Advances in tech and changes in the demographics of B2B buyers have impacted the B2B eCommerce industry quite significantly over the past few years. According to data shared online, millennials make more than 70% of B2B buying decisions. Unlike Generation X and baby boomers who primarily made up the B2B audience before 2020, millennials are much more familiar and dependent on technology. Where cold-calling, sales reps, product trials, print ads, conferences, and trade shows would’ve convinced your typical B2B audience, digital marketing (like e-books and social media) and brand transparency are now much more valuable.
What this means for B2B businesses is that they will have to adapt their marketing. Millennials approach the B2B buying journey as a B2C consumer and, as a result, their expectations are different. To put it more bluntly, their expectations are higher. They’re used to a first-class, personalized customer experience.
This makes B2B marketing tricky. While, in theory, B2B marketing should follow a similar approach used by B2C marketing, the truth is that it’s more challenging to get the same results.
To make it easier, it helps to stay up to date with emerging trends in the industry. So, we’ve done all the reading for you to help you understand the new needs of the B2B audience. Here are some of the main B2B eCommerce trends that will start (or continue) to play an important role in 2023.
15 B2B eCommerce Trends That Will Shape 2023:
- 1. B2B buyers want self-service buying portals
- 2. Social commerce will continue to increase
- 3. More B2B businesses will focus on increasing their revenue via existing customers
- 4. eCommerce sites will be used to get new customers
- 5. B2B eCommerce sales via online marketplaces will continue to grow
- 6. Customer personalization will continue to play a more critical role
- 7. Efficient fulfillment will become more urgent
- 8. The demand for real-time inventory will grow
- 9. An omnichannel experience will be a necessity (and not a nicety)
- 10. More payment options will be offered
- 11. Dynamic pricing will become more common
- 12. B2B eCommerce will become more conscious about being eco-conscious
- 13. Augmented and virtual reality will be utilized more
- 14. Transparency will become even more crucial
- 15. Out-of-the-box features will be more popular
1. B2B buyers want self-service buying portals
In 2022, self-service buying portals were one of the major trends. The need for this isn’t going to wane anytime soon and it’s predicted that it will remain a major trend in 2023. Increasingly more B2B buyers want the ability to make a purchase without the need to speak with a sales rep first. What self-service portals do is they let users get answers quickly, helping to streamline the whole process to create a seamless experience.
2. Social commerce will continue to increase
It’s anticipated that social commerce sales will reach about 2.9 trillion US dollars by 2026. Needless to say, in 2023, social commerce will be one of the major trends that even B2B businesses will be able to use to their advantage.
While social commerce is typically linked with the B2C industry, in 2023 and beyond it’s anticipated that B2B businesses will also turn to social commerce more. It’s just one more way in which B2B organizations can offer a more personalized service that their buyers will ultimately find more convenient.
3. More B2B businesses will focus on increasing their revenue via existing customers
Considering the economic uncertainty that’s currently experienced globally, it makes sense for B2B businesses to focus on how they can retain current customers and boost the revenue that they generate from their existing customers. To do this, businesses should ensure that their pricing is in line with what customers feel comfortable to pay and shift their focus to the highest quality leads. They can also give existing customers earlier access to new features as a way to show their appreciation and boost loyalty.
4. eCommerce sites will be used to get new customers
This is another trend that already appeared in 2022 and will continue to become even more important moving forward. Before the global pandemic, ecommerce sites didn’t nearly play such an important role in getting new customers. These sites were rather used to let current customers place their next orders and as an alternative to a customer service rep.
This has changed as online selling has become a key pillar of the sales plan adopted by B2B businesses. Thanks to online search tools, new customers can now find out more about a B2B business and easily place orders. So, increasingly more brands are realizing that they need to change the goal of their eCommerce site to include acquiring new customers. This might mean that you should be willing to start selling your products at individual prices as opposed to just in bulk.
