A Frost & Sullivan report indicates that B2B along with retail eCommerce is likely to hit $12 trillion in sales globally by 2020. Though this number also includes electronic data interchange (EDI), it is expected that non-EDI B2B eCommerce transactions will be growing into the trillions in the next few years. In fact, the eCommerce transactions in the non-EDI B2B sector were over $600B in 2013.
According to Frost & Sullivan’s Visionary Research Group, there are various reasons for B2B eCommerce to top the list and almost all are related to increasing pressure on businesses to sell to other businesses online. Industry leaders are creating pressure to move to online platforms, which is coming in multiple forms. These are:
- More and more companies are expecting to conduct online transactions;
- A large number of companies are now interested in leveraging mobile commerce for placing orders;
- Some companies are now seeing the Internet as a viable (and better) option for procurement transactions instead of using EDI;
- Finally, e-marketplaces or more specifically B2B e-marketplaces like AmazonSupply.com, All.biz, and Alibaba.com are growing in popularity.
According to Forbes, Chinese-based B2B e-marketplaces like Alibaba are likely to be the front-runners though there will be ample room for other companies, irrespective of their size or place of origin. However, strategic moves are essential here, keeping the recent market trends in mind.
Here are the top 5 B2B eCommerce trends every manufacturer and B2B business needs to consider.
1. Flexibility in Payment Options
For a cloud-based, on-demand B2B industry, many think that paper is waning. However, such belief can affect your business in all the wrong ways throughout 2015. Unlike B2C buyers, B2B transactions use diverse payment channels or processes. Purchase approval in B2B, for example, usually needs several sign-offs. B2B buyers prefer paying with purchase orders, e-checks, and/or physical checks instead of making credit card payments.
In 2015, manufacturers need to be more flexible in terms of payment options as eCommerce solutions that natively support flexible payment options will be on rise this year. It is therefore important to ensure that users are not left waiting during the check-out process.
It is the B2B buyers who should have control of the payment process so that they can pay the way they want. For this, manufacturers and suppliers need to shift their focus from electronic-payment-only strategy.
Implement as many choices as possible including eCheck, PO, credit card, and paper check. If your payment processing system is based on the convenience to your buyers, you'll find it to be much easier to run your business than you ever thought.
2. Buyers are Now Empowered B2B End-Users
Empowered end-users are something B2B companies need to be aware of. These new empowered end-user buyers are usually small business owners and/or enterprise employees with the authority to make purchase decisions without C-suite approval. In a cloud-based world, this practice is another way to keep up with the pace and newer market trends. To better motivate these new buyers, B2B sellers need to reach out to them and empower them.
Convenience, again, is critical here. Manufacturers or B2B sellers need to streamline the user experience. This, however, is just the beginning as more buyers still look for B2B suppliers offering recognized brands and products that they (as well as their B2C buyers) trust. Yet again, there are B2B buyers who need solid information about technical specifications and price points to make the purchasing decision.
B2B eCommerce transactions in this way are quite similar to their offline counterparts, though the buyer power increases exponentially via the Internet. B2B purchasers can now compare prices easily across multiple vendors and can find a new seller offering better deals with little effort. Offering ‘value’ to buyers from their first click to checkout is therefore essential.
3. Replicate Brick-and-Mortar Experience
In B2C eCommerce, omnichannel has already become a leading trend. B2B also needs to replicate brick-and-mortar experiences. B2B purchasing needs a process where the buyers can see and evaluate products, including access to user documents, product specifications, instructional videos, and staff consultation, if required.
Specificity and knowledge are critical aspects here. This also helps B2B buyers to feel confident regarding the B2B suppliers being experts in the subject matter.
4. Open Source is The Latest Fad
In 2015, B2B sellers need to opt for open source for success. Being apprehensive will no longer serve the purpose. Leveraging open source technologies has become essential for manufacturers and B2B suppliers. More and more businesses are incorporating open source technologies that are related to payment as they offer big benefits, including the benefit of flexibility.
You can easily modify open source codes according to your requirements. Most eCommerce solutions offer a host of features; some of them are critical to your business while there are others you don’t need. With open source, you have granular control over user experience.
Open source also offers the advantage of user communities and tested add-ons to further enhance the end-user experience. From language conversion modules for boosting international sales to credit modules for creating discount coupons and vouchers, these add-ons include everything.
5. The Rise of M-Commerce
This is more predictable than any other B2B eCommerce trend we have discussed so far and shouldn't come as a surprise. M-Commerce sales are already rising in the B2C industry and mobile buying is all set to dominate the B2B landscape.
With smartphone penetration in the U.S. market reaching 75 percent (ComScore), a significant amount of online traffic is coming from mobile devices. This is one reason why mobile eCommerce is on the rise. In fact, users expect such features from leading B2B e-marketplaces.
For example, most mobile buyers expect features like on-demand live chat for prompt responses to product related questions. If you are taking over a few hours to answer a product inquiry, you are more likely to end up losing the sales opportunity.
Having a mobile-capable eCommerce platform is therefore crucial for a successful B2B eCommerce business.
B2B eCommerce promises a lot of growth potential in the coming years. If you want to move ahead in the B2B landscape this year, there are a few trends you need to start investing on. These five trends that we have discussed here will help you to take a big leap in your online B2B transactions.
Guest Author Bio: Simon Horton is the Founder of ShopIntegrator.com, a Hosted Shopping Cart Store Add-In. His years of experience have helped him with setting up this platform. Feel free to reach out to him on Google+.