5 ways B2B eCommerce will evolve in 2018

Did you know that in 2017, around 56% of B2B buyers in the US made more than half of their purchases online? The B2B eCommerce market was estimated to be worth US$7.7 trillion dollars, so it should come as no surprise that the wholesale industry and the technologies around it are evolving by leaps and bounds.

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Here are 5 ways the B2B eCommerce environment will evolve in 2018.

Personalization

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One of the key differences between the retail consumer and the wholesale buyer is that the consumer buys for personal use. The wholesale buyer purchases on behalf of a brand and a specific target market.

This means that the wholesale buyer already has a specific set of wants and needs that he/she requires a supplier to satisfy. That is why personalization is a huge part of the B2B eCommerce experience. If buyers enter a store that highlights products of interest to them, allows them to easily make repeat purchases and it displays preferred rates and discounts without lengthy negotiations - the chances of purchase increase exponentially.

B2B eCommerce stores that provide personalized experiences will definitely be setting themselves apart and will increase customer loyalty.

Smooth and secure payments

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The B2B eCommerce space has been late to the game when it comes to online payments. Many wholesale businesses still send manual invoices to their clients and receive payments via cheques and bank transfers. Even businesses with their own websites and online stores do not have inbuilt payment gateways.

This is because payment gateways are expensive to host and expensive to maintain. Not to mention the numerous security compliances the platform will need to adhere too which can be an operational nightmare. However, the upsides to having a frictionless, secure buying experience are aplenty.

Not having to leave the platform to make a payment, decreases the chances of cart abandonment. It also means that wholesale merchants get paid much, much faster than via traditional payment methods. This helps you regulate your cash flow, freeing up resources for procurement or new campaigns.

More and more B2B stores are developing payment capabilities, but these can come with a hefty price tag. For small and medium-sized businesses, looking for an out-of-the-box solution that is PCI compliant, reliable and secure, is a more feasible and effective option. TradeGecko’s brand new B2B payments functionality is one such solution that will get you paid 3x faster than before. If you are looking to give your B2B business an edge over the others in 2018, TradeGecko Payments does the trick.

Omnichannel

There was a time when wholesalers relied purely on face-to-face interactions at trade shows, printed catalogs and physical invoices to do business. While trade shows are still hugely popular for B2B sales, the new generation of wholesalers is using every available channel to sell.

Omnichannel sales is a trend that took off a few years ago and definitely looks set to grow in 2018. B2B eCommerce platforms, to mobile optimization and socially integrated stores, are a some of the commerce channels many businesses will expand into.

On the marketing and customer service fronts, business will have to look at an omnichannel approach as well, where are customers leaving feedback? With more and more customers turning to social media to leave feedback, businesses need to have the right resources to respond to reviews and feedback online.

Digital marketing also becomes a multi-headed beast, with many stores producing content on their own blogs, ramping up their social media presence and increasing their paid advertising spend.

All in all, the omnichannel strategy seems to be integral to all aspects of a B2B eCommerce brand’s growth and success.

AR & AI

Augmented reality (AR) and artificial intelligence (AI) are becoming increasingly useful to commerce entrepreneurs and have already had a noticeable impact on retail online.

AR apps such as Magnolia take online shopping to your home. You can simply select a product, then point your phone and a space around you to see what the product would look like in that space! Apps like these are sure to enter the B2B arena as well. Products that let buyers interact with them virtually break down the walls of online shopping, and B2B merchants can use this to build trust and credibility with their buyers.

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AI is also becoming more integrated with eCommerce - virtual assistants are collecting data and learning about buyers preferences and behaviors to provide a more personalized customer experience. In the same way that ChatX.ai provides Shopify users with an intelligent chatbot that can make personalized recommendations to customers, B2B eCommerce stores could make use of the same technology to create more engaging interactions with buyers.

Leveraging Social Media

Social media is not just a powerful tool for marketing or advertising, it can also be a powerful tool for sales and customer engagement.

In terms of marketing, research shows that in 2017, 83% of B2B marketers use social media and 79% of marketers saw increased traffic with as little as 6 hours a week invested in social media marketing. This shows that social media is already a huge part of the marketing strategy for B2B businesses and will continue to be so.

The Harvard Business Review recently wrote that outbound B2B sales are becoming increasingly ineffective with callback rates at below 1% and less than 24% of outbound emails even being opened. It then stands to reason that the way forward for B2B sales is through social selling.

Social selling allows salespeople to interact with and collect useful information on prospects, and engage in more meaningful conversations on social media to close a deal. To make it even more useful, the big social media platforms are all either testing or have already rolled out features to let customers shop from their platform itself.

With the broad reach that comes with social media, it looks to be an increasingly popular sales channel for B2B businesses in 2018.

Looking at the overall trends for B2B eCommerce in the coming months, we can clearly see that developing new channels and deepening engagements with customers, be it through AR, AI or social media, will be the way forward. Leveraging these developing technologies today could give your B2B business a competitive advantage for the rest of the year, and beyond.

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