Also, when designing your B2B eCommerce website, it’s critical that you pay attention to the customer experience. According to the 2022 B2B Buyer Report, more than 90% of business customers still have issues with customer experience when trying to buy online. Equally alarming is that half of eCommerce websites don’t meet B2B buyers’ expectations completely.
5. B2B eCommerce sales via online marketplaces will continue to grow
Building on 2022’s success, it’s predicted that in 2023 B2B eCommerce sales via online marketplaces like eBay, Etsy, and Amazon will continue to grow. This trend is fueled by millennials who hold executive positions. The vast majority of millennials are already using marketplaces for their personal purchases and so it’s not a big jump for them to use these channels for their professional lives too.
So, to ensure that a B2B business stays up to speed with the changing needs of buyers, they should seriously consider using a third-party marketplace in 2023. Alternatively, larger business can also possibly create their own. That said, this approach will call for more resources, but can prove to be more effective in the long run as it will offer more customization options.
6. Customer personalization will continue to play a more critical role
Like many of the previous trends suggest, customer experience is starting to play a much bigger role in the world of B2B ecommerce. B2B buyers who are searching for an online supplier have identified personalization as an essential feature. In 2023, this will stay the same.
Businesses that fail to personalize the buying experience will lose customers. It’s that simple.
While it’s not that challenging to personalize the experience thanks to AI and other tools, it’s key that it goes beyond the first email. Nowadays, B2B buyers expect a more personal experience during all stages — whether they’re still only finding out more about the product or they’re an existing buyer in need of support.
7. Efficient fulfillment will become more urgent
This is another trend that’s fueled by millennials and in 2023 it will become even more important. Younger buyers expect expects that a B2B company should be able to offer the same fast shipping options that a B2C company provides.
To help speed up the fulfillment process, businesses can turn to automation as a possible solution. Shopify and Kroger, a US supermarket, have successfully used robots to assist with fulfillment. Not only can it reduce the time needed to store and collect products, but it can also minimize human error. All things considered, if you have the financial means to stay up to speed with the advances in technology, it can be a good idea to automate your warehouse.
Alternatively, you can use order management software or third-party fulfillment. With the help of order management software, you can manage orders across multiple sales platforms, consolidate information and simplify the supply chain. Using third-party software (or more commonly called 3PL) is a good solution if your business is growing fast or you simply want to find a way to reduce your fulfillment expenditure and/or time spent on managing your inventory.
In fact, the general manager of Extensiv, an omnichannel fulfillment software solution, predicts that in 2023 outsourcing of fulfillment to 3PLs will increase to a point that it will be commonplace. This will empower B2B businesses to deliver wholesale orders just as efficiently as their B2C counterparts.
8. The demand for real-time inventory will grow
Adding to the previous point, moving forward, it will become even more important for B2B businesses to display the availability of their stock accurately. Basically, customers need to know how much stock is available when they place their orders. Updating your inventory in real time can give customers that needed reassurance that they’ll get the products on time. If you don’t have such a system in place yet, it’s a worthwhile investment for 2023 and beyond.
9. An omnichannel experience will be a necessity (and not a nicety)
The average B2B customer makes use of various channels during the buying process. This means that it’s becoming more crucial for B2B companies to create a consistent omnichannel presence and engage their customers seamlessly between different channels.
To help you, start by identifying the channels where your target audience is the most active. Is there a channel that your customers will expect to find your business?
To ensure that you can deliver a fully integrated experience, also make sure to close the gap between offline and online. In other words, it doesn’t matter if your customer is browsing one of your social platforms or visiting a brick-and-mortar location in person, they should be treated to the exact same experience. Not only will this extra effort help to meet customer expectations, but it will also help you with building a solid brand presence.
10. More payment options will be offered
Thanks to the focus on customer personalization and online marketplaces, it’s expected that more new payment options will also be offered in the future. More B2B companies will streamline their payment systems to start welcoming payments in new ways. It’s also expected that digital payments in the B2B industry will become similar to the retail options that are currently used.
