Where’s B2B eCommerce heading in 2018? Before we take a look at some predictions, let’s take stock of where the industry is now, assess how the top performers are doing and uncover any current trends. Firstly, B2B eCommerce is within reach of more SMEs than ever before. Between 2016 and 2017, the number of Amazon Business sellers grew 183% and the number of customers grew to over a million.
Likewise, Alibaba’s 2016/17 B2B eCommerce revenue was up 11% year-on-year to $872 million, mainly due to growth in revenue generated by import/export related services, as well as an increase in value added service revenue from China wholesale suppliers. On top of this, Forrester says that the B2B eCommerce market is currently worth more than $1 trillion and is expected to grow to $2 trillion by 2020. At this time of huge eCommerce opportunity, it’s vital that all B2B sellers keep up with a rapidly changing environment. So what’s driving the change?
Make the most of omnichannel
The rise of omnichannel is without doubt one of the most important current B2B eCommerce trends, and it’s set to become even more significant next year. Sellers need to recognise that their customers now expect an omnichannel experience – and that this approach can bring higher revenues. In fact, according to Forrester over half of B2B sellers reported that their omnichannel customers had increased spending with them in the past year.
Forrester also says that buyers want a mix of self-service and human-assisted full-service models, so eCommerce cannot be viewed in isolation from other channels. All back-end product, pricing, contract, discount, and promotional data needs to be consolidated to provide a clear and consistent view of the customer, and enable a personalised buying experience. This will require a flexible, scalable commerce infrastructure to support an integrated selling platform, and a strong CRM system, which would help create a 360-degree view of the B2B buyer.
Use data to drive personalisation
Adopting a data-driven approach supports a more personalised customer experience, which in turn can help to increase online revenues – and we see increasingly sophisticated personalisation as being another strong trend for 2018. With dynamic personalisation, for example, eCommerce site content automatically adjusts to align with each visitor’s profile. It means you can present the right content to the right visitor at the right time to optimise the buying experience and revenue potential.
Looking ahead to next year and beyond, we think there’s going to see a much joined-up approach to personalisation. New technologies like artificial intelligence and machine learning will enable more integrated customer communication with consistent, coordinated messaging across channels such as SMS messaging, email and social media, as well as on the website. So the entire customer journey becomes a completely personalised experience at every touch-point.
Optimise for mobile
Business-to-business buyers are increasingly using smart phones and mobile devices to research and order online and this is a trend that’s set to continue. Many warehouse workers, for example, are equipped with smartphones and tablets to perform tasks on the move, and many buyers make business purchases while they’re on the road The exponential rise of m-commerce means companies need to prioritise the provision of an optimised online store for smaller screens, as well as consider the benefits of creating apps that will streamline the buying experience.
Don’t get left behind
Generally speaking, B2B eCommerce trends will continue to show digital transformation among forward-thinking manufacturers, distributors and wholesalers. But unfortunately, we also expect to see the increase of another, rather more worrying trend – companies that do not embrace eCommerce will get left behind. Today’s business buyers want the same online purchasing experience they get when they buy things for themselves – an easy-to-use website with an easy-to-search product catalogue, personalised offers, pricing and discounts, and all the latest time-saving smart technology.
The good news for is that as the B2B eCommerce market continues to mature, companies can enjoy rich functionality in an eCommerce platform that’s affordable, flexible and scalable. In addition, eCommerce specialists like Aspidistra are able to integrate intelligent eCommerce software with business and accounting systems like Sage and Pegasus, to deliver a truly personalised, customer experience that includes accurate, real-time data on everything from stock levels to order progress.