2020 has been a year marked with unprecedented perseverance, creativity, and new perspectives on the best ways to run a business. In the midst of countless industry changes and obstacles, B2B e-commerce has continued to see large upturns in growth and revenues.
With figures like e-retail sales accounting for 14.1% of all global retail sales and projected to reach 22% by 2023, the importance of B2B ecommerce, online wholesale, and ecommerce as a whole will continue to grow as well.
This post will provide a look into some of the most popular B2B e-commerce trends to look out for in 2021 that brands can implement to thrive and take business to the next level.
1. Transparency is key
It goes without saying that transparency is critical to the success of any business, but especially in 2021 when more and more business transactions are moving online.
Traditionally, buyers had more opportunities to meet up with brands in person at trade shows and in real-life showrooms. This type of face-to-face interaction offered an opportunity to touch products and ask direct questions about quality and pricing. Today, for safety reasons and due to advances in B2B e-commerce tech, more and more buying interactions are happening virtually.
But, that doesn’t mean that transparency about quality and pricing is any less important. In fact, 44% of B2B buyers say they want clear pricing on eCommerce sites. Brands that can deliver transparent pricing and quality information as well as a fluid user experience via smart technology will win over brands that don’t.
2. Buyers value personalized shopping experiences
Not only is transparency key in the online shopping world, but so are personalized experiences. More and more buyers crave shopping experiences that are data-driven and tailored to the needs of their retail customers.
When shopping online, stats show that one in three buyers chose to purchase from brands that personalize with AI, predictive ordering functionality, customized product catalogs, and one-click reordering, to name a few critical personalization features.
Brands that invest in personalization tools like data-collection software, enterprise resource planning software, and a customizable B2B eCommerce platform that digitizes your unique selling process will stand out in a crowd.
Industry research quantifies this by showing that personalization engines that recognize customer intent help online businesses boost profits by up to 15%.
3. B2B online marketplaces and niche marketplaces are booming
As of now, 26% of B2B buyers say online marketplaces are their most preferred purchasing channel, and Sapio’s research into the B2B buying process shows that only 6% of B2B buyers do not currently use online marketplaces.
The numbers reflect the popularity of online marketplaces as they are projected to account for 40% of the global online retail market. Gartner projected that this trend will continue throughout the next few, and that 75% of B2B procurement spending will happen via the online marketplace.
Online marketplaces will remain popular throughout 2021 and continue to gain traction, but there is one more important shift for brands and buyers to keep in mind.
With more demand for tailored shopping experiences, the market is seeing more specialized niche online marketplaces.
One such example is Amazon’s dive into the healthcare industry to enable more medical supply sales online. Smaller online marketplaces and e-commerce solutions are providing niche selling experiences this year too.
In the wholesale world specifically, the industry is seeing more marketplaces and e-commerce tools for buyers to attend full-fledged online trade shows.
An excellent way for brands to engage buyers is to take a closer look at online marketplaces and the tools that facilitate online B2B buying and selling.
4. More B2B leaders believe e-commerce solutions are essential
Before this year’s global pandemic, 48% of B2B buyers said that self-service was more important than traditional sales interactions, according to research by McKinsey & Company.
Since the pandemic, that number has increased by 18%, with 66% of buyers saying they prefer self-service options due to COVID-19.
While buyers demand more e-commerce solutions, it’s critical for brands to remember that not all solutions are created equal.
McKinsey & Company also learned that the top-three most frustrating issues with suppliers’ websites included the length of the ordering process (36%), difficulty finding products (34%), and technical glitches with ordering (33%).
It’s important for buyers to invest in e-commerce solutions, but not just any self-service solution. Brands that make it easy for buyers to make purchases, find what buyers are looking for, and that provide a seamless user experience will experience more success.
Additionally, while the onset of COVID-19 has rapidly increased the need for smart e-commerce platforms, researchers project that the trend of using digital selling solutions will continue post-COVID-19. In fact, 80% of decision-makers say that they will retain their new selling model for at least 12 months after the pandemic ends.
This move toward online selling and buying will continue in the future, making now the perfect time for wholesale brands to digitize.
5. The Agile methodology is a great way to move through COVID-19
If there is one thing 2020 has taught us, it’s that you never know what challenges are going to present themselves and how they will affect the business world. As such, it’s critical for brands to be flexible and find ways to adapt to changes. One way to do this is to adopt the Agile methodology.
The Agile methodology is a project management process that focuses on communication and feedback and quickly adapting to change.
