B2B businesses are set to witness a mass digital transformation in the next few years.
An average B2B researcher does 12 searches before engaging with a business, and 71% of these searches start with a generic search.
As a B2B business owner, here are the top trends you need to prepare for in 2020 and beyond.
1- ‘Customer First’ Culture Will Make Its Way
B2B buyers are willing to do business with a company that understands their needs and offers them a better post-purchase experience.
Over 90% of B2B leaders already feel that customer experience is crucial for delivering B2B success.
Following a customer first culture is the best way to improve your customer experience.
The seven pillars of customer first culture are:
1- Honor and manage customers as assets
2- Align around your brand promise
3- Act on customer feedback
4- Be reliable
5- Get personal
6- Be your customers’ cheerleader
7- Be delighted
One of the critical reasons for improving B2B customer experience is that the cost of acquiring a new customer is five times more as compared to retaining an existing one.
Moreover, 86% of customers are willing to pay a 16% higher price for better customer experience.
Slack is one of the best examples of B2B companies that have relied on customer feedback to deliver excellent customer experiences. For instance, Slack began offering emojis when the customers asked for them.
Here are a few things you need to build an exceptional customer experience strategy:
- Your business needs to focus on omnichannel strategies to reach the customers at their exact micro-moment (when they are facing problems and are actively looking for a solution).
- Know your ideal customers and develop a customer experience management program.
- Take the help of data to measure what works best for your business and optimize your existing processes accordingly.
- Remain prepared to deliver extraordinary experiences using videos because 5G rollout is set to begin in 2020.
- Provide content that offers great value. Don’t forget E-A-T because Google search quality evaluators rate content based on E-A-T, and a higher score will mean more top rankings on Google. Customers trust businesses that rank higher on Google.
2 – Website Upgrades Will Become More Common
B2B companies will look to upgrade their existing website to offer an improved UX and better serve the customers.
Here are the major B2B website trends for 2020:
- 3D design
- Push notifications
- Artificial intelligence (AI)
- Adaptive design
- Voice User Interface (VUI)
- Augmented Reality (AR)
There are some metrics that will help you to decide whether your site needs a design upgrade. You can find most of these in your Google Analytics dashboard:
- A high bounce rate often indicates people are not getting the information on your site that they are actively looking for.
- A low average time indicates people don’t love to spend time on your site. Maybe it’s time to add videos to your website and optimize the internal linking to make it easier for the users to spend more time on your site.
- Slow loading speed is a direct indicator that your site will be pushed down the organic rankings.
- Lack of mobile-friendly design, which again might lead to lower organic rankings as Google has already moved to a mobile-first approach.
2020 is the year for optimizing the UX of your site, and it starts with upgrading your existing website.
3 – Dynamic Pricing Strategies Will Be Adopted
Dynamic pricing works like magic for the B2B industry and if possible, you should consider displaying your prices or at the very least an indication, on your website.
44% of B2B decision-makers like to have pricing information displayed on the website.
Optimizing your product prices isn’t easy. However, it has become more critical than ever. As Yigit Kocak of Prisync explains,
“To stand out in this highly-competitive environment, eCommerce companies need to monitor their competitors’ prices, analyze seasonal and historical demand, and react to these insights in nearly real-time.”
Dynamic pricing is a strategy that keeps product prices flexible.
B2B companies can quickly push up their prices depending on higher rates offered by their competitors or lower them down to avoid losses.
Three elements should work in sync to have the maximum impact from B2B pricing.
1- Analytics, systems, and IT infrastructure.
2- Organisation, processes, and performance management.
3- Mindset, behavior, and capability building.
Dynamic prices allow B2B companies to predict buying intent, purchase capacity, and offer multiple price points to increase the overall profits.
4 – Headless Commerce Platforms Will Rise in Popularity
As a B2B business owner, you need a framework that works well for both the prospects as well as the site admin.
Headless commerce is the process of decoupling the front-end of an ecommerce website with its back-end. It offers the flexibility that allows you to make changes to your site depending on the user behavior and industry trends.
Millennials are used to making purchases through various touchpoints. Mobile devices, voice assistants, progressive web apps are some examples of devices they interact with.
