2018 Predictions: What’s Next for B2B Ecommerce?

Evan Klein

There was a time before B2B ecommerce, and frankly, it wasn’t that long ago. B2C ecommerce was taking off, while wholesalers and manufacturers sufficed with status quo; no one expecting just how much B2C ecommerce would redefine user experience and buyer expectations.

With consumer-focused ecommerce on the upswing, it wasn’t long before B2B buyers began expecting similar ecommerce experiences. And the pièce de résistance? B2B ecommerce is more than double the size of the B2C ecommerce market.

Cue Forrester’s 2015 prediction that the US B2B ecommerce market would reach $1.13 trillion by 2020.

The not-so-little-market-that-could gained steam, and since then, we’ve seen major changes to B2B ecommerce. That said, its growth story is at the beginning. It was only last year when the majority conceded that this market was still in its infancy.

Looking back, 2017 marked key changes in the B2B ecommerce space. Consider integrations. Here at Zaelab, we managed complex integrations with organizations who were running multiple disparate ERPs and legacy backend systems with SAP Hybris. Working with an agile ecommerce service provider, you can significantly reduce implementation time and migration effort. This year, we also saw the beginnings of tracking digital commerce behavior, uncovering new ways to improve the B2B user experience and digital marketing strategies for ecommerce.

If 2016 indicated a step towards maturity for the B2B ecommerce market, this year marked transformation. So what’s next for B2B ecommerce? In a word: demand.

Here are four predictions that will change the landscape in 2018:

1. More than ever, increased demand for Amazon-like experiences (B2C-like experience demand)

Few companies rival Amazon’s simplified online customer experience. Offering an unparalleled level of service, product selection, price transparency, and a consumer grade user-experience, Amazon has set the bar high for online retail. How many times do you hear about another acquisition or another win for Amazon? In the business, there’s an expression for this, “Getting Amazon’ed.” In other words, online retailers need to get it together before they’re taken over.

We anticipate B2B buyers to demand the Amazon-level of sophisticated user-experience, and businesses to adapt their platforms more rapidly, and optimize for B2C- like experiences such as advanced searching, shopping carts, search history, and more.

2. Heightened focus on self-serve B2B experiences

From online banking and self-checkout kiosks, to ordering your morning coffee through a mobile app, self-service is now a common (and highly coveted) part of daily life for consumers. B2B self-serve experiences should be no different.

Not only do B2B self-services generate internal efficiencies, but also, according to Forrester, 38% of B2B purchases were made online in 2017, with estimations to increase to 55% by 2020. With the increase of online usage, a focus on improving self-service capabilities for B2B will be a priority for ecommerce in 2018.

3. Completely personalized digital experiences

Today’s consumer expects their digital experiences to be user-friendly, personalized, and adapt to their behaviors. Vertical ecommerce players are offered a unique experience, where product recommendations are specific to their business, simplifying their ecommerce experience.

Adapting artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning into these experiences will continue to offer tremendous opportunity for personalization of digital experiences. For example, usage of AI to analyze client purchase history and project future needs, allowing them to suggest appropriate add-on features or services, and simplify searching and ordering processes. With more and more transactions, AI will only get better.

4. Mobile focus finally takes off (catering to younger B2B buyers on-the-go)

More than half of B2B buyers research products from their smartphones; so prioritizing mobile as a B2B ecommerce channel in 2018 should come as no surprise. Focusing on mobile ecommerce will not only cater to millennials, but also to B2B buyers who work remote or travel for business often.

B2B ecommerce is on a springboard and successful businesses will only continue to grow and invest more resources into simplified, intuitive, and efficient experiences for their clients.

What are your predictions for B2B ecommerce in 2018? Comment below.

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