According to forecasts 2020 is looking to be a unique year for B2B ecommerce, with sales expected to be two times larger than for online retail (B2C). However, given that today B2C online transactions account for 12–15% of the total ecommerce revenue, with B2B only pulling in 2–3%, we can expect to observe a mass digital transformation of B2B businesses around the world over the next few years. Writing about trends in B2B ecommerce 2020 it should be noted that, as in previous years, they are largely shaped by what happens in the B2C market. In other words, B2B platform users expect the shopping experience they know from regular online shops, especially since Millennials have entered the labor market. Considering this, we have selected what we feel are the most important B2B ecommerce trends in the coming year.
If we look at any statistics from B2C ecommerce, we can see that people spend more time online using mobile devices than desktops and year after year end up making more purchases through this channel. In 2021, 73% of ecommerce sales will be done this way. We are confident that in 2020 the vast majority of new B2B platforms projects will have full support for mobile devices. By full support we mean having a responsive web design (RWD), but also a shift toward the increasingly popular Progressive Web App (PWA) technology described in one of our latest posts.
PWA technology allows users of B2B ecommerce platforms to experience a native-app-like experience. In practice, this translates to a number of features including: sending push notifications about the status of orders or partial use of the application (ie. orders preview) which is available offline. PWA technology can also reduce a company’s costs by focusing only on the development of the web application instead of a native app.
Artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (MI) solutions are increasingly being adopted in mid to large sized B2C ecommerce sites, contributing to better customer service and personalized offers. In B2B ecommerce, AI is predominantly used by the biggest players, but more and more mid-sized companies are also thinking about taking advantage of its benefits. Currently the most common fields where AI technology supports B2B portal are: product search, customer service, or product recommendations.
Product search is a key feature of every B2B ecommerce platform. Businesses that use them usually offer several hundred thousand products, so the B2B platform must make it possible to search for products using not only the name of the product, but the product code, part serial number, etc. But we think that it will go even further and as image recognition techniques develop, the regular B2B ecommerce sites will enable users to search products by uploading their photos.
In customer service, intelligent chatbots integrated with the B2B platform will play an important role. They are able to provide customers with information about products or delivery time.
Product recommendations are as old as ecommerce itself, but in recent years (thanks to AI) this feature can increasingly deliver personalized recommendations based on a customer’s behaviour.
Personalized customer experience
The interfaces of B2B platforms differ from those we know from regular online stores. This is due to the different ways these two groups buy. Customers of online stores buy spontaneously, driven by desire, while B2B customers make more rational purchases that need to meet the requirements of the company policy. As a result, it’s difficult to look for sophisticated design or flashy display banners in B2B platforms. Another factor is that the actual transaction processes in B2B are much more complex than in B2C, affecting many roles for both buyers and shop owners.
A good B2B platform tailored for 2020 will, however, allow you to personalize customer experiences based on their role, the company they work for, or the device they use. For example, customers will be offered a storefront, product catalogues, promotions, and articles that are most suited to their preferences. Moreover, it is in line with such ecommerce tech trends like headless architecture or front-end first.
Data & Predefined Analytics
Data is the fuel for boosting sales and the dynamic development of any company. The problem facing many companies is what data to collect and how to process it effectively. Even large companies are not always able to hire their own data analysts.
Modern B2B platforms are increasingly equipped with tools and functions that help with the visualization of key data and analysis. In the case of B2B platforms, however, it is important that they are not limited to certain typical indicators that are indicative of B2C ecommerce (the number of visits, CTRs, the most sold products, etc.) The B2B ecommerce platform should provide data adequate to the business run by wholesalers, producers or distributors, etc. Such features are, for example, measuring the performance of sales representatives, sales pipelines, or delivery efficiency. The so-called smart tips supplied by data analysis (notifications with random actionable insights) can be useful.
There is no doubt that in 2020 we will be observing an evolution of B2B consumerization. Business users expect a familiar and user friendly shopping experience they recognize from regular online shops and/or mobile applications. The best B2B ecommerce platforms will base customer service and features like product search and product recommendations on AI technology. We can also anticipate a shift away from B2B ecommerce businesses serving static content to its customers and instead moving into the creation of personalized customer experiences. The B2B ecommerce platform should be equipped with reporting resulting from the specifics of this industry.