2021 was a turbulent year in many ways. This certainly also applied to wholesalers and brand manufacturers. Partly due to the corona pandemic, many companies were forced to invest heavily in eCommerce in a very short time. New channels were experimented with, sales models were expanded and headless eCommerce was on the rise.
The world is now opening up little by little. Nevertheless, we are not going back completely to the old normal. Especially in the world of B2B, eCommerce has now acquired a permanent place and digital sales are making full strides. Even in these uncertain times, one old wisdom still applies: if you want to survive in an online landscape with cutthroat competition, you have to respond smartly to digital trends.
The most important B2B eCommerce trends for 2022 are actually descendants of developments from the corona pandemic. Although they have a diverse character, there is a clear common thread: the customer is central in 2022. In this blog article we describe seven trends that all have common ground with this central element.
1. B2B omnichannel is the new normal
A seamless customer journey
that extends across all channels: it is the core of omnichannel and a working method that has been commonplace within B2C for some time. Partly thanks to the corona pandemic, this strategy also gained momentum within B2B eCommerce. In fact, anyone who thinks that B2B buyers try omnichannel only cautiously is wrong. Digital marketplaces, social media channels or other digital channels: the B2B buyer already uses them extensively. And the end point of this growth process is far from in sight.
We therefore dare to predict that B2B omnichannel will become the standard in 2022. The pandemic was, as it were, the boost that eCommerce needed: the number of interactions across different channels grew rapidly in a short period of time. But even as soon as personal contact is possible again, buyers still prefer a balanced mix of communication and sales channels.
According to McKinsey
, 83% of B2B leaders believe that interacting through omnichannel is much more successful than traditional strategies. A combination of interaction via apps, telephone, video, social media and personal visits thus becomes the new dominant sales strategy. There are two main reasons why sales strategies are increasingly becoming hybrid:
- First of all, eCommerce has become a permanent part of omnichannel strategies.
- Just under 15% of B2B companies expect face-to-face sales to remain the dominant norm within B2B. The majority therefore see interesting possibilities and opportunities in other channels, such as sales via smartphone. This brings us right to the next trend: mobile commerce.
2. The rise of B2B mobile commerce
There are now 5.2 billion mobile users worldwide, a number that is increasing every day. In recent years, mobile commerce has shown how people frequently browse for products or services on smartphones and tablets. We expect B2B mobile commerce to make further advances in 2022. It improves the omnichannel experience and allows customers to choose their favorite channel to buy products from their mobile device. And that's exactly what they want.
Several studies show that members of Generation Z (1995 - 2010) certainly see the smartphone as their most important device for mobile use and making online purchases. They spend an average of four hours a day on or with their beloved pocket computer. In addition, members of Generation Z attach great value to digital innovation. It is therefore logical and extremely sensible that more and more companies are investing in a maximum customer experience when shopping online. For example, the customer already has a choice of different payment options or shipping options. Especially now that we are less and less dependent on physical stores, the number of purchases via mobile is increasing spectacularly. Especially with the possibilities of a PWA (Progressive Web Apps), it is a shame to miss out on the opportunities that B2B mobile commerce offers.
3. Sustainable entrepreneurship is becoming more important than ever
We are increasingly aware of the fact that we only have one planet and that resources are finite. So we have to be careful with that. The B2B buyer is also looking more critically at the effects of economic activities and purchasing habits on the environment. At least half of millennials think it is important to make sustainable choices. This number is even higher among Generation Z.
As a B2B seller, there are several ways to respond to the growing enthusiasm for sustainability. For example, you can opt for sustainable raw materials for production and packaging. Or you can support charities, offset your CO2 emissions, sell bulk packaging and shorten distances when delivering products. You can also offer the consumer a choice of different senders. For example, consider co-shipping, where you link orders to the best transport route. This results in less traffic and therefore fewer emissions. In addition, it is good to keep the number of returns as low as possible and thus save on logistics.
4. Visual commerce improves customer experience
Forget those standard, static product photos. Visual commerce (AR, VR) is on the rise and is increasingly meeting the high demands of the online shopper. Instead of ordinary product photos, special, visual content that inspires and engages is used. Large product photos with different angles, product videos, content delivered by consumers and of course augmented reality; visual commerce opens the door to a diverse spectrum of new and exciting opportunities in product display. It provides an inspiring environment in which buyer and seller come into contact with each other.
With augmented reality (AR), companies looking for a new office design can, for example, digitally visualize the furniture in their own office. With a technique like 'visual search', a visual search starts with pointing the camera at a specific object. A search engine then analyzes the image and displays similar products in the webshop. IKEA's AR app 'Place' puts this principle into practice.
5. Smarter navigation to the right product with guided selling
Modern eCommerce is all about finding the right product in a limited time frame. Is the search process easy? Then there is a good chance that a customer will come back for a repeat purchase. It is therefore not surprising that the principle of guided selling will be an important B2B eCommerce trend in 2022. Guided selling is the helping hand you are used to from the physical store, but online. It's really nothing more than helping the customer find the right product by eliminating unsuitable items.
Suppose you walk into a store and are looking for a robot vacuum cleaner. You just don't know which model you need. You walk up to a seller and ask for help. He guides you to the robot vacuum cleaners and asks what price category you are thinking of. He then asks which rooms you want to have vacuumed. You answer his questions neatly and at the end the seller points you to the robot vacuum cleaner that is most suitable for your situation.
This is a typical example of guided selling in a physical store. The seller puts the customer first, not the specifications of the product. In an online setting, AI chatbots and smart algorithms can take over the role of the seller. Guided selling reduces choice stress, gives confidence and increases the number of repeat purchases.
6. Personalization becomes a matter of course
A good customer experience is also becoming an increasingly important part of the sales process in B2B eCommerce. One of the best ways to take customer experiences to the next level? Invest in Personalization!
Think of PWAs, headless eCommerce and the use of loyalty programs. Guided selling (see previous trend) and easy repeat purchases by viewing the order history are also possible. Other ways to provide a personalized experience are:
- Give customers the option to create a company account;
- Adjust the search function to show only the available products;
- Provide real-time insight into stock data;
- Send personalized messages to customers;
- Show custom content and promotions.
With these tips, far-reaching personalization is within reach and you can also address B2B customers faster and easier.
7. Better results with an optimized shop
Google is also focusing more and more on the user experience and ranks webshops largely on the basis of relevance and user-friendliness. A good reason to focus on a g
optimized webshop. The most important elements of such a shop are:
- Pages that load quickly. Google measures this using the largest contentful paint (LCP), the time that elapses before the largest element of a web page appears.
- The responsiveness of an online store. What about the clickability of the buttons and selecting sections in a drop-down menu? Is this fast enough? To measure responsiveness, Google uses the first input delay (FDI), the speed of interaction between the page and the visitor's input.
- The visual stability of a webshop (cumulative layout shift).
With the above points, don't just look at the desktop, but also at the mobile results. These can be very different from each other.
In addition to the above-mentioned B2B eCommerce trends, there are also 'stayers' from 2020. The D2C model
, marketplaces and headless eCommerce
will continue to leave a mark on B2B eCommerce in 2022.
Focus on the customer, not just on the product: it's the best tip we can give you for 2022. The modern B2B customer increasingly buys online, at a time that suits him and preferably through a channel of his choice . Make it easy for him and offer sufficient support. Make sure that you do not neglect the traditional channels, but opt for a B2B strategy that is balanced. The right strategy is different for every company, but the common thread is the same: interact with the B2B buyer and give him the ultimate customer experience!