Guest post by Brian Mechem.
Recent years have seen an explosion of direct online sales in the global B2B sector. The shift from brick-and-mortar to ecommerce that’s been playing out over the past two decades in the B2C world is increasingly impacting B2b vendors. Giants like Amazon have also launched Amazon Business to reach small and medium enterprises.
According to Statista, in the USA alone, B2B sales are estimated to reach $1.2 trillion in 2021—an increase of more than a third from $889 billion in 2017. More than half of B2B buyers say they expect the same user-friendly online buying experience from B2B vendors they get from consumer websites.
Though B2B ecommerce trends are a little different from B2C, both reflect a growing customer preference for self-service. Broad availability of simple self-service interfaces has boosted the market for B2B ecommerce.
B2B brands need to charge up their marketing strategies to stay ahead in the market. This requires an understanding of the B2B ecommerce trends that are changing the industry. Here’s a look at five of the biggest B2B marketing trends that are powering ecommerce.
Increase in the Millennial Audience
Millennials now account for 35% of the U.S. workforce. As more of these 21-to-36 year-olds move into management roles or start their own companies, their effect on shaping B2B sales will continue to expand. And a survey conducted by BigCommerce indicates that 67% of Millennials prefer to buy through an ecommerce store.
Millennials are masters of digital technology. They have grown up accustomed to having quick solutions literally in the palms of their hands. They seeks to avoid slow and complicated methods that involve human assistance. Current B2B ecommerce trends require brands to adapt their approach and strategy to focus on this generation.
The following tips can help engage Millennials:
- Find out their unique tastes and preferences. Millennials expect the levels of personalization found on Amazon and Netflix even from B2B vendors. Identify the ways they like to work and make purchases.
- This generation likes to get involved. Share more information about your products, your company, and your purpose. Be genuine with them.
- Invite them to provide feedback and take their feedback into consideration.
- Find ways to connect with and entertain them. Challenge them, and inspire and motivate them to act.
- Don’t wait for them to come to you. Find out where they spend most of their time on the Internet, particularly during business hours. Target them on the networks they are most active on.
Artificial Intelligence (AI) is gradually becoming an integral part of our lives. Industry behemoths like Google, Microsoft, Yahoo, and Facebook have already invested heavily in AI technologies.
Many ecommerce businesses are already using AI to understand their customers and run their marketing campaigns.
Popular ways AI is used by ecommerce stores include:
- Chatbots/Assistants – Chatbots offer a low-cost option to provide customer service. They are capable of answering simple questions and responding to simple voice commands.Now, they are also helping automate order processing for customers. For example,: a virtual assistant like Amazon’s Alexa has been incorporated into Amazon’s own platform. It answers customer queries, guides them, and identifies new marketing opportunities for the business.
- New AI engines can help gather data on customer behavior on different websites and platforms. Algorithms are used to predict the customer’s likely interests and enhance their buying experience.This data helps make accurate recommendations for different products. Amazon, for example, recommends products based on your previous searches and searches on other websites.
- AI is increasingly helping automate back-end warehouse and fulfillment operations.
Target Multiple Social Media Channels
Don’t depend solely on your ecommerce website for sales. A more effective strategy is to target the channels where your customers are congregating. Social media is the place where people, especially Millennials, spend most of their online time today.
Identify the social platforms frequented by your target audience. Find ways to engage them on their preferred channel.
B2B ecommerce trends indicate that a brand should develop a competitive strategy to dive into different platforms.
One efficient way to reach Millennials with your brand’s messaging is influencer marketing. This starts with identifying individuals who have knowledge and authority in your segment, and can influence your target audience.
Influencers are well-known and may have large followings in their field of authority. Because of their reach, an influencer can have a huge impact on a brand’s sales and revenue.
Platforms like Grin can help make the search process easier with advanced filters that help you discover relevant influencers.
Social Listening Tools
Use social media monitoring tools to keep track of conversations across various social media channels. Watch for brand mentions and conversations about your product category, your brand, and your competition.
Social media is also an excellent channel to discover the latest B2B ecommerce trends and other information related to your business.
Social listening can help you to:
- Discover your own weak areas and correct them.
- Learn more about your competitors’ strategies.
You can use social listening tools like Hootsuite and BuzzSumo to learn what your audience says about you and about the market in general.
Personalization and Customization
As noted above, delivering a personalized shopping experience helps build relationships with your customers.
This personalization can be done using:
- Demographic data on customers like their ages, locations, genders, etc.
- Customer’s intent based on their past patterns and behavior.
This kind of highly targeted marketing will help your ecommerce business maximize conversions.
Seek out guidance on personalization from leading B2B ecommerce platform developers like Four51 and Insite Software.
You can also offer customized promotions to motivate visitors into buying. This can be done through time limits, free offers, and discounts on products. Pop-ups, advertising bars, and videos of products can help put your products in front of visitors.
Be cautious, however, when transferring consumer ecommerce practices to B2B purchasing. A 10% discount doesn’t mean much in a situation where choosing the wrong vendor could cost someone their job.
Increased Mobile Technology
Smartphones now account for 44% of all Internet access time in the U.S., and nearly 53% globally. Mobile devices are increasingly preferred by buyers for online purchasing as well. In January 2018, mobile devices accounted for 58.9% of the total digital sales.
The popularity of social media has played a big role in this trend. Social media platforms are now most commonly accessed through mobile phones and tablets. These platforms can play a huge role in directing users through links from posts to ecommerce websites.
Mobile B2B ecommerce trends require that ecommerce businesses:
- Make their platforms mobile-friendly and ensure their websites are responsive and accessible on all kinds of mobile devices.
- Drive more traffic from social media platforms.
- Embrace trending AI and voice recognition technology.
- Simplify mobile payments.
These B2B ecommerce trends indicate where the -commerce industry is heading.
To stay ahead of your competition, you should adapt your B2B strategies to capitalize on developments in AI, social media, personalization, and mobile technology. For more information on ecommerce developments, check out this Webbiquity post.
What do you think of the above trends? Where do you need to catch-up? Let us know in the comments section below.
Brian Mechem is COO and Co-Founder of Grin, a software solution for companies who run influencer marketing programs. Grin’s software powers some of the best influencer programs in the world, providing insights on ROI and adding efficiency to the influencer marketing process. Connect with him on Twitter or Facebook.