2020 brought us masks, hand sanitizer in bulk, and major changes to the business-to-business (B2B) commerce trends that shape how companies sell to their B2B customers.
Even industries that traditionally rely on in-person commerce processes have pivoted — and fast. Sales went remote, and only 38% of B2B leaders said they handled remote sales extremely well. Too many organizations didn’t have the digital infrastructure in place to perform better.
But now, 2020’s challenges have become 2021’s opportunities. And high-performing B2B leaders need to quickly evolve to make the most of them — or risk getting left behind by more nimble competitors. Here are the B2B commerce trends that will reshape the landscape this year.
1. Digital commerce will become the top B2B investment priority
Ever since B2B commerce made its first appearance in the Forrester Wave in 2013, analysts and leaders alike have been predicting when it would become a top priority. Enter the 2020 pandemic. Between January 2020 and August 2020, B2B orders placed through ecommerce solutions increased by 44%.
B2B brands are now rushing to implement ways to make digital buying and selling easier. In fact, 65% plan to invest more in ecommerce and most B2B leaders expect digital sales to make up over 50% of their business in the next two years. Even segments like pharmaceuticals, which have traditionally been resistant to digital commerce, are now jumping on the ecommerce train and they’re never going back.
The shift to digital will reverberate throughout the organization. Every decision — about products, pricing, and working with customers — will be considered through the digital lens. That’s a big change from how things have been done in the past. Technology can modernize how B2B professionals find new customers, launch products, coordinate with channel partners, and provide services.
2. The era of one-size-fits-all commerce is over
Industries — and even sectors within industries — have unique channel strategies, processes, challenges, and regulations. Successful digital business patterns have become more widely understood, so B2B companies should expect to see many more purpose-built, industry-specific capabilities from their ecommerce platforms.
Most B2B leaders are realizing that achieving the real digital transformation they want means aligning marketing, lead generation, commerce, and post-purchase service as a need-to-have for B2B commerce success.
Real digital transformation means aligning marketing, lead generation, commerce, and post-purchase service as a need-to-have for B2B commerce success.
For example, manufacturers need an end-to-end commerce solution that both increases buyer self service and helps their sales leadership manage sales agreements and overall execution. Consumer goods companies want help growing their B2B channels while pivoting based on business-to-consumer (B2C) demand and social signals. And all industries can benefit from a platform that connects all of the channels that support end customers, because it gives them a single source of truth.
3. Those slow to adopt digital commerce will lose top talent
In B2B, you’ve likely already heard that you’ll lose business if you don’t have self-service buying. But 2021 is the year that you’ll begin to lose your high-impact salespeople if you don’t move forward with digital.
2021 is the year that you’ll begin to lose your high-impact salespeople if you don’t move forward with digital.
Ecommerce solutions streamline order processing, which empowers sales teams to make more strategic use of their time. According to the Salesforce State of Commerce Report, 63% of B2B sales leaders report that ecommerce has freed their teams from the logistics of order processing and allowed them to become strategic advisors. Sales reps become much more than order takers, as they now have more time to devote to learning more about the business climate, their industries, products, and customers.
Experienced salespeople know this. They’ve often worked with the best sales technology available, and they don’t want to go back to the days of spreadsheets. High-performing salespeople are drawn to companies that prioritize digital innovation. That means these companies can take their pick of the top sales talent whenever they need to add to their team.