Right after the peak of the COVID-19 pandemic, even skeptics were fast to adopt digital marketing strategies. The pandemic has forced B2B buyers and sellers to develop a new set of tactics for successful deal-making. As a result, the B2B e-commerce growth trends and marketing methods we see now are reshaping the industry as we know it. Namely, new ways are emerging to attract leads and increase profits.
The vast majority of B2B retailers (78%) are selling online today. B2B e-commerce transactions are forecast to reach a $1.2 trillion turnover in 2021! Although the numbers are huge, the situation could have been foreseen five years ago, when the industry began to develop rapidly.
B2B businesses are competitive, but what can you do to stand out in the market area? Of course, take advantage of new trends. Dinarys, a company with in-depth expertise in e-commerce development with Magento and Shopware, considers the following B2B e-commerce trends in 2021 to be fundamental.
Changing demographics - millennials
Most B2B e-commerce market trends are driven by demographic changes. Generation X holds the majority of leadership positions. And millennials are more digitally savvy, influencing 60% of decisions.
These people want to get results quickly, without wasting time on phone calls and meetings, personally controlling the placement and delivery dates of orders.
They usually prefer to single-handedly search all the information online, compare prices, read reviews, and enter into communication with a “live” manager only after they have made a decision. They do not care about analysts, they value information from other consumers, not from the seller, they enjoy innovative technologies, and they do not tolerate aggressive advertising.
When it comes to real buying, roughly 46% of millennials tend to go beyond free trials. Before making a purchasing decision, they study an average of 12 competing sites. B2B shoppers of this generation tend to cooperate, so they send and read reviews to four or more other people (89% of millennial shoppers do this). And the relevant B2B e-commerce statistics and trends show that it will stay this way.
Focus on digital marketing
Up to 80% of B2B decision-makers choose digital self-service, and online marketing for them is primarily about privacy and new targeting. They prefer to communicate with the brand, receive information, and inquire about products and services. And this can be done without direct communication with partners.
Only 20% of B2B shoppers claim that they hope to return to personal selling, even in sectors where local sales models have traditionally dominated, such as pharmaceuticals and medical products.
Gartner's new perspective shows that the B2B buying path has changed, and your sales strategy must change accordingly. With an unlimited amount of information online, sellers have little opportunity to influence customer decisions.
When B2B buyers consider making a purchase, they only spend 17% of their time meeting with potential suppliers. If they are comparing multiple offers, the time spent with any sales representative can be as little as 5% or 6%.
Emerging security threats
The transition to remote work imposes certain security requirements. Unfortunately, B2B e-commerce offers more opportunities for customer data theft and fraud. Sellers who rely on vast product catalogs, large deals, and more complex approval mechanisms need to secure their digital channels.
For B2B businesses that lack a security culture and rely on disparate security features, now is the time to put security first. Cloud-based security solutions focused on the detection of threats will outperform legacy systems, according to a G2 study.
They will make up the most important e-commerce trends of 2021 in B2B. The adoption of cloud technologies, including cloud-based e-commerce, will accelerate these trends and play an even greater role in the operational efficiency rates.
Explosion of online marketplaces
B2B buyers want to take full advantage of marketplaces in their chosen niche by getting the best deals from top vendors and guaranteeing the terms of the deal on the site. Thanks to them, last year Jeff Bezos, founder of Amazon, increased his capital by more than twice!
But the renowned platform where you can find everything from A to Z is not necessarily tailored to the personal experience and interests of individual target users. In addition to specific product offerings, niche platforms differentiate brand identity services for a narrower audience. By retaining customer data and contacts after conversion, niche companies actually continue to leverage their post-deal audience.
Since AliExpress and similar platforms entered the market, many have given up on retail services. The same thing happened in the B2B market. The buyer goes to virtual stores for goods from cheaper global manufacturers. This process provides an opportunity for increased global competition and a more flexible and accessible brand for the regular B2B buyer.
Read our guide on how to build a marketplace website.
