Gen Z would probably describe 2022 as the year B2B business got ‘shook.’
Between global labor shortages, international tension and conflict, and major supply chain disruptions, a light has been shone on B2B practices - and turns out, they’re broken.
Most people in my line of business would probably tell you that fixing these problems has been a long time coming.
If the last two years marked a transformational era in B2B commerce, 2023 will be the year B2B now fundamentally shifts the way it conducts digital business. B2B has seen the rise of marketplaces, treaded water with Amazon, and walked a traditional sales path. Now, B2B needs to brace itself for the fall, the freestyle, and the run.
Consult the blueprints and call the architects: here’s what is getting fixed in the house of commerce this year.
1. B2B stages a walk-out and boycotts one-size-fits-all commerce tech.
An epiphany strikes and there will be an overdue and unanimous realization that B2C technologies do not work for B2B.
The global digital commerce market is estimated to reach 18.97 USD trillion by 2028, up from 6.92 USD trillion in 2021. So why B2B has continued to be treated as a B2C add-on in the world of commerce is frankly beyond me.
Many organizations have attempted to take their B2C technologies and services and make it B2B. Square peg, round hole - it just doesn’t work. We’ve already seen the emergence of next-gen B2B-focused platforms and technologies (think Balance for B2B payments, Logik.io for interactive product configurations). In 2023, composable B2B-first technologies will continue to flood the market, and we’ll see more capital and emphasis flowing into the B2B commerce space. By result, B2B will finally ditch B2C commerce tech.
2. B2B takes only the kitchen sink with a consolidated customer experience.
Unification of the B2B customer experience will rid the ‘too many cooks in the kitchen’ debacle.
Tell me your customer experience is siloed without telling me your customer experience is siloed:
- CPQ for sales and service
- Commerce for dealers and distributors
- ERP for backend sales and order entry
B2B is complex and, today, most businesses are operating on siloed systems and platforms to meet a variety of challenging needs. This disconnected solution checks boxes but will never deliver an exceptional customer experience. Combine this with growing B2B buyer demands for delightful and hyper-personalized experiences and the result is lackluster revenue. It’s time to embrace the connected enterprise. This year ahead, systems and experiences will converge into one, unified customer experience that supports the end-to-end sales process.
3. Technology, take the wheel. B2B sales gets digitized.
B2B organizations will re-evaluate their sales teams and pump the brakes on manual selling.
Five years ago, Forrester analyst Andy Hoar brought The Death Of A (B2B) Salesman to the forefront. He alluded to the consumerization of the B2B buyer and predicted the displacement of sales reps.
As if on cue, now we have guided selling.
Traditional sales tactics are being replaced by an AI selling strategy - which is bringing the right buyers to the right products. By re-evaluating sales team structures, attempting to reduce expenses, and relying on automated real-time data, B2B organizations that adopt guided selling are recognizing:
- Increased sales productivity
- Curbed choice overload
- Quicker conversions
- More revenue
In 2023, intuition and subjective selling practices will fall flat, with commodity-based B2B businesses facing the most disruption.
4. The C-Word makes modernizing supply chains viral and easy to catch onto.
Legacy supply chain technologies will become beyond socially distant from exceptional B2B commerce experiences.
I know. COVID-19 fatigue is real and we want to move on. But, coronavirus cursed the world in many ways, and we’re still feeling the impacts of the global supply chain shortage. By forcing many B2B businesses to modernize supply chains, legacy technologies bared their weaknesses and added another layer of consideration to the user experience.
Since, we’ve seen new supply chain technology players flood the market, including disruptors like STEDI. This modernized technology reinvents legacy technologies like EDI and is making B2B trade significantly easier.
There is no space for legacy supply chain technologies in 2023. And certainly no way for B2B businesses to win if they can continue on these systems.
5. Jackpot: B2B punchout and procurement commerce is the best bet.
B2B will continue to go all-in on punchout for its ability to deliver both revenue and a great user experience.
Punch-out solutions have long offered a simplified solution to B2B buyers, and this trend will continue to reign true into 2023. For B2B businesses, punchout remains the easiest way to procure supplies in real-time. From a user experience perspective, all elements of the ordering and delivery experience are accessible in one spot.
Not only do I expect that punchout and procurement will continue to trend, I also expect more B2B organizations will determine how to integrate punchout in a more meaningful way to their commerce platforms.
6. Checkmate? Amazon Business’s threat to B2B poses sudden death.
Amazon Business will capitalize on its passed pawn positioning to continue capturing the win.
My take on Amazon Business hasn’t changed. I think they dominate certain B2B commerce aspects, but will never truly own the space - by choice.
That said, B2B’s lack of innovation - largely on account of unfocused commerce technology and services - has made for stiff competition against Amazon. Through the pandemic, Amazon continued to grow B2B substantially, displacing commodity providers and winning business. This year ahead, as B2B continues to play catch up, we’ll see Amazon Business conquering B2B particularly in industrial distribution.
7. The sold-out B2B marketplace show plateaus and makes its final curtain-call.
B2B marketplaces will continue to trend early 2023, but many will falter and won’t get a call-back.
When B2B marketplaces emerged, it quickly became the fastest-growing B2B commerce channel. At the time, this was the best way for B2B to offer the most choice to their buyers.
Could this be displaced by composable commerce practices?
I predict that organizations with captive buyers will continue to try and increase their product range on their B2B marketplaces in 2023. Many will attempt and few will succeed - but the ones that can build the muscle memory will be poised to win.
Is your B2B commerce presence primed to evolve in 2023? At Zaelab, our team is well-versed in best composable commerce practices and commerce platform implementations. Talk to us today about how to make 2023 the year that your B2B business thrives.