The coronavirus pandemic changed how the world did business in 2020. In 2021, we saw a number of trends take off and make their way into B2B ecommerce: mobile-first sites, personalization, and adopting omnichannel selling being just some.
If you didn’t take advantage of these trends in 2021, you have another chance to improve your marketing and sales strategy. 2022 is expected to push the envelope further in terms of B2B ecommerce. This article will walk you through the best of the best.
What happened in 2021?
As we entered Year 2 of the COVID-19 pandemic, many consumers were still working from home and preferring to make purchases online rather than in-store. This set the scene for unprecedented growth in ecommerce sales and businesses across the board.
However, even before the pandemic, online sales were steadily increasing, meaning ecommerce businesses have had to keep up with new trends and customer expectations each year.
In 2021, this meant a shift to a mobile-first focus, personalizing the customer experience, and more. Let’s dig into some of the themes that characterized the industry over the last year.
In 2021, nearly 73% of ecommerce sales are expected to come from purchases on mobile devices
The mobile customer experience needs to be top notch. Especially considering statistics have shown that people are 62% less likely to purchase from a brand after a negative mobile experience.
Whether companies chose to create a responsive mobile website or a downloadable mobile app, having a focus on mobile-first was an exciting trend in 2021—and if you’re behind on this, it’s time to catch up before heading into 2022.
Personalization is key for creating a buying experience that makes your customers feel special. This involves tactics like:
- Personalizing product recommendations based on pages customers have already viewed
- Using retargeting initiatives to push hesitant customers toward making a purchase
- Creating campaigns around abandoned carts to remind customers of forgotten items
Showing customers that you’re paying attention to what they’re shopping for helps improve the user experience and increase B2B sales all in one fell swoop.
2021 cemented omnichannel selling as the standard for B2B businesses. Omnichannel selling allows customers to make purchases or shop around from a variety of different channels, whether via traditional methods, remote interactions, or self-serve options.
A recent McKinsey report shows that two-thirds of customers prefer a remote human or digital self-serve option, so having an omnichannel experience ensures you’re able to reach each customer where they prefer to find you.
Supply chain resilience
Avoiding any kind of disruption in the supply chain is essential to customer satisfaction, which is why supply chain resilience has been a major trend.
There are a number of supply chain resilience strategies that companies have taken throughout 2021. A couple include:
- Nearshoring: using distributors that are nearby or within the same region to have more control over the supply chain
- Multisourcing: having a wide range of distributors as a backup plan in case some are unable to deliver
Having suppliers close by as well as a number of options in case a disruptive event were to occur helps to build resilience and ensure your company always has access to new inventory.
What are the predictions for 2022?
Your first step is to catch up with any trends you may have missed from last year. Then you need to get a head start on the trends we’re predicting for 2022.
We’ve got a list of six trends we predict B2B ecommerce will see in the coming year.
Brand strategy in the metaverse
You may have heard about Mark Zuckerberg’s ambitious goal to pioneer the metaverse, and his company’s rebranding itself as “Meta.” This is because the metaverse is something that businesses are going to have to start paying attention to.
In just a few words, the metaverse is an online space where humans interact as avatars. It’s like a virtual extension of the physical world. Popular metaverse spaces include online games like Roblox and Fortnite.
But what does this have to do with business?
To keep up with the ever-growing digital channels, creating a space for your brand in the metaverse has to be at the top of your to-do list. There are (and will be as the metaverse and access to it expands) millions of ways to go about this, but let’s just talk about a few.
First, let’s take a page out of NASCAR’s book. It’s taken a metaverse space that already exists and established a presence there by creating a branded virtual car within the Roblox game Jailbreak.
The company held a contest for NASCAR fans to create their own “skin” for a virtual car, choosing two designs to debut on it.
This is a great example of how brands can start advertising and creating brand awareness in virtual reality spaces like this.
Hyundai is another brand using Roblox to build a presence in the metaverse, but it’s taken it a step further than NASCAR. Rather than utilizing an already-existing game, Hyundai created its own Hyundai Mobility Adventure game inside Roblox’s platform.
The game consists of five zones for users to virtually experience Hyundai products, creating a gamified online experience for potential new customers.
While both of these examples are more B2C ecommerce tactics, there are a number of ways B2B sellers can still take advantage of this upcoming trend. By creating online spaces for companies to try out products before they buy, brands can easily increase sales in their B2B marketplaces.
“The pandemic forced more companies and consumers to turn to ecommerce, and as companies looked to set themselves apart, a major emerging trend has been AR marketing. Incorporating augmented reality into an existing ecommerce platform has proven to double conversion rates and increase cart size by 60% for online retailers.”
The pandemic forced more companies and consumers to turn to ecommerce, and as companies looked to set themselves apart, a major emerging trend has been AR marketing.”
IKEA Place is an example of a tool that works for both businesses and consumers. Being able to visualize pieces of furniture to jazz up a home or an office space can influence online purchases.
Plus, we can’t discount NFTs (non-fungible tokens) when talking about the metaverse. This is yet another digital marketing tactic of the future. “Non-fungible” means the item can’t be traded. It’s unique and no one else can ever own a copy. That’s what makes it so desirable.
NFTs can be used in the digital commerce space as loyalty rewards, community-building tokens, or even digital products in their own right. Or, you can create purchasable NFTs in existing online spaces, like Roblox, for your audience to customize their avatar with.
The options are endless, and we’ll see even more possibilities arise as ecommerce technology continues to grow and change.