B2B mobile commerce
Below are the results from B2B research and Google and BCG data showing the importance of mobile for B2B customers:
Almost 70% of B2B e-commerce actions are carried out through smartphones;
Mobile devices bring leading B2B companies over 40% of profits.
The business must be mobile responsive. Brands that move to mobile will generate more revenue. A mobile app that supports catalogs and shipping monitoring allows for faster orders based on a business account. Plus, it can connect with sales for on-the-go sales that sync with your systems.
Some brands (around 15%) use apps for their B2B shoppers. This allows them to log in, see current rates and place an order in minutes. In the long term, full integration of voice purchases, augmented and virtual reality, and simpler electronic document management WITH various B2B processes is expected.
PWA and headless technology
According to Gartner B2B e-commerce trends, a typical online experience will be supported by no fewer than 30 integrated apps. In addition to investing in communication tools, B2B e-commerce brands will be investing in offline architecture and progressive web applications (PWA).
Although mobile traffic accounts for over 53% of all traffic, it only generates 29% of total sales. Unlike mobile apps, PWAs work across all devices and operating systems. Customers don't need to download and install memory-intensive apps, and developers don't need to create separate apps for Android and iOS. PWAs provide increased speed, efficiency, and usability with or without connectivity.
Headless commerce offers similar personalization options, voice integration, smartwatches, television, and other less traditional forms of shopping. Most importantly, it allows brands to maintain specific B2B back-office features and processes.
Read our view on PWAs and the mobile-first approach.
Growth of self-service
According to OroCommerce, 86% of customers prefer to use self-service tools, reordering features, and check order status tools without contacting seller representatives. Likewise, B2B buyers already complete 57% of the buying process before interacting with them, and this percentage will only increase.
In 2021, B2B customers expect responsive interfaces and intuitive commands that save them time and money. They expect to view past orders, manage negotiations and approvals without contacting sales representatives. Likewise, back-office staff will need more transparency in customer information, behind-the-scenes price management, and ensuring a smoother buying process.
B2B customer loyalty programs
We’ve already reviewed loyalty app development on our blog. Loyalty programs are major trends in B2B e-commerce as they can increase brand awareness, attract new customers, and increase opportunities for cross-selling and up-selling. Therefore, B2B buyers can also count on:
Thus, a customer can get an exclusive discount on joining the program. A member of the referral program receives a bonus every time he/she refers new potential clients. In most cases, the new customer will also receive a reward or discount on their first purchase.
B2B companies can use tiered or threshold reward programs. In the first, customers earn points for making purchases. This is suitable for businesses that buy frequently. With the help of the second, customers are promoted through the levels of rewards. But it is valid for a limited time, so it is suitable for businesses that buy from the same sellers.
More in-depth cloud adoption
The growth of cloud e-commerce is one of the main global B2B e-commerce trends. The solutions enable brands to explore new security technologies, leverage big data and analytics, and IoT developments to deliver compelling customer experiences.
A recent study found that half of the IT professionals surveyed claim the pandemic has changed their cloud computing plans radically. IDC's FutureScape report predicts that by the end of 2021, more than 80% of enterprises will migrate to cloud infrastructure and applications, double last year's forecasts.
Brands are increasingly relying on the cloud to keep tomorrow's work and flexibility in the future. Every day, more companies are looking to maintain or increase their cloud investments to streamline operations and improve efficiency.
In the coming years, B2B shoppers will feel as comfortable as B2C shoppers once they get interfaces that simplify their tasks. Smarter HQ reports that 72% of customers only use personalized messaging and 69% of B2B shoppers are willing to pay more for a personalized experience.
An analysis of the pages visited by the user, records in chatbots, and frequent requests allow us to understand the primary and secondary needs of customers, and what needs to be improved in workflows. Research shows that 50% of B2B shoppers see improved personalization as a key supplier sourcing feature. That being said, consumers tend to spend 48% more if their experience is personalized.
The customer experience management market is expected to double to reach $14.9 billion by 2025. Fully personalizing the B2B shopping experience requires the use of artificial intelligence and machine learning, as well as the expertise of your telecommuters.
