, 80% of global consumers believe brands must be transparent about their environmental impact. Buyers are gravitating toward products that are sustainable, reusable, and recyclable. Global manufacturing and production now account for one-fifth of the world’s carbon emissions and consume more than half of the world’s energy. Pressure to respond to these figures is catalyzing a new approach to production – as well as new legislative requirements that raise awareness about materials and the full scope of their environmental impact.
12. Product Discovery Will Stay a Priority
Product discovery is a priority B2B companies usually have vast product catalogs supporting thousands of product variations and customizations. As a result, finding the right product can be a herculean task, translating into missed opportunities and revenue. With 70% of B2B buyers doing online research to find the products they need discoverability will stay a priority for companies across the digital maturity spectrum.
13. Sales Force Overhaul
It turns out that digital commerce is not only a great addition for customers; sales teams also massively benefit from this shift. While many sales reps have feared eCommerce would cannibalize direct or channel sales, the reality is that digital channels haven’t replaced people. Rather, eCommerce is accelerating the evolution of B2B sales: Instead of focusing on manual tasks like filling out quotes or taking orders via email, now they can take a more consultative approach, taking time to advise customers and build personalized relationships on top of eCommerce. The year ahead will cement the sales shift toward a more strategic and advisor-like role.
14. Identifying More Opportunities Across the Customer Lifecycle
What really drives revenue in B2B businesses? Is it the product itself? Is it the related services? Or is it the ability to know what customers want now, and what they might need in the future? According to a Salesforce survey, 52% of manufacturing executives find it increasingly difficult to compete based on product quality alone. 86% of them name customer service as a key differentiator.
15. The Role of Business Practitioners Will Grow
When it comes to technology, the teams that come to mind are IT managers and developers, while business users take a backseat. In the last couple of years, we’ve seen a shift in which business-related positions have been more present in technology decisions and day-to-day operations. This trend is compounded by the growing offer of no-code solutions (also known as business tooling) that enable marketers, product managers, etc., to manage web-shops effectively and be an integral part of innovation, accelerating the pace of releases and driving down costs as a result.
16. Tapping Into the Lucrative After-Sales Market
B2B companies now have a potentially massive money-making opportunity they can tap into with the right technology: after-sales. Self-service platforms and order histories can enable repeat orders, showcase relevant spare parts or recommend upgrades or repair services. Deloitte estimates after-sales service can increase the overall revenue of players in the market by 50%, with many companies already generating half of their overall revenue in this space.
17. The B2B customer experience will be redesigned
B2B commerce in 2023 will be about designing consumer-like experiences. While intense work needs to happen in the commerce engine to streamline every step of the customer journey, B2B players will again take a page out of the B2C playbook and implement core changes in their digital frontends. An increased focus on boosting website performance, mobile responsiveness and personalization will be at the forefront of these advanced digital initiatives.
18. The Year of Incremental Innovation
Will 2023 be a year of surprises? Is a recession becoming a reality? What’s down the road for B2B companies? It’s hard to predict the future, so the best we can do is to prepare for whatever comes our way. Investing strategically during times of uncertainty instead of waiting for the crisis to pass is how B2B companies can thrive. This is where incremental innovation comes in.
Innovation is more than launching the next big thing. It’s also constant iteration, experimentation and improvements, as well as adding new features or updating existing ones. It’s about improving the customer experience every day. This is what composable commerce and the agile-first mindset champions say: Start on a smaller scale, test it out, launch — and repeat. This way, B2B companies can tackle opportunities as they come without a significant upfront investment (which is even more crucial in times of rising inflation).
18 Key B2B e-Commerce Trends 2023, compiled by Tor Kjolberg