Revenue optimization is a tactic that focuses on acquiring, retaining, and upselling customers. It’s like customer retention on steroids—you want to put strategies in place that help increase customer longevity and increase revenue from existing customers.
According to Forrester, “Typical B2B customer retention rates stand between 76% and 81%. With the widespread adoption of recurring revenue models, marketing must maintain a focus on existing customers. Leaders should optimize the B2B Revenue Waterfall and work together with sales operations and customer success operations to maximize customer lifetime value.”
Strategies for revenue optimization include:
- Optimizing your pricing to ensure you’re matching what your customers are willing to pay
- Maximizing conversion rates by focusing on the highest-quality leads
- Focusing on marketing strategies for those specific segments
Creating high-intent buyer personas is a great way to get started with revenue optimization. This way, you ensure that your brand knows who your target customer is and you don’t waste time on low-quality leads, regardless of if your sales team is working on acquiring, retaining, or upselling clients.
Typical B2B customer retention rates stand between 76% and 81%. With the widespread adoption of recurring revenue models, marketing must maintain a focus on existing customers.
Companies lean into sustainability
As climate change awareness increases globally, more and more companies are creating initiatives around sustainability. And while these goals are great for the environment, they’re also great for business. After all, studies show that customers are 4.3 times more loyal to eco-friendly businesses and that conversion rates increase by up to 20%.
One great way to showcase sustainability in your business is by using sustainable packaging. Ecommerce B2B brand Avery Dennison—a label manufacturer—uses this tactic in its business to ensure customers are satisfied with the way their products arrive.
In their words, “The world can’t afford to continue wasting materials. And neither can you.” Which is why it approached packaging in a different way, ensuring the brands purchasing from it are satisfied that they’re purchasing from a more eco-friendly brand.
Whether it’s packaging, product materials, reducing energy consumption in manufacturing, etc., finding ways to be more environmentally friendly is going to be an important trend going forward.
Social commerce sales are expected to triple by 2025. Nearly 50% of internet users in China make purchases through social media platforms, compared to 30% in the US. The fact that companies can promote and sell products on social media so customers can make a purchase without ever leaving the platform is a major trend in 2022.
Essentially, this allows B2B companies to set up an ecommerce store directly on social media platforms like Facebook, Instagram, or Pinterest.
Here’s a great example from wholesale book retailer Bulk Bookstore:
Businesses and consumers looking to make a purchase are able to do so on the social platform of their choice without ever having to navigate to another website, streamlining the overall customer experience.
Personalized experiences were an important discussion across 2021, but we’re taking this a step further in 2022. Personalization will never go away, but the way brands go about it continues to transform.
And in 2022, it’s all about artificial intelligence.
Raviteja Dodda, CEO of MoEngage, says, “In 2021, we saw the rise of artificial intelligence to help marketers extract more meaningful data about their customers’ preferences and needs. AI can help marketers fill in the blanks and build a more holistic picture of their target customers.
“What do they like or dislike about interactions with your brand? How often do they want to hear from you? What kind of content and offers do they react well to? In 2022, I expect to see this trend expand even more as AI continues to advance in its capabilities.
“I expect that predictive analytics will be the next big martech trend, as brand marketers use it to inform their outreach strategy to launch hyper-personalized campaigns that make the customer feel like they’re really being heard and seen.”
In 2021, MoEngage conducted a survey of global consumers to discover how they felt about different brand interactions. Through the results, it learned that consumers tend to care less about the frequency or location of the communication and more about whether the interactions are relevant.
For example, 27% of respondents shared that they’re most frustrated with inconsistent messaging from brands and another 27% said they’re most frustrated with irrelevant marketing.
Dodda summarizes this information, “In other words, your customers won’t mind hearing from you more often, as long as you are sending them content that feels personalized to them. To do that, brands need to drill down into the data they have collected on these customers and think more strategically about next steps.”
“Your customers won’t mind hearing from you more often, as long as you are sending them content that feels personalized to them.”
Self-service buying portals
39% of B2B buyers want self-serve options (i.e., being able to make a purchase without having to speak with someone) when working with B2B companies. We wouldn’t be surprised if that statistic continues to grow throughout 2022, which is why we have this as a major emerging trend.
Justin Smith, CEO of ecommerce marketing agency, OuterBoX, stated, “When it comes to B2B ecommerce trends, I think we’re going to see a continued push for self-service buying models, much like we see in the B2C world.
“With more millennials becoming decision makers in their respective organizations, we're seeing that the more traditional methods of B2B buying, like over the phone, are becoming less popular.”
Smith finds that B2B buyers want to research and buy within the same channel without having to speak to a sales representative. Recent research revealed that 86% of customers preferred using self-service tools as opposed to contacting sales.
“While more complex sales cycles will always require some form of human interaction, the more automated you can make your buying process for simple transactions, the better.”
But how can a self-service B2B ecommerce customer portal work for your business? Airbus Helicopters serves more than 3,000 helicopter operators who need quick access to viewing technical documents and manuals, managing various claims, purchasing spare parts, and tracking invoices and payment options.
Having a self-service online portal streamlines the process for each of the companies accessing this website and ensures they can easily manage their orders via this online marketplace.
Keep these B2B ecommerce trends in mind
As we head into 2022, keep these B2B ecommerce trends in mind so you can start implementing them over the course of Q1. Ensuring you’re on top of new marketing strategies and tactics helps keep your business at the forefront of customers’ minds.
To make it easy for your ecommerce site to stay up-to-date, consider using Shopify as your B2B ecommerce platform.