B2B is a paradoxical sector: while it fosters ingenious innovations, in certain respects it is also stuck in its old ways. Despite its spectacular economic growth, B2B e-commerce comes off as dated in terms of online presence compared to B2C. The accelerated shifts in marketing trends and altered customer expectations have made 2021 a turning point. What changes can we expect?
With over half of internet traffic coming from mobile devices, mobile B2B e-commerce is bound to become a common occurrence. The exploitation of typical mobile commerce advantages will be an attractive prospect for B2B sellers. To name a few: quick login, push notifications, and data analysis.
Some B2B companies will choose m-commerce because it will be easier for them to build a separate online sales system rather than improve their old one. Other companies will choose to launch directly on mobile devices because the process is simpler.
2. Price Disclosure
Many B2B websites look like they have integrated e-commerce features, but a vast majority of them do not disclose any pricing information. Some require the user to create an account and wait for approval before allowing them to browse through the price list.
While this helps sellers control their price range more effectively, it creates an exasperating situation for the buyer. The lack of alternatives translates into a lack of incentive to change this practice, but the tides seem to be turning.
There has been significant pressure from customers in this respect, and 2021 will be a tipping point in many industries. B2B sellers looking to build a website will have to take decisive steps towards price disclosure to prevent investing in an e-commerce solution which will already be considered outdated in 2022.
3. Dynamic Pricing
The B2B pricing dilemma will be solved by dynamic pricing systems capable of incorporating various criteria. Whether they will be guided by the market, production capacity, or client profiles, these pricing systems will be worth the investment. They are bound to generate profit and give the B2B companies that implemented them a competitive advantage, seeing as the prices generated in this manner will be impossible to copy.
4. Spotlight On Services
B2B e-commerce is far more complex in terms of sales process than B2C. When making a purchase from a B2B seller, a user’s concerns and responsibilities go beyond mere need. Aside from obtaining the product they seek, they must also manage it in a manner that adds value to their process. This also applies to consumables, equipment, and raw materials.
When taking user needs into account, there is immense potential to integrate helpful features in B2B e-commerce applications which can help set apart a seller within their niche. B2B e-commerce will slowly become a complex service with additional features.
5. Services That Provide Added Value
B2B e-commerce websites need to go beyond their basic shop function and act as platforms which can help build and maintain business relationships. In order to accomplish this goal, companies need to start offering services which offer added value to their products. Examples include maintenance, troubleshooting, and repair.
6. Re-Commerce And Buy Back
After integrating a significant number of users in a smart system, manufacturers could also begin including second hand products in their sales offer. For the majority of B2B sellers, buy back will be the perfect way to solidify the relationship with their buyers. This will also prevent customers from going to competitors for similar services.
7. Sales Models Based On Subscription Services
In certain niches, buying specialized equipment will be replaced by renting it with maintenance and management services included in the offer. Instead of the commitment of buying equipment, clients will prefer to receive consultancy about which machine would work best for their needs, and then have it installed and maintained by the manufacturer. This way, buyers gain added value without having to worry about the costs and responsibilities associated with ownership and maintenance.
For example, instead of buying telemetry sensors and hiring someone to monitor them, the provider can install them and monitor hundreds of data systems at the same time on the internet. The beneficiary will only receive the results of the measurements, according to their requirements.
8. Standardized Products
Another seemingly insurmountable problem within the B2B sector is the sheer diversity of products, which can also be customized according to numerous configurations. Consumers would actually prefer a standardized sales experience that they could understand better and feel more in control of.
The attempt to offer the user a standardized experience when they place an order will pressure product related departments to develop a regulation process. In many cases, this means that instead of offering 1 product with 10 configurations, the seller will now offer 5 with 2 configurations. This is an amazing opportunity for B2B companies to rethink the way they use their technology during the manufacturing process.
9. Search Engine Optimization
Everyone running a website is preoccupied with search engine optimization, but few people take it seriously. A sound SEO strategy is well organized and supported by resources which can help site owners reach milestones.
In the B2B sector, SEO used to be something that small to medium businesses concerned themselves with, while larger companies earned new clients through networking, telemarketing, and industry fairs. The pandemic has put old sales methods on the back burner, which means that more competitors will be channeling their resources into SEO optimization.
This is bound to cause changes in terms of ranking and market position, and the subsequent instability will lead to increased competitiveness. By the end of 2021, B2B companies will hire SEO professionals or expand their existing teams to keep up.
10. Better UX
So far, B2B sellers have turned a blind eye towards their underperforming UX, feigning disbelief that their competitors could poach their customer base. This baffling misconception is widespread, but markedly false: the sellers with foresight make significant investments to improve their user experience.
