It should come as no surprise to anyone that the internet is changing how business is conducted, although the degree to which the B2B space has been disrupted is often underestimated.
In the business-to-consumer (B2C) industry, changes are well documented with customer shopping habits changing drastically in the last 5 to 10 years. In contrast, the changing nature of the B2B eCommerce market – a market which is expected to be worth over US$4.8 trillion by 2021 – is all too often overlooked. Many of the ways increasing digitisation will affect the industry are obvious, but some are less than intuitive. Here are three surprising eCommerce trends to be aware of in FY19 and beyond.
The changing face of procurement reams
The B2B purchase process is often much longer and more comprehensive then it is for B2C, largely due to the increased scale of purchases. As such, it is vital that B2B companies are aware of the people who make the purchases.
According to a study conducted by Google and Millward Brown Digital, 46% of all B2B purchases were made by people aged between 18-34. This was significantly higher than even two years prior when 27% of people aged 18-34 made the purchases. Demographics clearly have an impact in the B2C space, but many enterprise-focused manufacturers are finding that younger procurement staff are bringing fresh new ideas to the fore as they rise up the ranks within procurement teams.
It is essential that B2B companies are operating on the platforms and channels used by Millennials, and have a thorough understanding of their behaviour. Immediately available ordering costs, tracking orders and customer service are examples of features that younger team members value.
“Over time as volume grew and the number of different channels grew it was necessary to formally track best-before dates and batch tracking.”
Unleashed released this functionality last year and it has proven to be easy to manage and provides the traceability we were looking for.
The rise of mobile procurement
In relation to the rise of the young buyer, the shift to mobile is a surprising trend in the B2B space, even though it has been occurring for five years or so in the B2C purchase process.
Around half of B2B customers use mobile during their purchase process. Customers and purchase managers alike are increasingly making decisions on the go and their search behaviour follows this. Product research, prices and features are increasingly being done on mobile alongside contacting B2B merchants and even completing purchases and ordering costs. Purchase decisions are increasingly being made with the help of mobile search and as such, B2B merchants must act accordingly. Some basic features might include:
- Ensuring your website and content is optimised for a smaller mobile screen
- Avoiding long pages of text requiring scrolling by customers and instead use headings
- Using video as a tool to accompany or replace written content
- Using buttons as a call-to-action on mobile devices
These are just a few suggestions that can help optimise mobile and help you retain customer interest.
The risks of neglecting UX
The rise of the internet has served to raise procurement professionals’ expectations of service by B2B merchants. It is no longer acceptable to simply provide a catalogue of products and services available, and leave clients to place orders. Procurement teams expect and demand personalisation. They want businesses to show them products they need before they even know they need them! Using past customer behaviour to predict future products that could be of interest is no longer completely revolutionary – algorithms have been circulating achieving this for a good few years now. But, this process of improving the user experience must be forever refined and improved upon. As algorithms become more accurate and more customer data is available and stored, new ways to provide superior user experience are evolving.
Dynamic pricing is one way to provide superior user experience. Through increasingly complex data, B2B firms are providing dynamic pricing to customers based on a range of factors including purchasing volume, the frequency of purchases, and long-term relationship value. In essence, they are able to calculate and extract the best price depending on the customer.
Customer A purchasing 10,000 units on a monthly supply contract will usually expect a lower price and ordering cost than Customer B who may purchase 500 units as and when they feel like it. Dynamic pricing is one example of user experience being constantly refined by B2B firms to provide increasingly individualistic and personalised experiences for customers.
As the B2B eCommerce industry increasingly grows, it can be harder and harder to keep on top of trends often resulting in lost sales, poor brand image and wasted marketing efforts. With these three tips, you will be well-placed to dominate the B2B eCommerce market!