B2B e-commerce continues to change. It’s becoming increasingly digital, increasingly self-serve, and increasingly global. And it’s growing; according to a report by Digital Commerce 360, B2B e-commerce sales increased 17.8 percent in 2021, from $1.39 trillion in 2020 to $1.63 trillion in 2021.
Early adopters of B2B e-commerce platforms were industry leaders. But these days, it’s not enough to simply have e-commerce. To stay competitive, successful companies can’t just rest on their laurels—they need to continue to modernize to keep up.
In this article, we provide a glimpse of the B2B e-commerce trends you need to understand. Then, we provide strategies for continuing to modernize your web store and e-commerce platforms.
The current landscape of B2B e-commerce
It’s not easy to forecast the future, but some B2B e-commerce trends look like they’re here to stay. Suppliers ignore these at their peril.
B2B buyers are changing. B2B buyers are no longer satisfied with glitchy online shopping experiences. They’re looking increasingly like B2C consumers—they want superb customer service, an attractive web store platform, accurate product information, and a seamless ordering experience.
Learning from data. E-commerce platforms are providing B2B suppliers with the data they need to optimize marketing, customer experiences, supply chain management, and ultimately sales. Companies are implementing advanced analytic tools, like Sana Commerce Insights, to obtain insights that help them optimize performance.
Customer data platforms (CDPs). CDPs integrate and combine all your customer data into a single platform. Companies are increasingly using these massive platforms to centralize their data and use it more efficiently to improve their marketing and customer communication. Some estimate that 37 percent of B2B companies are now using a CPD—and that figure is growing.
Personalized and contextual pricing. With more advanced e-commerce platforms, it’s much easier to offer different prices to different customers or adjust prices to match competitors. This is becoming increasingly popular as companies try to optimize their profits and offer prices that meet the needs of their different customers.
Strategies and tactics for e-commerce
Given those trends, how can you keep your business at the leading edge of B2B e-commerce and ensure you’re taking advantage of emerging opportunities? Here are some of our top strategies.
1. Simplify the buying experience
Older e-commerce sales workflows sometimes unintentionally introduce friction. For example, they may require sales reps to finalize each order. Or, status updates and shipping information may have to be provided manually. They may also involve third-party intermediaries. Long, complex supply chains can create worse experiences for customers and create sales barriers.
It's time to shrink and simplify the supply chain. Aim to create effective self-serve buying options that can be completed without sales reps. Automate approvals, status updates, and shipping information as much as possible. When you simplify the buying process, you’ll reduce the administrative burden for both you and your customers and improve the customer experience.
2. Give sales reps higher-value work
Automating your order process will free up some time for your sales reps. They can spend less time completing orders, less time sending reminder emails, and less time on follow-up calls.
The time they save on these more mundane tasks can be used for higher-value work like identifying new leads, nurturing existing leads to boost conversions, or working with at-risk customers to reduce churn. This higher-value work will help you expand your sales and improve your bottom line.
3. Use data to improve your marketing and buying process
You can’t ignore data anymore—effective data analytics is critical to B2B e-commerce success. It can help you develop personalized customer experiences and help you more effectively target your marketing and sales efforts. Now is the time to invest in data analytics.
Start by identifying customer characteristics and signals that are associated with positive behaviors, like increasing order volumes or re-ordering more often. Then create a system where you can pull data about those characteristics and signals from your e-commerce platform into a dashboard to monitor. Sana Commerce Insights is one sophisticated analytics tool that easily plugs into your Sana Commerce Cloud e-commerce platform to help you leverage your customer data.
In addition to data about customers, make sure you’re also collecting data from customers. In other words, track your customer feedback. Customers tell you what they are looking for and how you can improve your service. Use a customer feedback management tool to collect and organize this feedback. Then use it to create more effective content, create more personalized service, and improve customer experiences.
4. Use your e-commerce platform to test market ideas
Your e-commerce platform can provide you with valuable product data as well as customer data. It can be an extremely valuable tool for identifying product opportunities in the market and for testing new products ready for launch.
For example, you could launch pre-sales for a potential new product to gauge interest. Understanding how willing your current customers are to buy that new product can help you determine whether it’s worth manufacturing on a larger scale.
5. Plan for scale
B2B e-commerce is growing. You will be best served by an e-commerce platform that can scale with you. That might mean having the ability to expand to include new product lines and brands, accommodate sales in different countries, or even enable your platform to be used in multiple languages and with many different currencies.
Even if your company is not planning to extend beyond your local market yet, it’s a good idea to plan for that possibility. It’s increasingly easy for businesses to source their supplies internationally. Building your web store on a platform that is easy to scale will help you access these international customers when the time is right.
Your B2B e-commerce platform supports future success
The trick to winning at B2B e-commerce is ensuring your infrastructure empowers you to keep up with your competitors. The right platform gives you the tools you need to provide a sleek purchasing experience, execute targeted marketing campaigns informed by data, personalize your customers' experience, and scale up your web store when you need to.
Finding the right platform is key.
Sana Commerce Cloud is the only e-commerce solution that integrates directly into your ERP. It’s built to enable business evolution and foster lasting customer relationships. Request a demo to see how this platform can help you keep up with the latest B2B e-commerce trends and future-proof your business.
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