Some players on the market start with timid improvements, like updating their color palette, but the sellers with a comprehensive approach are bound to become reference points and redefine the importance of excellent UX. On many markets, the differentiating power of products and prices will progressively lessen, creating a need for new differentiating elements. Why not UX?
2021 will see the launch of many B2B e-commerce websites with high quality UX design. These will become points of reference between 2022 and 2024.
11. User Centered Design
If B2B e-commerce systems are to successfully deliver better services and added value, their development process must change. Instead of simply being controlled by IT departments or marketing teams, the operation should focus more on the users and their needs.
From conceptualizing the list of project requirements to the development of solutions, the user belongs at the heart of the entire procedure. This prerequisite might prove to be challenging for the teams involved, as they will be forced to change the way they work. Certain team members will also be assigned new roles.
12. Application Programming Interfaces
The use of application programming interfaces in B2B would be groundbreaking, as they are capable of technologically integrating the systems of buyers and sellers. 2021 will mark the first attempts of API usage on several markets and will lead to the spectacular growth of those who manage to use them well.
Our agency, Creative Navy, is already working on implementing such solutions in sectors the general public would consider atypical for these types of developments: insurance, IoT, and even the food industry.
13. The Importance of Data
Most people associate e-commerce with consumer ease, but its biggest advantage is the detailed user data it provides. In 2021, every B2B e-commerce project will pay special attention to strategic data collection. This helps prepare the future implementation of AI functions.
Data insight will be one of the strongest incentives for sellers to give up the advantages of price secrecy and the money saved on underperforming e-shops. In order to gather data successfully, B2B websites must attract users.
14. Client Analytics
Sellers will use the data collected on their websites to offer buyers insight regarding their businesses and market shifts. In 2021, this will still be in a rudimentary form, mainly because B2B e-commerce platforms will not have sufficient data sets for pertinent statistics yet.
Regardless, even the first iterations of this solution will show people what goal they should work towards together. It will also play an important role in changing the relationship between buyers and sellers, creating a standard of cooperation and transparency in terms of data sharing.
In B2C, marketplaces are a powerful force, but there are few relevant B2B examples in this respect. In the future, marketplaces will start replacing the shops of B2B manufacturers. Their evolution will happen one specialized marketplace at a time, taking into account the complexities of each B2B niche.
Marketplaces will be characterized by superior user experience, high quality product related services, and allowing customers to use more complex solutions to satisfy their needs.
Offering B2B buyers round the clock customer support is no easy feat, but chatbots are now a much more popular solution thanks to their improved smart features. In the absence of product standardization, many sellers will add a chatbot to their website in order to service as many people as possible.
In 2021, B2B companies will start restructuring their offers in a manner that makes them easy to send out through a chatbot. Chatbot technology will evolve at a fast pace by way of pressure from the B2C sector. Soon, it will be capable of complex conversations.
For B2B marketers, influencers have a bad rep, but 2020 marked the rise of the LinkedIn influencer. In 2021, this social media platform will become more established, and companies will begin to use it more actively to sell their products. They will launch referral programs and promotional campaigns around the offers in their B2B e-shops. In many cases, this will require big changes in terms of shop technology.
18. Social Media Integrations
In conjunction with the rise of LinkedIn influencers, shops will begin using social media integrations. Whether they’ll spend more time creating shareable content and integrating sharing functionalities or allow login with a social media account, B2B sellers are going social in 2021.
19. Augmented Reality
Some niches of B2B will implement augmented reality solutions to help clients choose the product best suited for their needs. While in the beginning some examples of AR implementation will be less effective and bring no added value, others will be groundbreaking and exert a powerful influence over the buyer’s decision making process.
AR has gone through a tremendous evolution during the past few years and in its current state it is fit to be used for such applications.
20. Video Will Become The Norm
While most B2B companies will shy away from using AR or VR solutions, video format is an entirely different story. It’s easy to make and aligns with user expectations. A lot of sellers will transition from poor product descriptions to high quality, engaging videos.
The new standard will be defined by videos which incorporate macros, drone shots, slow motion, and expressive time lapses. Gone are the days of boring, poorly shot videography.
21. More Stunning Visuals
B2B is associated with a rugged, austere style, especially in e-commerce. If you’re conducting competitive benchmarking, don’t be surprised if many websites don’t even have high resolution product photos. The effort to put together a cool stand at an industry fair will now be redirected towards the creation of attention-grabbing visuals for products, which will be showcased with a commercial narrative in mind (brand storytelling).
Naturally, such visuals and marketing strategies will not do well on a website with a design dating back two decades ago. A lot of shops will have to reinvent themselves and implement a more contemporary style.