AI and chatbots
About 21% of sales leaders today rely on AI-powered apps, with the majority collaborating with marketing teams that share these apps. Roughly 60% of marketers believe that artificial intelligence is the most important aspect of a data strategy and can increase productivity by up to 40%. According to forecasts of, again, Gartner, more than 75% of organizations will be using AI in some way or another by 2024.
Machines use more data to make accurate recommendations. Learning algorithms grant 35% of all Amazon sales! B2B brands that deploy AI-powered chatbots on their sites have shown remarkable engagement rates and increased sales.
Image recognition technology is useful to sellers with millions of SKUs, tons of product information, descriptions, and specifications. AI systems can reduce manual work, errors, and costs while improving the customer experience.
Make sure you read our guide on chatbot development for e-commerce.
Focus on customer experience
The usability and accessibility of the website will remain an important trend. A quarter of surveyed users need only 4 seconds to decide to leave the site. Google proves that PWAs load eight times faster than a regular mobile landing page. Self-service portals should make real-time order management, modification, and tracking intuitive and accessible across all devices.
Wholesale commerce offers tremendous opportunities, but as more choices are presented, customers have to overcome more obstacles. For example, they will compare value for money in different outlets, but the reason for choosing will be the convenience of the purchase process, delivery, and the original features of the application. This is why a business that wants to enter the B2B market must understand the logic of the consumer.
Omnichannel commerce is promising, with brands offering customers a seamless experience through social media, e-commerce sites, and brick-and-mortar stores.
More than 82% of shoppers use information from their smartphones when shopping at regular stores. Others choose to research, buy and receive goods without physical contact. Customers can start with the brand's Facebook account and then navigate to the site expecting to see the product's history of views and feedback there. Digital brands use this method to communicate messages to further increase conversions.
Companies are realizing the power of omnichannel to centralize multiple sales channels and customer relationships on a single platform. That is why it is counted among the most important Forrester-noted B2B e-commerce trends.
Employee productivity and safety
According to RetailTouchPoints, thorough automation can help boost team productivity by 45% and overall revenue by 49%. Companies today are turning to automation to reduce manual tasks, minimize errors, and increase operational efficiency.
Automation is great at increasing productivity and optimizing processes that drive growth. Some automation ideas increase personalization, others eliminate time-consuming back-office tasks or streamline supply chains.
Automation also allows traditional or semi-autonomous brands to work remotely, and this is one of the latest trends in B2B e-commerce. It increases the resilience and flexibility of operations, helping to withstand market shocks. Many offline B2B companies are embracing telecommuting because digital technology boosts employee engagement, creates work-life balance, and reduces health risks.
Fast B2B order fulfillment
As more B2B companies go digital, the need for fast and efficient processes is imperative. Millennials expect B2B companies to provide fast delivery options on par with B2C sellers. This is a very important point among the current trends in B2B e-commerce.
Customer expectations are rising and B2B companies can use software to optimize order fulfillment processes to attract customers. This software can help B2B companies manage orders across multiple sales platforms, centralize information and reduce supply chain complexity. They may also help establish steady contact with third-party service providers.
Third-party software, often referred to as 3PL, uses something like ShipStation or ShipBob to operate. This works great when the business is scaling up quickly, running order fulfillment costs go up, or spending too much time managing inventory.
Direct shipments are prevalent, although the debate over their profitability continues. Global blockages due to the pandemic have caused irreparable damage to e-commerce supply chains. The demand for e-commerce has skyrocketed, forcing retailers to turn to suppliers for help. Some retailers went bankrupt, while others filed for bankruptcy. Those who continued to work turned to online sales, which made the usual ordering tedious and unprofitable.
These played an important role in the investment of wholesalers in the restructuring of the order fulfillment infrastructure. Wholesalers and traders are changing their habits due to the pandemic, and this situation will remain unchanged for a long time to come. Thus, B2B trends for e-commerce include sustainable development as a result of the continuous and accelerated growth of direct delivery. We described the process of building a dropshipping website.
