The coronavirus pandemic has, and continues to affect businesses in all sectors from hospitality to entertainment.
At first this was first regarded as a temporary solution for businesses that were forced to make dramatic changes almost overnight, but it's clear now that the majority have fully embraced the transition to B2B ecommerce, considering it a more convenient, more efficient and often cheaper way of doing business.
While the adoption of digital commerce offers a lot of room for growth, businesses will need to ensure they understand the latest b2b ecommerce trends if they are to make the most of this opportunity.
Changing demographicsOver the last few years, we have seen a key change in the demographics of those driving B2B sales, with a report from Forrester in 2017 suggesting that 73% of Millennials are involved in B2B purchasing decisions.
This trend towards a predominately millennial audience has only accelerated over the past 12 months, as the so-called ‘digital natives’ have embraced the switch to ecommerce more readily than any other generation.
As part of this millennial buyers have now come to expect websites to provide a full self-service functionality, with a preference for using digital channels such as email for communication, rather than via phone calls.
Millennial buyers are also likely to be more price sensitive and willing to shop around to find the best deal.
The rise of mobile ecommerceThe rise of the smartphone means that today’s B2B buyers expect the same frictionless mobile experience that they would encounter in the B2C landscape.
A report published by Google and The Boston Consulting Group (BCG) suggests that at least of 50% of B2B search queries today are made on smartphones, and that mobile ‘drives, or influences’ roughly 40% of revenue in major B2B organisations.
This trend has accelerated over the past year as buyers no longer find themselves tethered to a desk, and the increased prevalence of remote working has driven a need buyers to feel productive even when away from a computer.
Despite this, many firms remain reluctant to invest the capital needed to create a compelling mobile experience, which leaves them playing catch –up amongst their more forward-thinking competitors.
User-centred designTraditionally, with the primary focus being on their sales team, many B2B firms have turned a blind eye towards their online user experience, with the usability and accessibility of their websites often limited by long loading times or lacklustre graphics.
Of course, in a future that is increasingly focused on ecommerce there is a need for firms to take a comprehensive look at their UX to identify possible pain points and redefine how clients are able to engage with their products and drive optimal conversions.
There is no doubt that 2021 will see the launch of a range of B2B ecommerce websites with UX as a focal point, leaving those unwilling to invest in new user-centred designs to look outdated by comparison.
AI and ChatbotsMuch has been written about the power Artificial Intelligence has to revolutionise the B2C shopping experience, but it's clear the technology will also have a major impact on the B2B sector, particularly as advancements in machine learning technology promise to lower the entry costs.
Machine learning is already being deployed by the likes of Amazon, to help boost sales through personalised recommendations for their consumers, whilst others are using AI-powered chatbots to boost engagements rates.
Elsewhere we are seeing sellers who need to contend with millions of SKU’s utilising AI-powered image recognition to help reduce manual data entry and errors, which in turn is helping to cut down on expenses.
B2B firms have little doubt over the value AI can bring to their business, with a recent report from Gartner predicting that over 75% of organisations will seek to deploy the use of AI by 2024.
A greater focus on securityWhile security has always been a key consideration for businesses, a shift to working from home has made it more difficult for firms to protect their employees from threats, whilst simultaneously increasing their reliance upon digital platforms which may be more susceptible to malicious attacks.
The World Economic Forum (WEF) warns that the increased prevalence of cyberattacks during the pandemic is likely to persist through 2021 and beyond.
As such it is crucial that firms are able to reassure their clients that the appropriate security measures are in place to protect their data and that they can feel confident in using their B2B ecommerce systems.
Looking aheadIf 2020 has taught us anything it’s that the future is uncertain, but that there are many digital solutions which offer the opportunity to overcome and to innovate. By anticipating these key 2021 B2B eCommerce trends and learning from the past, firms will be best prepared to achieve a successful future.
Currencies Direct is one of Europe's leading non-bank providers of currency exchange and international payment services. Since we were formed in 1996, we've maintained our focus on providing innovative foreign exchange and international currency transfer services to corporations of all sizes, online sellers and private individuals. We have also expanded our services to provide dynamic and pioneering "business to business" solutions to help companies, tier 2/3 banks and other non-bank financial institutions to process their international payments. Our headquarters are in the City of London (United Kingdom) and we have operations in continental Europe, Africa, Asia, and the United States. Currencies Direct is jointly owned by private equity firms Palamon Capital Partners and Corsair Capital.