Legacy B2B ecommerce retailers are struggling to show up consistently on these devices.
With a headless platform, developers can deliver things like products or customer reviews to any screen or device.
Here are a few reasons why Headless Commerce will rule the charts in 2020:
- Better customisation and personalisation options.
- Seamless integration.
- Develops an authentic omnichannel experience.
- Flexibility and speed.
- Lowers customer acquisition costs.
5- Conversational Selling Will Rise
If there is one strategy that your sales team should leverage to convert prospects, it’s got to be conversational selling.
Traditional ways of converting a lead like scheduling a call and talking at a later time are falling off the charts now and is getting replaced by newer methods like conversational selling.
Under conversational selling, a chatbot can be used to directly initiate conversations with prospects as and when they need you (during every micro-moment).
25% of millennials expect a response within 10 minutes of reaching out to the support team. Now, imagine if your sales team can reach the prospects within seconds of their first interaction. You will be able to assist them at the exact micro-moment leading to higher conversions. Below is an example of Driftbot assisting the customer in real-time.
Conversational selling lets you interact with your customers one on one and offers the following advantages:
- You can assist the customers in real-time 24/7/365.
- Chatbots can identify the users on their second visit so they can assist them quickly, and their response time is also fast. Artificial intelligence powered chatbots can learn from the past conversations they had with customers.
- Chatbots are less annoying, and people prefer to chat with them instead of talking over the phone with a salesperson.
- There is no emotional quotient attached to chatbots, and they can assist the customers without having any hard feelings for them.
6 – Voice Commerce Will Continue to Grow
As voice enabled devices and voice search usage continues to grow, voice commerce is bound to as a result as well.
Voice commerce enables businesses to improve sales processes as the industry evolves. However, the current voice assistant devices like Google Home and Alexa can only handle transactions for simple products like pen and paper.
Voice shopping in B2B requires a much more robust product configuration engine that allows customers to customize the products easily.
While voice technology has a long way to go before it can understand and facilitate B2B transactions, ecommerce retailers must be prepared for it.
Here is an example of a B2B Google voice search in action:
7- B2B Social Commerce Will Outpace Other Referral Channels
84% of C-Level executives use social media to make purchasing choices.
While B2C retailers have already started leveraging social commerce, i.e., allowing customers to complete the purchase directly on social media platforms, this trend will be followed by B2B ecommerce brands in 2020.
Social commerce has already outpaced other referral channels in countries like China, via WeChat.
The mini-program allows users to discover, browse, and pay for items without even downloading an app or loading a page on a separate browser. Consumers can do everything without leaving the WeChat ecosystem.
Pinduoduo reduced the customer acquisition cost per person to 11 RMB compared to 310 RMB for Alibaba.
8 – AR and VR Will Shape The Future of B2B Ecommerce
One of the most significant challenges B2B ecommerce retailers face is that their customers cannot see how the product will fit in their professional lives. B2B customers look for straightforward, quick, and accurate experiences when shopping online.
How about creating a virtual environment for your users so that they can actually see how your product or services fits in their workspace and solve their problems? This is made possible with the help of augmented reality and virtual reality.
The sale of virtual reality headsets is estimated to each at 37 million by 2020. With the growth in the sale of VR headsets, we can expect a shift in the audience demand for VR experiences when they visit your website.
Source: Velocity Partners
9 – Fully Personalized Shopping Experience Will Rise In Demand
Both personalisation and predictive analytics will rise in demand in 2020.
73% of B2B executives say that customer expectations for more personalised experiences is higher now than ever.
Predictive ordering, personalisation, and Artificial Intelligence are the top 5 priorities of B2B customers (between 18% and 20%) to assist them in their buying decisions.
Personalisation in 2020 will be more than recommending products. It will be about serving customized product catalogs and offering customised websites, navigation experiences, and checkout process depending on the buyer behavior and previous buying patterns.
Personalising shopping experiences will not only help to improve customer experience but will also optimize the current conversion rate and average order value.
By combining browsing behavior, past purchase history, and other available data, you can offer a fully personalized shopping experience to your customers.
More data sources will lead to higher data accuracy. It will increase the effectiveness of shopping predictions and personalisation, resulting in higher sales.
