As we step into a new year, a common question I’m asked is what major trends are expected to shape B2B commerce? People want to know what's staying relevant and what's making its exit.
Here are four of the anticipated shifts and emerging dynamics I expect to impact B2B commerce in 2024.
1. Goodbye, Search. Hello, Guided Selling.
B2B selling isn’t just about the buyer buying a product. It’s about education. It’s about giving your target buyer all of the relevant information they need to make an informed purchasing decision in the moment. In 2024, we’ll see a departure from the challenges of traditional search methods, where finding specific parts can feel like searching for a needle in a haystack.
B2B selling goes beyond a mere exchange of products; it's an educational journey. Recognizing this, businesses are moving away from the challenges posed by traditional search methods (contextualizing specific requirements, decision paralysis, product complexities), and shifting to guided selling. This methodology aims to streamline the buying process and enhance the overall customer experience. And, this is not just a technological pivot; it's a reevaluation of sales team structures. Businesses are exploring ways to optimize their resources, reduce expenses, and tap into the power of automated real-time data. As organizations adopt guided selling, they are seeing increased sales productivity, alleviated choice overload, expedited conversions, and ultimately, augmented revenue streams.
One of the key players leading this transformation is Logik.io. This innovative platform embodies the essence of guided selling by seamlessly bridging the gap between buyers and sellers. Unlike traditional search methods, Logik.io leverages advanced algorithms and machine learning to understand not just what you are looking for but the intricacies of your needs. Imagine a scenario during a quote or sale where a traditional search might overwhelm you with options. Logik.io steps in, asking not just what part you're seeking but intuitively unpacks the nuances. How much power does your machine require? What specific functionalities are you aiming for? In response, it doesn't merely provide a list of parts but offers a personalized, guided navigation system. It becomes a virtual consultant, recommending the ideal power supply based on your unique requirements.
Guided selling, epitomized by platforms like Logik.io, thrives on personalization. It understands that each B2B transaction is unique, tailoring recommendations based on the intricacies of the buyer's needs. This personal touch not only simplifies the purchasing process but also enhances customer satisfaction, paving the way for long-lasting business relationships. As we step into 2024, the shift from eCommerce search dominance to guided selling marks a transformative chapter in B2B transactions.
2. Hybrid Composable: The Best of Both Worlds
Last year, many B2B businesses found themselves at a crossroads, torn between the interconnected nature of their established monolithic systems and the promises of flexibility offered by a composable architecture. In 2024, the concept of a hybrid composable model will gain traction as a pragmatic and strategic approach.
Many companies have made substantial investments in legacy commerce platforms that function as the backbone of their operations. The idea of abandoning these systems entirely is both cost-prohibitive and fraught with operational risks.
With a hybrid composable model, businesses can retain their existing monolithic infrastructure while selectively integrating composable elements where relevant. Rather than opt for a complete transition to a composable architecture, B2B businesses can strategically adopt composable components in a phased manner. This allows them to leverage the benefits of modularity and flexibility without disrupting the entire operational framework. Companies can start by introducing a composable frontend or other modular elements that enhance specific aspects of the user experience or functionality.
Monolithic systems, despite their perceived limitations, often contain valuable data and functionalities. The hybrid composable approach enables companies to continue generating ROI from their existing monoliths while gradually evolving toward a more flexible architecture. This strategic balance ensures that previous technology investments continue to serve the business effectively.
Adopting a hybrid composable model is not about settling for a compromise - it's a strategic step toward future readiness. By incorporating composable elements, businesses can create an environment that not only enhances current operations but also serves as a foundation for a potential full-scale migration to a composable solution in the future. This approach ensures a smooth and controlled evolution, mitigating risks associated with abrupt transitions.
3. AI Propels Big Shift to Smart Commerce
In 2023, AI was an exciting concept. This year, it’ll be more than a shiny new toy. For 2024, AI promises a more substantial impact on B2B commerce, and we anticipate significant industry changes as the initial allure fades and AI begins to create a meaningful impact.
One of the significant shifts I anticipate this year is the identification and implementation of AI-driven use cases specifically tailored for B2B commerce. Unlike their B2C counterparts, B2B transactions are characterized by intricate data sets, ranging from customer and account information to detailed purchase histories. AI, with its capacity to analyze and derive insights from large datasets, will find nuanced applications within B2B scenarios.
AI will also play a huge role in reshaping how B2B buyers navigate and interact with eCommerce platforms. Expect to witness AI-driven algorithms influencing product selection by understanding the unique needs and preferences of buyers. AI's impact will extend across multiple dimensions of B2B data, encompassing customer data, account information, and purchase histories. The ability to uncover patterns, preferences, and trends within these datasets will lead to infinite use cases. From predicting future buying behaviors to optimizing inventory management, AI will become a versatile tool for businesses aiming to extract maximum value from their data assets.
4. Marketplace Hype Finally Fades Out
There are various types of B2B marketplaces, catering to different industries, needs, and business models: vertical, horizontal, procurement, supply chain and logistics, government, finance and payment - the list goes on. In this section, I'm referring to B2B eCommerce marketplaces.
I remember a few years back when the enthusiasm around B2B eCommerce marketplaces was contagious. Since then, what was once hailed as the future of B2B is now revealing its limitations, leading to a return to traditional eCommerce models in 2024.
The initial hype surrounding B2B marketplaces is finally settling down as businesses grapple with the realities of this ambitious model. While the promise of a centralized platform for diverse vendors and buyers seemed appealing, the challenges inherent in implementing and sustaining such ecosystems are becoming increasingly apparent.
One of the many underestimated obstacles in adopting B2B marketplaces has been the lack of operational muscle required to compete with behemoths like Amazon. The infrastructure, logistics, and distribution networks that giants like Amazon possess are often beyond the reach of smaller or newer entrants, leading to an uneven playing field. B2B marketplaces require a fundamentally different business model compared to traditional eCommerce. The complexities of managing multiple sellers, diverse product catalogs, and ensuring seamless transactions demand a level of operational sophistication that not all companies were prepared for. The realization is dawning that the marketplace model is not a one-size-fits-all solution.
Pilots and initial implementations of B2B marketplaces have failed to deliver the anticipated results. The complexities of onboarding diverse suppliers, ensuring quality control, and managing customer expectations have proven to be formidable obstacles. In response, businesses are revisiting the familiarity and reliability of traditional e-commerce models, which seem to offer even more flexibility with the dawn of composable commerce infrastructures.
Guided selling, hybrid composable architecture, AI, and fading marketplaces are on my list of predictions for 2024. But what’s for sure? 2024 is bound to be a revolutionary year in eCommerce with transformative opportunities for those that are ready for them.