Frost & Sullivan have labelled B2B eCommerce as the up and coming industry for innovation and market attractiveness due to the emerging opportunities it presents. By the end of 2017 B2B eCommerce is expected to reach $889 billion and represent 11 percent of total B2B sales in the US. By 2021, those figures are expected to reach $1.2 trillion and account for 13.1 percent of all B2B sales in the US. This growth is being driven by an expectation for B2B buyers to be able to conduct buying online along with the increasing popularity of e-marketplaces such as Alibaba.com and AmazonSupply.com. This presents massive opportunities for B2B businesses to sell online and improve their website experience to capture part of this market. Here are the top 7 eCommerce trends taken from successful B2B businesses who are using eCommerce to increase revenue and grow their business.
Businesses which have expanded to offering eCommerce will be operating a multi-channel business, running multiple systems. Many B2B businesses are implementing integrations between their eCommerce website and internal systems to streamline and consolidate their business processes. 60 percent of B2B executives cite integration wtih ERP and Accounting systems a top priority. Integrating with back-end technology allows data to automatically flow between the website and the 3rd party software, removing the need to re-key data resulting in reduced errors, reduced costs and freeing up staff to focus on other work. 40 percent of B2B buyers have indicated that back end integration with financing, accounting, order management systems and ERP systems are a key feature for suppliers to offer. System integration can also therefore, increase customer satisfaction by allowing them to access their own data via the website, seeing past purchases, payments, order history as well as track orders.
Recent data released by Google and BCG shows that 50 percent of B2B queries today are made on SmartPhones and it is expected this figure will grow to 70 percent by 2020. B2B has lagged behind B2C when it comes to mobile commerce but these latest statistics are a wake-up call for those organisations not yet delivering a mobile web experience. BCG found that those businesses quick to adopt mobile commerce saw increased revenue through the channel compared to those who were slower to adopt mobile commerce. Wholesalers are now seeing mobile commerce as a vital channel to market and those who don’t currently deliver a mobile web experience are acting quickly to update their platform.
80 percent of organisations implementing B2B eCommerce believe that their customer expectations have changed due to B2C experiences. B2B buyers expect a high-quality customer experience across all channels and are loyal to companies who deliver excellence. They have become familiar with the streamline shopping experiences which many B2C websites offer and B2B buyers now expect this same experience from their B2B suppliers’ websites as well. The most successful B2B websites are using consumer based technology to provide shopping experiences similar to that of B2C websites. This includes features and functionality such as intuitive navigation, personalised content, improved search functionality, clear and concise product information, content rich images/videos and customer-specific pricing. B2B buyers have specific needs and sellers must meet them by providing a superior online experience. By 2018, Gartner predicts 70% of eCommerce will move from B2C and B2B models to models that focus on the individual customer experience
Further customer experience key trends include:
57 percent of the buying process is undertaken prior to engaging with sales. B2B buyers want tools to guide them during this initial information discovery process. As such, B2B businesses are making investments into technology and software to improve their eCommerce strategy and establish their online presence. They are building sales tools centred around their specific customer requirements such as pricing and term accounts to assist the buying process. Gartner predicts that by 2018, 40% of B2B eCommerce sites will use price optimisation and configure price/quote tools to calculate and deliver product pricing dynamically. According to Forbes, spending on B2B eCommerce platform technologies, systems and services continue at a pace of over two times the B2C eCommerce market. It is expected the future will see more budget dedicated to B2B eCommerce related investments.
The internet provides access to larger audiences not previously possible. Today 74% of B2B buyers are researching work purchases online. Capturing a segment of this market has become critical for future eCommerce growth and success. B2B eCommerce businesses are doing this in two ways:
To focus on global markets B2B businesses are making their eCommerce websites multi-lingual and offering products in local currencies at prices the market can support. These changes make it easier for potential international customers to comprehend and purchase, providing access to a greater international customer base. Many B2B sellers are also looking to sell B2C to grow their eCommerce business, selling the same products at individual prices rather than in bulk to B2B buyers. An eCommerce website can easily be used to support both market segments (B2B and B2C), by having standard pricing available to B2C users and allowing B2B buyers to log in and get extra benefits such as price discounts, additional customer service, access to previous order records and much more.
How B2B sellers share product information is changing. In 2013, 69 percent of B2B businesses expected to stop printing product catalogues within five years. Here in 2017, we can see that these changes coming into place. Sellers are now using online tools to share and distribute product information. Many B2B businesses are investing in Product Information Management (PIM) applications which centralise product information in one location and feeds out the information to all relevant sales channels. This is much quicker and scalable than printed catalogues. PIM applications include eCommerce platforms, trading networks or entirely separate product listing databases.
The Forrester study found that 30 percent of B2B buyers make half or more of their work purchases online today and 56 percent expect to make half or more of their work purchases online in 3 years. These findings highlight how B2B buyers are quickly reshaping the landscape for omni-channel eCommerce. A significant part of B2B eCommerce is allowing customers to see individual pricing, specific to their account. B2B businesses are looking to bring greater speed and simplicity to complex pricing structures and improve workflows. Selling decisions made at the start of a financial year are always different to those decisions made closer to the end of the financial year and ideally pricing structures should reflect this. B2B vendors are implementing dynamic pricing to allow for complex pricing configurations such as this, dramatically increasing the speed at which a deal can be completed without losing control of the deal.
The growth B2B eCommerce presents is huge and trends like these show the types of strategies B2B eCommerce websites are implementing to further improve their websites with the purpose of increasing revenue and acquiring new customers. Understanding your customers needs, the required systems and processes to support these needs is essential in getting your B2B eCommerce strategy right. Stay ahead of competition by keeping up to date with the latest statistics and trends and exploit opportunities as they arise. If you don’t, you risk being left behind by the competition.