For years, B2C eCommerce has led the way with B2B eCommerce lagging behind, as technology platforms failed to properly support the complex needs of B2B. Brands and wholesalers have typically treated B2B eCommerce as something of an afterthought. But times are changing. Here are the hottest B2B eCommerce trends we expect to see in 2019:
AI driven customer experience
Artificial Intelligence (AI) – the science and engineering of computer systems to think and learn – is already powering consumer lives when it comes to deducing user intent in search engines, displaying the most appropriate ads, optimizing website layout or identifying the most relevant product recommendations. Such capabilities are the cornerstone of a personalized customer experience, key for the success of e-commerce sites.
Gartner predicts that by 2020, personalization technology could lead to more than a 15% increase in eCommerce profits for brands.
B2B e-commerce must further evolve and adopt personalization, leveraging the technological headway made in the B2C space, applying it appropriately to the needs of B2B purchasing. This is one of the most important B2B eCommerce trends to look out for.
Consistent omnichannel commerce
B2B purchases are generally far larger and more elaborate than B2C, requiring accommodation for complex buyer and seller approvals, payments, fulfillment options and more. Additionally, B2B buyers are accustomed to extensive human interaction in their transactional sales cycles – that’s how they’ve been purchasing for years.
When it comes to supporting multiple B2B commerce channels – web, mobile, face-to-face and on the phone – the benefits are clear, but execution is hard.
The key for a successful omnichannel approach is in delivering consistent experiences, across channels, ensuring customers have easy access to online and offline channels as well as to sales reps that can intervene at any time in the purchase process.
We expect that also in 2019 brands and distributors will focus efforts on fundamental design and execution of their omnichannel strategy, with B2B eCommerce apps playing a significant role.
Video has taken the internet by storm. People cannot get enough of it and brands must take advantage of that. Video can be especially useful for industries selling very visual items, complex products that may need some buyer “education”, or those where there is a greater need for “sensing” the product.
We expect to see much more video content being consumed in B2B sales processes especially when it comes to telling a brands’ story, providing product overviews and proving brand/product value via customer reviews.
Voice assisted commerce
Echo, Alexa, Siri and a plethora of other software and hardware voice assistants are further facilitating consumer lives. After all, what could be more intuitive then our own voice? It comes as no surprise that it’s predicted that by 2020, 50% of searches will be voice assisted, making this one of the most important B2B eCommerce trends to be aware of.
Voice commerce is no longer a thing of the future. Users are adopting it faster than ever. In 2019, be prepared to explore a voice-assisted strategy, starting with search and possibly expanding to other areas of B2B interactions.
What is a Chatbot? It is a computer program designed to interact (‘chat’) with customers, answer their questions and assist them in any way to streamline the shopping experience. In essence – it is another manifestation of a personalized buyer experience, but much more interactive.
The applications for B2B eCommerce are likely to focus on basic customer support, evolving over time to personalized recommendations and more complex sales interactions.
Augmented reality (AR)
A further evolution of customer experiences – AR and VR provide a visual, interactive and immersive experience. While predominantly viewed today as a retailers in-store capability to enhance customer experience with a great wow factor, some brands are already experimenting with such technologies via mobile apps - Sephora Virtual Artist and Tap Painter are a couple of examples.
AR is a great, but its applicability for B2B e-commerce is yet to be proven. Maybe 2019 will be the year where we see this B2B eCommerce trend shine?
It’s all about delighting customers, and while B2B purchasing has its share of complexities, we expect greater focus on consistent, omnichannel B2B eCommerce experiences in 2019.