(This post was originally published on December 17th, 2015. We’ve updated it for accuracy and completeness.)
By the end of 2017, Forrester expects B2B eCommerce to reach $889 billion and represent 11% of total B2B sales in the U.S. By 2021, they expect it to reach $1.2 trillion.
There’s a shift going on B2B from outbound sales to eCommerce. What are you plans to capitalize on it?
This change in selling makes B2B online retail the top up-and-coming industry in terms of innovation and market attractiveness. B2B sellers are going to want to ride this wave of growth.
Here are the B2B ecommerce trends that are driving these numbers. You’ll want to take note of how these trends will affect your B2B business and the overall industry.
B2B eCommerce Trends
How B2B companies do business is changing. B2B businesses are learning how critical it is to offer multichannel experiences so they can compete.
Not long ago, selling via eCommerce was an afterthought for most manufacturers. Now, their eCommerce sites focus on increasing revenue and acquiring new customers.
Our trends will look at the B2B industry’s shift in using eCommerce as a strategic channel for growth. So, if you plan on growing your business, then you’ll need to prepare your brand for these B2B eCommerce trends.
A New Demographic: Millennials
New research indicates that 73% of Millennials are involved in B2B purchasing decisions. This a new demographic that has different mindsets and preferences for buying.
So, what does that have to do with eCommerce? The growth in a new demographic may not directly deal with eCommerce. However, it does drive other trends that we are seeing.
Millennial behaviors will drive how B2B customers research and find your product. You’ll see how this strengthens your need for a B2B eCommerce presence.
A New Research Process: Online Search
Today, B2B audiences, just like B2C, are starting to turn to the internet more to research and buy products.
Today, 74% of B2B buyers report searching at least half of their work purchases online. Merchants must be where your customers are. Are you appealing to Millennials who are searching for your products online?
If you aren’t, keep these statistics in mind from a Google and Millward Brown Digital B2B Study.
- 90% of B2B researchers who are online use search specifically to research business purchases
- On average, B2B researchers do 12 searches prior to engaging on a specific brand’s site
- About 71% start on a generic query (they’re looking for a product, not you)
- 91% growth in B2B researchers use smartphones throughout the path to purchase
B2B sellers needs to determine how they can make customers aware of their business early on in the purchasing journey. If your business isn’t online or hard to find online, you’re going to miss out on these buyers.
Print Catalogs: Rethinking Product Information
Print catalogs are running out of ink.
Back in 2013, 69% of B2B sellers say they expect to stop printing a catalog within five years. Today, we can already see that coming true. Print catalogs won’t go away entirely, but they will get smaller.
How B2B companies share product data is changing. Sellers now use interactive online tools to share and distribute product information more easily.
This allows B2B sellers to broaden their customer relationships. They can work with more retailers, suppliers, or even consumers directly. They will sell their catalog across multiple channels using new technology.
B2B sellers will look to invest in technology like Product Information Management (PIM) applications. A PIM centralizes your product data in one location where you can then edit and share it to different sales channels, whether it be an eCommerce platform or a trading network. It’s quicker and more scalable than print catalogs.
If you’re still using print catalogs, it’s time to determine how you’re going to go digital to stay competitive in the B2B eCommerce industry.
Prioritizing Technology: eCommerce
Forrestor expects the number of B2B buyers who will complete at least half of their work purchases online to increase from 32% in 2014 to 53% by 2017.
Consequently, B2B sellers are prioritizing technology budgets to appeal to this type of buyer. Research by Forrester Research Inc. and Internet Retailer highlights findings from B2B eCommerce sellers:
- 67% expect their technology budget to increase
- 7% of online revenue is going to technology
- 57% cited their eCommece platform as their top technology priority
- 63% said their experience is worse than Amazon’s
B2B sellers know that they need to improve their eCommerce strategy. They’re making investments in technology to establish their eCommerce presence. Learn here how to choose the best B2B eCommerce platform for your business.
Amazon is usually the status quo for online sellers to compare themselves. How would you compare your current site to Amazon? What areas of improvement could you make for your buyers?
New Audiences: Find Them by Selling Direct
Your eCommerce site doesn’t have to be just for other B2B buyers. eCommerce also makes it possible for you to sell directly to consumers. Expand your business beyond traditional selling models.
B2B selling is looking more like B2C selling today. But, they are still two different types of markets. You’re going to have to adopt new selling strategies to successfully sell B2C.
An eCommerce site can easily be used for both B2B and B2C customers. For B2C, you’ll need to invest in strong digital marketing and online merchandising. A PIM application, as mentioned above, can help you create and manage product information geared towards B2C.
More B2B sellers will look to selling B2C to grow their eCommerce business.
Integration: Preparing for a Multichannel Business
B2B sellers that expand to eCommerce will then operate a multichannel business. You’ll have multiple systems that run your business. Those systems include your eCommerce platform, ERP, POS, or marketplace platforms such as Amazon.
When you first start your eCommerce business, you’ll have to manually enter your online orders into your ERP. This takes a lot of time and labor. Manual processes are subject to human error.
Typos lead to incorrect shipping addresses. Inventory levels not updated on the website can lead to overselling. Customer data isn’t synced between systems to track contact information and order history.
This disorganization of data leads to a bad customer experience.
When your eCommerce side of business grows, B2B sellers are looking for integration to streamline their multichannel business processes. (This is actually what nChannel does).
57% of B2B executives stated that eCommerce integration was another top technology need. They defined eCommerce integration as integrating back-end technology for managing operations like inventory and customer orders with their eCommerce platform
For those sellers who want to grow their B2B eCommerce business with a purpose, multichannel integration is essential.
Stay Ahead of the Competition
Well, there you have it! These are the top B2B eCommerce trends we see happening in the industry. To stay ahead of the competition, you must evaluate your business and see how well you’re adapting to trends like these.
If you want to see real examples of B2B companies changing how businesses buy, then check out this article that covers 13 innovative B2B brands.
To keep learning more about B2B best practices for selling online, check out these other articles: