The State of B2B Ecommerce (and the 3 Vital Trends to Follow)


The State of B2B Ecommerce (and the 3 Vital Trends to Follow)

The world of Ecommerce is always evolving, and to stay competitive businesses must follow and modify their tactics to match new trends as they arise.

In particular, the B2B market is expected to grow radically, with a recent study from Forrester projecting that B2B Ecommerce in the United States will reach double the worth of B2C operations by 2020.

According to their numbers, in 2015 the US B2B marketplace generated $780 billion dollars, and in 2020 that number is expected to exceed $1.13 trillion.

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A chart representing the growth of the B2B Ecommerce market between 2015 and 2020

Forrester’s data on upcoming Ecommerce trends in the United States.

Of course, to fully capitalize on this potential, business owners must closely scrutinize the flow of B2B Ecommerce moving forward. But before we get to the latest changes in B2B, it helps to define what that term actually covers first.

The Difference between B2C and B2B

In a nutshell, B2C and B2B are the two different kinds of virtual commerce that take place on the internet. Personal and Professional purchasing.

Visual representation of B2C and B2B Ecommerce arrows indicating the uniqueness of their operations.

B2C – Personal

Short for Business-to-Consumer, B2C refers to the online selling of any product from a retailer directly to the consumer. Customers browse products from listings on a website, specify a delivery method, and make their personal purchases at checkout via their chosen payment method.

Its a fairly straightforward system, and it’s what most people think of when they hear about the online marketplace.

B2B – Professional

Short for Business-to-Business, B2B varies from B2C in that transactions are specifically between business buyers and business sellers, and generally involve more complicated purchasing processes.

Rather than using the same simple browse and buying method as B2C, orders are often placed through emails, uploaded documents, and other forms of electronic orders to accommodate high-volume purchases and company record keeping.

Purchases themselves are made by company buyers who research and order products from B2B sellers to supply the business they represent.

The Take Away: B2C and B2B Ecommerce divide the online marketplace between general retail, and professional purchases. The sudden increase in the B2B marketplace indicates that business sellers are presented with massive opportunities for growth, but only if those businesses accurately follow and adjust to its trends.

3 Huge New Trends in B2B Ecommerce

Image of post-it notes spelling out success and a simple line graph indicating growth.

1. A Focus on Personalized Customer Selling

Interestingly enough, this is something the B2C market has already been doing for years.

Those retailers have come to understand that on a face-to-face level, the average customer tends to frequent the businesses that understand their needs best, and the ones that improve their shopping experience the most. Hence the famous saying, “The customer is always right”.

So why is this strategy now becoming popular, and even necessary, with B2B operations?

There’s been a sudden shift in the demographic of B2B researchers and buyers. According to a study performed by thinkwithgoogle, from 2012 to 2014, a younger crowd (between the ages of 18-34) grew from 27%-48% of the internet’s active B2B researchers, and this demographic is continuing to take over at an incredible rate.

This sudden wave of fresh B2B researchers (all part of the popularly dubbed “millennial” generation) grew up in a world where the internet was always available to them, and their casual familiarity with this digital realm must now be taken into account.

The personal control and immediate gratification provided through social media and modern online marketplaces have become common expectations for websites of every kind. So unsurprisingly, millennial B2B buyers have come to develop the same standards for their B2B sellers.

For example: This study from Ecommerce&B2B shows 50% of surveyed B2B buyers choose personalization as a key factor in their chosen suppliers.

Because of this, targeted promotions based on customer activity, after sale customer service offers, self-service website tools, and any other practices that create faster personalized shopping experiences are making a significant break into the world of B2B Ecommerce.

2. Moves Toward Mobile Ecommerce

You look up from your phone, and notice everyone else in the room is staring intently into theirs.

You’ve likely experienced this before in waiting areas, on the subway, and any other place people have moments to waste. Mobile web browsing is becoming increasingly popular by the day, with many people preferring to conduct their online activities on mobile devices rather than a desktop computer.

As you can see from this comprehensive 2015 study on internet trends from KPCB, users are making a serious transition to mobile, with over 51% of the time an average user spends interacting with digital media taking place on mobile devices. Data this staggering means any serious Ecommerce operation can’t ignore mobile marketing to reach their audience.

Modern users can now do anything from their smartphones, ditching desktops or laptop computers. These tasks include managing finances, email, social media, and yes, even professional B2B buying and selling. In fact, according to this 2013 study from Forrester, at that time 52% of B2B buyers already purchased products for their company with smartphones.

In 2017, B2B buyers will certainly be using mobile devices to a much greater extent for their research and purchases. To adapt, B2B webstores must invest in mobile commerce, otherwise, they’re ignoring a huge part of their potential customer base.

3. Streamlined Purchasing Processes

The convenience of payment options play a large part in providing a smooth shopping experience for buyers of any kind.

For example, B2C webstores that fail to offer the main variety of payment methods are likely turning away potential customers. When it comes to receiving purchases, it’s important that every primary personal payment option, from inputting credit and debit card information to connecting with a PayPal account, are available to B2C buyers.

Likewise, it’s becoming a standard for B2B webstores to provide automated Quote-to-Cash processes (the entire sales procedure starting with your buyer’s intent to make a purchase, and ending with your business’ revenue gain) to make interactions for their customers as straightforward as possible.

Because of this, many B2B operations are making a shift toward end-to-end Ecommerce solutions, like Cart-to-Cash, that combine the entire sales process, from quoting to the actual pricing and final purchasing, in one streamlined solution.

Magento to Build B2B Ecommerce

It’s worth mentioning that one of the best ways to get in on this growth in the B2B Ecommerce is through Magento.

Logo for the Magento Ecommerce CMS

Magento is one of the leading Ecommerce content management systems available for users to build a webstore with, and offers access to countless self-released and third-party extensions to arm users with the tools they need to manage a webstore in their preferred style.

The latest version, Magento 2.2, was just released and offers a range of new B2B focused features to help its users take advantage of the budding B2B market.

For more information on what Magento can do for you and your B2B webstore, check out our recent article that covers the new B2B features its latest version provides.

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