This trend already gathered steam in the previous two years and in 2023 it will become even more important to offer flexible payment options. Basically, if you don’t offer your buyers the ability to pay by means of their preferred payment method, your sales will feel the knock in the coming years.
11. Dynamic pricing will become more common
Dynamic pricing isn’t new. It’s used on a daily basis in the vacation rental industry, though, it’s only recently caught the attention of the eCommerce sector. With technology becoming more sophisticated, B2B businesses now have more control over their pricing. This means that they can start to explore the idea of changing their pricing in response to any changes in supply and demand in real time.
Considering how inflation skyrocketed recently, embracing real-time pricing will help B2B businesses to remain competitive. Not only will it help businesses to manage their pricing more effectively, but it can also make the customer experience more personal. As both parties can benefit, it’s one of the trends that can have the biggest impact on the future success of your organization. It shows you that you can boost customer loyalty and your profit margin at the same time.
12. B2B eCommerce will become more conscious about being eco-conscious
It’s expected that B2B eCommerce will follow in the (green) footsteps of B2C eCommerce businesses by actively starting to minimize their impact on our environment. People from all over the globe are fortunately becoming more aware of their environmental impact and B2B businesses that will go the extra mile for our planet by providing sustainable solutions will enjoy an advantage over their competitors.
From reducing energy consumption to investing in sustainable packaging, there are numerous strategies that B2B companies can implement. Fortunately, many have already started and we expect that this trend will be one of the common themes not just for 2023 but several years to come.
13. Augmented and virtual reality will be utilized more
The use of augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) to create a more immersive customer experience is already an emerging trend in the B2C sector. B2B eCommerce might also want to consider using this type of technology as it can improve the buying experience of B2B buyers and save them valuable time.
If there’s anything that we’ve learnt from studying these trends so far, it’s that the buying experience will become a lot more important with more millennials in charge. Also, with the introduction of the metaverse, B2B businesses will have to start paying attention to VR and start exploring how they can market their business and increase brand awareness in virtual reality spaces. B2B businesses can, for example, create an online space where their audience can put their products to the test before purchasing it. This way they can get a much better idea of how it works and whether or not it will fulfill their business needs.
14. Transparency will become even more crucial
In the past, buyers used events like trades shows to meet with suppliers. By meeting in person, it was easier for buyers and B2B businesses to discuss matters about pricing and quality. Though, with B2B eCommerce, more of these interactions occur virtually.
Yet, matters like quality and pricing remain equally important to buyers. For this reason, B2B eCommerce businesses will start to focus more on being completely transparent about the quality and their pricing. While this isn’t necessarily a new trend (after all, any business needs to be transparent if they want to be successful), the need for complete transparency will become even more crucial in the future.
In addition to product quality and pricing, transparency surrounding delivery dates will also become more important to buyers in the future. Not only do they need to know if the product is in stock (this links back to the need for real-time inventory), but they also need to know when their orders will be delivered. For this reason, more and more B2B businesses are turning to software solutions that can show the delivery date automatically.
15. Out-of-the-box features will be more popular
While personalization is a golden thread, according to OroCommerce, B2B eCommerce businesses are choosing out-of-the-box capabilities over flexibility and customization. When asked about their technology priorities for 2023, more than 75% selected out-of-the-box capabilities, compared to only 65% that listed it as a priority in the previous year. A possible explanation for this is that organizations are prioritizing the ability to introduce a concept to the market quickly, in view of the current turbulent economic climate.
Wrapping Things Up
The B2B industry is evolving quite significantly. Nowadays, increasingly more millennials are participating in the B2B buying process and this has a profound effect.
Combine that with the advances in tech and it becomes clear why the B2B eCommerce industry will focus more on the customer experience and the buying journey. This has quite significant implications for B2B marketers as they will now have to interact with their customers by means of personalized communications. These trends make it clear — now is the time for B2B eCommerce businesses to focus on creating and tweaking their digital identities.