Experts say Agile is the best methodology to move successfully through 2021 and COVID-19 because it allows team members to make quick shifts and move forward during uncertainty. Agile also focuses on collaborative communication (even virtually), and encourages all team members to make speedy decisions and react quickly to customer needs.
Agile is a recipe for success during challenging times, such as COVID-19 and the 2008 economic recession. McKinsey reports that companies that adopted a through-cycle mindset did the best in 2008, and will be best positioned to move out of the downturn.
6. There’s a shift toward quick order fulfillment and delivery
As more B2B companies participate in swift digital transformation, customers aren’t willing to allow for lags in fulfillment and delivery. Customers expect the same fast shipping options that long-time B2C companies provide.
In fact, a recent study shows that 94% of B2B buyers expect the same level of customer satisfaction they get as when they make personal purchases. To get more concrete, these customer satisfaction expectations include things like low-cost and highly transparent and quick delivery of goods, according to CCJ Digital.
Millennials are particularly demanding when it comes to expecting quick delivery. Stats show that 56% of millennials expect same-day delivery.
Why do Millennial expectations matter to B2B e-commerce brands?
Stats show that 73% of Millennial workers are involved in B2B purchasing decisions. Research by TrustRadius shows that over 45% of B2B tech buyers are 25-34 years old, meaning Millennials are the largest B2B buying demographic.
To keep up with buyer demands, especially among Millennial buyers, B2B e-commerce brands may consider fulfillment and delivery solutions by partnering up with a third-party logistic company and look into providing enhanced shipping options from the get-go.
Another idea is to automate the warehousing process. Automation typically reduces human error and makes the fulfillment process more efficient.
Either way, investing in lightning-fast order fulfilment and shipping is one trend that comes along with more B2B companies undergoing quick digital transformations in 2021.
7. Buyers want more payment options
As B2B wholesale brands move sales online and adopt e-commerce sales technology, it’s important to remember to make the payment process seamless.
B2B buyers have a lot on their plates, including making purchases, managing cash flow, and budgets. E-commerce brands should do everything in their power to make the payment process easy for buyers. Experts recommend re-evaluating your payment options to see if your brand needs upgrades.
The more flexibility and personal value you offer to your B2B buyers, the higher your conversions will be. In fact, stats show that if you offer the three most used payment options to your buyers, you can boost your sales by up to 71%.
In terms of B2B transactions, most brands probably already offer payment via major credit cards. Other ideas include implementing payment plans, providing purchase orders, or even extending credit.
Another idea is to invest in a top-tier e-commerce payment solution that allows all integrations including major credit cards, ApplePay, PayPal, Amazon Pay, money orders, BitCoin, Venmo, and more.
As 2021 sneaks up on us, take the time to evaluate and optimize your payment options.
8. An excellent customer experience is essential
Another top 2021 B2B e-commerce trend is the need to provide a stellar user experience for your retailers. Excellent customer and user experience is essential, considering 86% of buyers are willing to pay more for a good experience. Additionally, buyers are willing to pay an average of 13% more for added features and luxury items when the customer experience is excellent.
To convert your buyers into loyal customers and provide these desired good experiences, make it easy for users to navigate your website and to use your chosen e-commerce solutions.
Consider using a B2B e-commerce selling solution that makes it easy to connect with customers, communicate clearly, schedule virtual meetings, and show off your products in a digital environment.
Providing a great customer experience is also about making it easy to navigate your line sheets, view your products with ease, and make an order with no hitches. And, don’t skimp on design, content production, quality product image resolutions, or product descriptions.
9. Wholesale is here to stay
Wholesale is still one of the biggest revenue drivers for brands in 2020. In NuORDER’s upcoming State of the Wholesale Industry Report, nearly all respondents reported that wholesale is the channel they are investing in the most.
While the report showed that there was insecurity on how brands viewed the future of wholesale amid COVID-19, overall sentiment was that retail isn’t going anywhere anytime soon. Be sure to subscribe to our email list to be the first to get the key findings and insights of our report.
This year truly has been a difficult year for many industries. Simultaneously, many have risen to the occasion and leveraged tech to advance their businesses. While the B2B e-commerce industry has been an outlier and seen unprecedented boosts in revenue, that doesn’t mean these changes have been easy to navigate.
This year, more than any other year, B2B e-commerce brands have had to be adaptable, adopt the agile methodology, and be willing to move their products, resources, and sales processes all online.
The good news is companies like NuORDER have been preparing for these quick shifts to a digital wholesale world. With the NuORDER e-commerce selling solution, it’s easy to scale your wholesale brand. For more information about how brands and retailers can easily collaborate online with the help of NuORDER, schedule a demo today.