B2B e-Commerce Trends for 2022 and Beyond

B2B e-Commerce Trends for 2022 and Beyond

In 2022, there is no doubt that the biggest challenges facing B2B companies involve digital transformation and facilitating e-commerce options. As we emerge from a global pandemic that irreversibly changed how we work and accelerated the implementation of key digital technologies, those organizations that do not adapt to an increasingly digital B2B landscape will suffer and fade away. This blog post looks at the essential B2B trends we think will define 2022 and beyond. 

The challenge facing B2B companies

This year, the key e-commerce trends will reflect the fact that digital transformation is shaping up to be a make-or-break process for many companies. They will also highlight B2B customers' shifting expectations. With a growing number of millennials assuming positions of power in B2B hierarchies and with more B2B decision-makers benefiting from direct experience of the power of digital tools, this transformation will be rapid, comprehensive, and decisive. For most B2B companies, it's time to digitally transform - or die.

The idea that digital transformation is a priority and is primarily driven by customer demand is backed up by statistics. A Digital Commerce 360 survey showed that just under half of B2B suppliers believe developing a more sophisticated website to meet customer needs better is the biggest challenge they face in 2022. Likewise, Forbes recently reported on a survey that showed 75% of B2B customers had requested the ability to purchase online. Almost three-quarters of those customers stated that the reason was the simplicity of shopping online. Customer expectations and demands are driving digital transformation in B2B companies and forcing the adoption of new technologies.      

B2B trends for 2022

1. Bringing it back to e-Business

As a term, e-commerce has been around for a significant amount of time. It's a central concept in B2C online operations and plays a growing role in the B2B approach. However, if B2B companies are to implement digital transformation effectively, they cannot directly import language, concepts, and models from the B2C sector. The two differ significantly. Simply copying B2C terminology and ideas will not serve B2B organizations well.

E-commerce is an excellent example of this. It's a term that has derived much of its meaning from B2C, where customer relationships are far simpler and more direct. In the B2B sector, e-commerce is woefully inadequate. Instead, businesses should consider a return to e-business, a term much better suited to B2B because of its scope.

Whereas e-commerce restricts itself to the act of buying and selling online, e-business encompasses every aspect of conducting business online. In the context of B2B, where pricing and logistical complexities are inherent in doing business, and there can be multiple stakeholders and convoluted workflows, e-business is what matters. As a result, we expect to see far more B2B organizations focusing on e-business rather than concentrating solely on e-commerce.

2. The rise of the Digital Sales Room and B2B Marketplaces

A recent McKinsey report highlighted that only 20% of B2B buyers want to return to in-person sales. This statistic seems to confirm the argument that B2B organizations are so focused on digital transformation because their customers now expect and demand more intuitive and efficient digital experiences. But how does this manifest in reality?

The Digital Sales Room is a relatively new concept that illustrates how businesses can use digital technology to meet customers' shifting expectations. Designed to be a secure, shared space for sellers to inform, interact and negotiate with potential buyers, the Digital Sales Room is comparable to a customer- or partner-facing portal. It enables businesses to segment customers and offers custom pricing, tailored recommendations, relevant content, and product information that enhances the customer experience.

Essentially, Digital Sales Rooms are microsites that streamline the sales process and digitalize those conversations that sales reps and customers used to have over the phone. However, alongside those conversations, customers now have all the information they need to make sales decisions in a centralized location that is available 24/7 (which is great for deals where multiple stakeholders sitting in different geographies that may be involved). This also ensures the sales process is quicker, easier, and more convenient.

B2B marketplaces are also gaining in popularity and proving themselves an excellent way of expanding your brand exposure and picking up new customers. We believe B2B marketplaces have a big role to play as an outlet that complements more direct sales channels and e-Commerce solutions. By placing certain products on B2B marketplaces, you can reach an entirely new audience. You can then use the marketplace to direct customers to your independent e-commerce site, where you retail premium products and services.

3. Integration and Automation Platforms become the agile glue between customer experiences and the plethora of systems.

In the current B2B landscape, most organizations are working with diverse digital tools, technologies, and systems. This is partly due to the piecemeal approach most businesses have taken to adopting digital technology. It may also point towards a future in which SaaS tools become increasingly niche and businesses rely on a significant amount of third-party software and integrations to deliver a satisfactory customer experience.

That being said, these disparate systems need to be melded into a system that functions as a whole. If not, organizations will suffer from data silos, an inability to implement omnichannel practices successfully, and poor user experiences. In 2022, we expect DXPs to emerge as the most effective and popular way of bringing all these systems into line and tying everything together.

