B2B companies have historically (over the past decade) approached the ecommerce market with skepticism. As the products and services that B2B companies provide are significantly more complex than their B2C counterparts, B2B companies have — up until recently — assumed that such ecommerce solutions would be unable to support their needs. While that hesitation does remain, B2B ecommerce technology has evolved at a rapid clip over the last few years to support any product or solution, no matter the complexity. The availability of mature technology and the growth of B2B customer expectations have forced B2B companies out of their comfort zone and into a realm of automation, cost reductions, and omnichannel sales. Still a nascent and readily evolving segment, B2B ecommerce is set for continued rapid growth and improvement. Below are the five trends in B2B ecommerce that you need to bet on in 2017.
By the numbers: B2B ecommerce to be double the size of B2C
Let’s start with a stat that may surprise many. By 2020, Forrester Research expects the U.S. B2B ecommerce market to be worth $1.1 trillion, or twice the size of the U.S. B2C market. While everyone has heard of Amazon, B2B growth has been much more under the radar. Forrester also expects the number of B2B buyers completing at least half of their work-related purchases online to nearly double to 56 percent by 2017. Such investment trends indicate that enterprises are giving this massive opportunity the increased attention that it deserves. As a result, companies that are not actively moving toward ecommerce and omnichannel solutions will rapidly fall behind.
Consumer-like buying experiences
The people who are buying B2B software are consumers themselves, and they have interacted with the Amazons, Ubers, and Netflixes of the world just like the regular consumer. They understand what the customer experience can be. As we progress through 2017, B2B buyers will increasingly expect a more consumer-like experience from the ecommerce systems they interact with — even for the more complex products, digital goods, and subscription-based products. These buyers will require all the available pricing and product information to be at their fingertips so that they can make the highly informed decisions they have gotten so used to making.
Piggybacking off the previous trend is the dramatic growth in mobile commerce that we will see in 2017. B2B ecommerce solutions have always lagged behind their B2C counterparts in providing a seamless mobile ecommerce experience. But as companies focus on improving customer experience as a major differentiator in business, effective mobile commerce will be a major point of emphasis. The advantages of mobile commerce are clear: Companies need to be where their customers are searching, and B2B buyers in 2017 will increasingly be searching for products on mobile phones. According to Forrester, 52% of B2B buyers research products from their smartphones.
As companies continue to automate their Quote-to-Cash processes through 2017, the incorporation of B2B ecommerce solutions will emerge as a true competitive advantage. By connecting the ecommerce solution through the quoting, pricing, contracting, and revenue management processes, companies will create a truly end-to-end solution. Such a Cart-to-Cash process underpins a truly omni-channel B2B commerce experience by facilitating the seamless transfer of information and creating a single view of the customer.
Growth of smart personalization
Machine learning is coming of age, no less so in B2B ecommerce. Companies are starting to leverage machine learning in the cloud to deliver smart B2B personalization, turning data into insights that drive the best outcomes, even for very complex situations. One example is optimizing a quote for price discounting and sales compensation, based on similar customer and deal profiles. Optimizing across this set of variables is incredibly complex, but when done right, it can result in a major competitive advantage for today’s B2B enterprises.
“Apttus, the category-defining Quote-to-Cash software company, drives the vital business process between the buyer’s interest in a purchase and the realization of revenue. Apttus offers enhanced Configure Price Quote (CPQ), ecommerce, contract management, renewal, and revenue management solutions on the world’s most trusted cloud platforms, including Salesforce and Microsoft Azure.”