The 3 biggest trends in B2B commerce for 2021
Business-to-business (B2B) commerce will continue to undergo a major transformation in 2021 as companies adopt the latest technologies to find new customers, improve their supply-chain efficiencies, and provide a more personalized user experience to their clientele.
B2B marketplaces and progressive web apps are among the technologies that will see greater business adoption next year, according to several industry experts. They also predict that B2B commerce will look a lot more like business-to-consumer (B2C) commerce with improvements to the user experience and a greater emphasis on direct-to-consumer (DTC) sales.
The adoption of digital commerce strategies has become even more urgent amid the disruptions of the coronavirus pandemic, whose effects are likely to last into 2021 and beyond. The health crisis not only exposed vulnerabilities in the global supply chain, but it also forced many companies to implement safety measures like contactless fulfillment to protect workers and customers alike.
The disruptions are a major catalyst for digital B2B commerce, with many businesses setting the stage for longer-term growth as the global economy rebounds from the pandemic. While 53 percent of B2B decision makers said in July that they expected a revenue decline in the following year, 86 percent planned to boost their spending on digital sales channels, according to a survey by research and advisory firm Gartner.
1. B2B marketplaces will grow
Online marketplaces that bring buyers together with a variety of sellers have been around in some form for years, but they’re increasingly becoming a key part of B2B commerce because they provide access to a wide selection of suppliers and products. Eighty-seven percent of B2B buyers are purchasing on online marketplaces, according to a recent study by market researcher WBR Insights. The growing popularity of B2B marketplaces makes them an important go-to-market strategy for businesses of all sizes, whether they start their own marketplace or list their products on existing ones.
2. B2B merging with B2C
B2B commerce increasingly will look more like B2C commerce as businesspeople continue to look for the same kind of online experience in the workplace that they have as consumers.
To emulate the B2C experience for enterprises, businesses need to give their customers more tools to research products and services, and make them easier to discover. Those tools can include recommendations on other products to buy – a cross-selling strategy that helps to increase the average ticket size – and ratings and reviews submitted by buyers. Also important: providing detailed product information, images, videos, and downloadable documentation through the site to support customer research. Customers will do most of their research online before ever reaching out to a sales rep, so the quality of this research experience is critical.
3. Direct-to-consumer growth
As B2B commerce increasingly resembles B2C commerce, businesses that typically sell to middlemen like distributors and retailers have an opportunity to reach past them and connect directly to consumers. While direct-to-consumer (DTC) selling heightens the possibility of greater channel conflict, it can be managed in a way that works for companies throughout the supply chain.
Sportswear giant Nike is an example of a company that not only has a broad B2B clientele of distributors, retail chains, and independent stores, but also a surging digital business that has become a vital source of revenue.
Companies that sell directly to consumers have an opportunity to collect vast amounts of data about their customers in real-time that aren’t available through traditional sales channels. They can harness that information to provide a more personalized experience that boosts sales while improving customer satisfaction and loyalty.