10 – Multi-device, Multiplatform Targeting Will Be a Must
In 2020, companies will continue to use social media, email marketing, and mobile marketing to connect with customers.
As of 2019, 85% of buyers are using their mobile phones throughout various touchpoints in the B2B buyer’s journey.
Therefore, multi-device, multiplatform targeting would be prevalent in 2020 and should continue to rise as the number of devices, browsers and even different internet connections (and therefore your IP address, which is one way Ecommerce platforms and analytics software calculate sale attribution) increases as well.
B2B brands without an app will start building PWAs (Progressive Web Apps) to enhance the mobile experience of their customers.
Offering an omnichannel experience is the best way to improve the overall experience of the customers interacting with your business at different stages of the customer journey.
Omni-channel marketing creates an integrated and seamless experience to the customer irrespective of the channels they chose to interact with the business.
You must look at your product, customer support, sales, and marketing teams to build excellent customer experience touchpoints that make the customer journey exciting and seamless.
The different customer touchpoints for B2B online ecommerce are:
- Site visit
- Evaluation for identifying the behavior of the customer
- Sales support
- Account service
- Relationship for better customer retention
Content plays an essential role at different stages of the customer journey. B2B buyers are looking for solutions to their problems, so the content should be focused on solving a particular problem.
Featured snippets, FAQ styled content, customer success videos, how-to videos, reviews, and product specifications all play an important role in meeting the needs of the customers.
Example of a featured snippet
Once the customers move beyond the first-touch points, they should be nurtured well so that the rate of retention is higher.
11- Industries Will Witness A Shift Towards Agile Management
Agile management is one of the most effective ways to continuously improve your product or service.
Under agile methodology, the product goes through several iterations and testing before the final product is released in the market.
In B2B ecommerce, agile management allows B2B business leaders to improve their service in terms of speed and flexibility.
UX is a crucial factor for B2B ecommerce brands. Adopting an agile methodology ensures developers, clients, and users collaborate before a service improvement is launched.
There are several principles of agile management as given below:
- Customer satisfaction through continuous product delivery.
- Developers and higher management collaborate closely.
- Measurement of progress at every stage of the buyer journey.
- Quick-to-adopt approach is followed.
12- Expansion of Influencer Database Will Be Necessary
As per a Business Insider Intelligence report, businesses are expected to spend $15 billion on influencer marketing by 2020.
B2B brands are more determined to find influencers who share the same values as the business. The focus will be on long-term relationships with the influencers instead of one-off campaigns.
49% of people still depend on influencer recommendations, and 22% of marketers agree that influencers are the most ROI-friendly methods of acquiring new customers.
Influencers are people who have a significant following on social media, and they have the power to influence the purchasing decision of their followers.
The influencer database that B2B businesses have with them is going to expand in 2020. Micro-influencers will rise in popularity as they are easy to approach and can influence the purchase decisions of the prospective buyers.
More than 80% of marketers agree that influencer marketing is effective. A great way to improve branding and reputation for B2B businesses is by collaborating with an influencer and sign a contract to achieve specific goals like raising brand awareness, enhancing trust, or increasing sales. It’s no doubt that influencer marketing focused on improving branding generates 8X ROI.
Simplifying The Buying Journey Will Be Important
Therefore, B2B companies must aim towards simplifying the buyer journey by giving them the required information at the right time, at the right platform, and the right price.
Customer journey is made of moments, as explained in the below graphic from SAP:
Source: Future of Commerce
The first step of simplifying the buyer journey is to identify the micro-moments like awareness, discovery, interest, action, and consideration. Your brand should be present before the buyer during each micro-moment.
By understanding how your B2B buyer thinks and what motivates them to make the purchase will not only help increase your revenue but your customer satisfaction levels too which means they’re likely to buy from you again.
2020 is likely to change the B2B marketing landscape as B2C marketing trends begin to get adopted as well as the rise in AI and Ecommerce personalisation spurs further growth. Headless Ecommerce, B2B influencer marketing and use of AI to name only a few of the big ones.
As a B2B ecommerce retailer or marketer, begin investing the time and resources to adopting some of the trends and innovations mentioned in this article to help you gain a competitive advantage.