DXPs allow organizations to build processes that enhance the customer experience rather than forcing customer experiences to fit around existing systems, integrations, and processes. This is absolutely essential, as a make-do approach to digital experiences will only frustrate customers and push them toward the competition. The age of improvised digital infrastructure is over.

4. Digitalizing hybrid sales channels with buyer/seller enablement functions

Although digital technologies (and DXPs in particular) are well-positioned to automate a considerable number of sales functions and processes, companies cannot and should not attempt to automate everything. Human agents still have an essential role to play. But that role is changing.

With this in mind, we believe that the growth of hybrid sales channels will be a defining B2B trend in 2022. Blending automation tools and traditional sales channels is complex, and finding the right balance for your hybrid system will depend on your customers' needs. In most cases, B2B companies will require specific tools to make it work.

For instance, a DXP enables and accelerates sales team activity with tools connected to customer-facing portals and touchpoints on one side and, on the other, to the sales cockpit - whether that is within a CRM, sales portal, or custom applications. This ability to blend the approaches makes DXPs so valuable and ensures they complement the e-business approach.

5. Personalization, segmentation, and targeting will prove key to success

Personalization is key to success in B2C. That's increasingly true in B2B, too. However, personalizing content and pricing is far trickier in B2B. There are more variables, more decision-makers, and complex workflows to navigate. Despite this, B2B companies need to provide a more personalized service, as that is what customers expect and demand.

It's not just personalization that matters, though. Segmentation is also vital. Segmenting your buyers by size, location, or type (e.g. resellers, wholesalers, or manufacturers) enables you to deliver custom pricing, target specific groups with specialized content, and engage with customer groups more comprehensively. The ability to differentiate between these groups is essential if you want to cater your products and services to a wide range of customers.

Finally, it’s helpful to note that technological changes are making B2B personalization, segmentation, and targeting easier. For instance, Ibexa DXP’s headless architecture makes managing, editing, and publishing content across multiple channels far more straightforward. In turn, this reduces the amount of time and resources that go into producing and communicating personalized content.

6. Understanding the customer journey through analytics

The B2B customer journey is much more complex than traditional B2C journeys. When it comes to analytics, that means there is much more to measure, analyze and understand. It also means there is more opportunity for service improvement through detailed analysis.

Analytics help enhance the customer experience, improve supply management, power up personalization, and prevent purchase abandonment. Through careful study of the data, you can identify your problem points and dislocations - those areas where the customer hits a bump or comes up against an obstacle and drops out of the sales funnel.

While most DXPs may offer only basic analytics, they do permit integrations with other advanced business systems that enable comprehensive data analysis. This will prove remarkably helpful as you work towards an improved customer journey and a seamless digital experience

7. Feeling the effect of a generational shift

We have already touched on the growing influence of digitally native millennials in B2B organizations. However, as this generational shift will only gather pace and looks set to radically alter how B2B companies conduct their business, it's worth looking at this in greater depth.

As more of this digitally-fluent generation rise to senior purchasing positions, we expect greater pressure on B2B suppliers to design and successfully implement intuitive customer journeys. Millennials are putting a greater emphasis on customer experience and value ease of interaction far more than previous generations. They're accustomed to self-serve options, often recognize the limitations and weaknesses of traditional customer service channels, and are quicker to avoid face-to-face interactions if they don't see their benefit.

This generation also grew up with, and was conditioned by, the emergence and eventual ubiquity of B2C e-commerce. B2C's digital domination has shaped individuals' expectations, and those expectations are now being applied to B2B. While this presents B2B companies with a whole host of challenges, it's also an opportunity that businesses need to grab with both hands if they want to survive and thrive.

If you're interested in how Ibexa DXP can help your organization fulfil its digital promise and begin the digital transformation process, take a look at our product page or get in touch. Our experienced team understands the difficulties B2B companies face, and we designed our DXP to reflect and meet your needs. A powerful, modular platform that can scale as you do, Ibexa DXP ensures you can deliver satisfying and seamless digital experiences to all your customers.

Covid has been a moment of truth for B2B. Lanching digital channels is the way forward.

How B2B Companies Can Diversify Their Digital Sales Channels

Are you concerned about losing your current strong sales relationships if you move to digital, and how do you position yourself within the complex dynamic between the products that you sell and the digital channels that best serve your purpose: to sell more?

This eBook addresses how B2B businesses can evaluate their options, and to focus minds on the implications of diversifying their digital sales channels. 

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How B2B Companies Can Diversify Their Digital Sales Channels

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