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B2B e-commerce trends in 2020 and beyond

B2B e-commerce, E-commerce tips, E-commerce trends

Arno Ham November 26, 2019

As 2019 comes to an end, it’s time to look at where to take your B2B e-commerce business next to remain competitive. In this blog post, Arno Ham, Chief Product Officer at Sana Commerce, and his team discuss the top emerging trends in B2B e-commerce for 2020 and beyond.

Like our 2018 and 2019 predictions, most 2020 B2B e-commerce trends are about enhancing customer experience and convenience. The same topics also re-emerge, as technology gets smarter and enables previous trends to evolve even further in 2020. And once more, many of these e-commerce trends now entering the B2B space are already prevalent in B2C — but not always for the same reasons. Read on to discover our top predictions for 2020, as well as future e-commerce trends.

Is your B2B e-commerce platform falling behind and unable to keep up with these trends? Perhaps it’s time to consider an e-commerce replatforming project.

2020 B2B e-commerce trends

1. Fully personalized online shopping experiences arrive

Sapio’s 2019 research into the B2B buying process shows that personalization is already top-of-mind for many B2B customers. E-commerce functionalities such as predictive ordering, personalization and artificial intelligence (AI) to assist in buying decisions are already present as a top 5 priority for between 18% and 20% of B2B customers. In addition, 19% of B2B buyers would be persuaded to select a vendor based on their ability to offer a personalized online buying experience.

Download the B2B buying process report

As a result of this growing demand, personalization and predictive analytics will continue to get smarter in 2020. Combining browsing behavior, order history, demographics and other available data, e-commerce sites will provide fully customized online shopping experiences. Users will be served customized product catalogs and even entirely personalized websites, navigation experiences and checkout processes — all tailored to their individual needs.

Not only will this provide customers with added value and convenience, but also optimize conversion rates and average order value for vendors.

To provide such a customized experience, businesses will need to connect their web stores to the relevant data points, such as their ERP systems. The more data points that are available and interconnected, the more the accuracy — and therefore the effectiveness — of online shopping predictions and personalization will increase.

2. B2B voice commerce takes its first steps

As the adoption of voice assistants and consequently voice commerce surges in the B2C space, demand for voice commerce in B2B e-commerce in 2020 and beyond will not be far behind. In 2019, 14% of B2B customers already wanted to see voice ordering in their online B2B buying experience.

Compared to B2C orders, those in B2B tend to be more complex, but also more repetitive. This provides both challenges and opportunities for B2B voice commerce. On the one hand, buyers often require detailed images and descriptions to explore new products and make the correct selection. On the other, voice commerce lends itself very well to repetitive ordering, where visual aids and long descriptions are no longer needed. It allows repeat customers to quickly and easily place orders hands free, while completing other tasks.

Learn more about voice commerce, its challenges and opportunities, and how to get ready for this e-commerce trend in our video:

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Although this trend may be in its infancy, even in 2020, there are steps you can already take to prepare your business. Such as with personalization, an e-commerce solution that is fully integrated with your ERP is key to a successful voice commerce offering. Your ERP is where all your customer data is stored, including order history for those all-important repeat orders. By integrating your two systems, your e-commerce solution can then leverage this data to support voice commerce.

3. B2B online marketplaces find their niche

Online marketplaces will continue to appeal to B2B sellers and customers in 2020. As Sapio’s 2019 research into the B2B buying process revealed, only 6% of B2B buyers do not currently use online marketplaces. However, we’re starting to see this e-commerce trend take a new turn.

Online marketplaces offer sellers both pros and cons. They can be a fitting choice for new B2B sellers, as they require no upfront investment nor is there much need for marketing to grow into a new market. However, once sales increase, the transaction fees start eating into profit margins. But what we see as the main disadvantage of online marketplaces is that they keep customer contact and data for themselves. This means that, in this age of personalization and optimal customer experience, sellers, manufacturers and brand owners miss out on connecting with and getting to know their customers.

Consequently, a sub-trend we’re noticing are specialized niche marketplaces. Instead of shopping on platforms such as Amazon, where even specific product searches return thousands of hits, niche platforms will provide a more tailored experience and simpler user journeys. We’ve already seen niche marketplaces emerge in the healthcare industry, and we expect this e-commerce trend to grow in 2020.

Discover the top B2B e-commerce providers by downloading The Forrester Wave™ 2020 report

4. Augmented and virtual reality (AR and VR) provide functional opportunities in B2B

In B2C, augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) make up a growing trend mainly focused on delivering an inspiring and immersive customer experience. In B2B, this type of experience is less relevant.

When B2B customers shop online, they look for straightforward, quick and accurate experiences. Therefore, in B2B, a big opportunity for AR and VR technology is to serve a functional role: to help customers virtually try out and identify the correct products quickly and easily. This can come in especially handy when it comes to purchasing spare parts and custom designs.

B2B e-commerce future trends: Beyond 2020

5. B2B e-commerce becomes eco-conscious

We’re already seeing B2C e-commerce businesses make a move toward reducing their environmental impact. This includes highlighting the impact of certain actions to their customers. For instance, some web stores label narrow delivery time slots as having more CO2 impact than broader delivery slots. This empowers customers to lower their impact, while at the same time improving the efficiency of the delivery process for the business.

A web store offering eco-friendly options

 

This is not yet the norm in B2C, and we don’t expect it to have a big impact on B2B e-commerce trends in 2020. But with people across the world and across demographics becoming more conscious of environmental issues at home and at work, displaying and offering more sustainable options in the web store will give B2B companies a competitive edge.

Not only that, but companies often also have to report on their emissions and other environmental impact. Optimizing their delivery chain and other e-commerce processes can be key to meeting such targets. This is where e-commerce software and the right system integrations can play a significant role, not only to reduce environmental impact, but also to increase the efficiency and cost-effectiveness of ordering and fulfillment processes.

6. Progressive web apps (PWAs) grow their foundations

Progressive web applications or apps (PWAs) are nothing new, but they are still not expected to become a significant B2B e-commerce trend in 2020.

Unlike mobile apps, which are built specifically for Android, IOS etc., PWAs are delivered through the web, and are designed to work across all mobile devices and operating systems. This provides benefits for both companies, who only need to create and maintain a single, generic app; and customers, who no longer need to download and install the app from the app store. PWAs also offer better performance, as well as offline capabilities.

The first steps toward PWA are already being felt, with support for PWAs coming through from Apple only last year. In 2020, we’ll also see e-commerce software developers building the foundations for PWAs by delivering single-page applications (SPAs). This will already allow e-commerce websites to only load the information needed for the user, rather than entire new pages from a server.

Due to the confusion over the definition of PWAs, it’s possible that the term will be thrown around by software companies and trendsetters in 2020. But without an offline functionality, PWAs will simply remain SPAs for the time being.

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B2B e-commerce trends 2019 and 2018

Wondering what past e-commerce predictions looked like? Here’s a quick recap of the B2B e-commerce trends we discussed in 2019 and 2018:

Learn more about the evolution of B2B e-commerce trends from 2017 to beyond 2020 with our e-commerce trends timeline.

Discover more B2B e-commerce trends and stats

 

E-commerce trends from 2017 to 2020 and beyond

Download the timeline

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