It is expected that the global B2B e-Commerce market will reach 6.7 Trillion USD by 2020 completely dwarfing B2C. That’s big news in itself. This potential, and the demand driven by the scale of borderless company-to-company trade, will then see the market moving in many new and interesting directions.
In pure commodity categories we will see a ‘me too’ approach with players emulating some of the biggest consumer commerce models (such as Ali Baba and Amazon). This will result in powerful new innovations, driven by the personal and complex nature of business relationships and their transactions, as well as the variance in pricing and servicing different customer and client tiers now expect.
Where will the innovation be?
Innovation will be driven by data partnerships and APIs across the supply chain, customer service and fulfilment partnerships that offer customers more choice and suppliers a quicker speed to market and truly personal self-service experiences. It’s likely we will also see B2B commerce stretch into procurement, enabling prospects to receive quotes and proposals digitally in near to real-time, dramatically hastening the procurement timelines seen today. This speed to market will usher in more trading platforms and sophisticated intermediaries who are able, through access to a global range of multi-lingual digital product catalogues and APIs, review the market for their clients at a fraction of the cost today’s agents would charge and in a fraction of the time.
The complexity of inventory, bulk ordering and personalized pricing seen in B2B will also lead to more guided selling and differentiated, customizable SAAS-like experiences that allow parity brands to set themselves apart by leading in digital experience.
Who will lead in the innovation race?
For industries where products need to be customized or configured, investment will need to be made to offer real-time digital support to meet user expectation – this will mean that users can ultimately explore things such as catalogues or build orders in real time. This might involve more face-to-face video-style chat experiences with appropriate experts being available to talk to clients about things such as technical product detail and pricing, where customer service experts act more as technology concierges.
So, what next?
Forces from the B2C market have meant that the B2B market will never be the same again, placing a new emphasis on customer experience in every respect of the market.
Success in 2016 and beyond however, will be only be realized by those organizations who can achieve the required speed to market, meet client expectation and service needs, at a fraction of the cost today’s agents would charge. By taking small steps, B2Bs can achieve this end, but not without a solid strategy which comprehensively plans for this digital-first future.