New payment options
Even before the pandemic, B2B companies recognized the importance of digitalization, especially when it came to B2B e-commerce payment trends. While large enterprises are quite resilient to change, COVID-19 has highlighted the imminent transformation of B2B payments to digital, and the transition has accelerated.
Over the past year, the share of B2B companies making more than 90% of payments electronically has grown by 12%, reaching a quarter of total B2B payments in 2020. Although many people still adhere to traditional payment methods, the use of instant payments is expected to continue to spread.
B2B buyers have begun to actively embrace modern payment systems, including new forms of financing. Mobile wallets such as Amazon Pay and Apple Pay will rise in popularity, third-party funding and ACH will be used more frequently.
Offering more educational resources to acquire new customers
Now is the time for B2B e-commerce platforms to start a blog. Before making a purchase, modern customers carefully study all the available materials, so it is extremely important to give answers to all their questions.
A well-structured and well-filled blog with new and interesting content constantly appearing, will strengthen the brand image. Users who receive useful information on your resource with answers to important questions for them will most likely want to make a deal with you. But to do this, your company must be associated with a value that the customer shares and that can be converted into ROI. Keep this in mind when exploring B2B trends in e-commerce.
Consumer concern about the state of the environment comes to the fore today. More brands are adopting sustainable and environmentally-friendly marketing methods to influence customers. The trend will be to reduce the supply chain. Green branding in marketing will help you stand out in the B2B space.
Many clients are passionate about environmental issues and support conservation initiatives. While B2B companies do not face public pressure, this can easily change. Investing in green policies can lead to prosperity, both in terms of profitability and business sustainability.
Many companies seek to acquire sustainable products by choosing supply chains that meet green standards. Finding out how much pollution your company is creating can help reduce your carbon footprint and better your company's image. For example, through the use of non-electric vehicles in logistics, waste management, and improved efficiency of utilities. Thus, these areas of work are also among the B2B e-commerce trends.
The business is entering a fundamentally new path - D2C (Direct-to-Consumer) - direct brand sales to the end consumer. Gradually phasing out intermediaries in the form of retailers, distributors, and dealers. The meaning of this process is clear - the brand knows its customer better and must communicate with them directly. So a business can analyze and influence all channels of communication with a user, fully controlling every stage of interaction from the first acquaintance to the purchasing sales funnel.
Many large companies are already refusing to even place offers on marketplaces. Despite the fact that such sites have detailed information about the partner's audience, they are reluctant to share it with suppliers. For instance, at the end of last year, Nike pulled out of cooperation with eBay and Amazon, explaining that it wants to focus on sales through the official website.
The integration of B2B e-commerce systems with third-party services, SaaS solutions, and API marketplaces has become a necessity. CRM and ERP allow you to centralize all the necessary data about the client, instantly sign contracts with electronic document flow, and generate invoices.
You can immediately receive information about the turnover of goods and connect the calculator of popular delivery operators. With the help of the integration of warehouse accounting systems, you can book the necessary goods at the manufacturer's warehouse with shipment to the buyer directly.
Integration of the B2B e-commerce system with third-party solutions can automate more than half of routine business processes. Managers do not have to check the availability of goods or spend time looking for analogs, contacts with customers, filling out documents, collecting analytics, or preparing reports manually. All of this can happen automatically while employees only have to focus on attracting customers and boosting sales.
The pandemic has only accelerated the growth of the B2B e-commerce segment and the global shift of sales to online. In fact, digitalization, as one of the main trends in B2B e-commerce, has shown itself for a long time. This is a natural process that is perceived by an increasing number of companies as inevitable.
You will come to this as well in any case. So isn't it better to do this now, when life itself offers a chance? The B2B revolution is already happening.
And if you find it difficult to determine the priorities yourself, contact Dinarys specialists. We have quite a lot of experience in this area. We will be happy to discuss your requirements and help solve business problems of any sort.