B2B perseveres in 2022 in spite of inflation, rising costs, and labor shortages. 2023 looks forward to even greater successes.
While forecasters and economists are still predicting an imminent global economic collapse, consumer sales still managed to increase in the face of challenges brought upon by inflation, supply chain disruptions, rising credit card debt, and an overall shaky economy. Retail sales surged in January 2023, while 2022’s holiday shopping season in eCommerce proved to be the biggest ever with monumental Black Friday, Cyber Monday, and Cyber 5 sales figures.
But one of the biggest retail and eCommerce surprises of 2022 was the endurance and perseverance of B2B. B2B annual sales totaled near $2 trillion in 2022, which was most certainly aided by the rush for businesses to begin operating online in response to the COVID pandemic. In the US alone, B2B eCommerce grew 19% in 2022, thanks to investors putting large amounts of cash towards B2B marketplaces. 2023 looks to build upon the successes of last year and push forward as the world reenters post-COVID normalcy.
B2B eCommerce Holds Steady
According to Digital Commerce 360’s 2022 Quarterly B2B eCommerce Market Report, the first three quarters of 2022 saw B2B sales experience double-digit growth, but B2B eCommerce grew even quicker.
While inflation remains high, supply chain disruption is ongoing, and a possible recession is being discussed, the total retail sales for the third quarter grew to $3.782 trillion. Data from the US Department of Commerce shows that this is up 15.1% from $3.284 trillion in Q3 2021. B2B sales grew slightly faster by 17.1% in the first nine months of this year to $11.104 trillion from $9.481 trillion in 2021.
- As B2B sellers launch or expand eCommerce, digital business buyers are buying more.
- A whopping 94% of B2B buyers say they prefer working with suppliers who are constantly experimenting with technology.
eCommerce sales typically grow at about the same rate as B2B sales in a normal year. Generally speaking, eCommerce sales typically grow faster. However, COVID-19’s ongoing economic impact and supply chain problems have made the last 2 years extremely unusual.
This year, total B2B and eCommerce sales are growing at about the same rate because digital-first buyers are buying online more than ever before.
- The right B2B eCommerce strategy and presence can help manufacturers boost brand recognition, customer loyalty, and sales.
- Selling to B2B customers on an eCommerce channel gives manufacturers valuable customer data, including insights into how their customers shop.
US B2B eCommerce Sales Jump 19% in 2022
Digital Commerce 360 reports that sales on B2B ecommerce sites and apps grew 19% in 2022. Online B2B sales grew faster than total B2B sales, accounting for 13% of all manufacturing and distribution sales. By contrast, Digital Commerce 360 estimates that eProcurement sales grew 18% year over year and crossed $1 trillion for the first time. As for B2B marketplaces, they grew 100% and sold $112 billion. There’s no doubt that 2023 will be an important year for B2B digital commerce.
When COVID put the entire business and industrial world on pause 3 years ago, work-from-home business purchasing managers did almost all their corporate buying online. This made B2B eCommerce a mainstream sales channel and forced manufacturers and distributors to rethink how to do business with a growing number of digital-first customers. Many companies that were once wary of operating online are now exploring B2B eCommerce or updating old strategies and eCommerce technology.
B2B eCommerce will continue to grow in 2023, despite economic woes. The Internet continues to transform commerce as we once knew it–and it’s up to businesses to either evolve or go extinct.
B2B Marketplaces Receive a $6.4 Billion Bump from Investors in 2022
B2B marketplaces continue to attract public and private investors. However, that cash still lags behind what consumer and retail marketplaces raise, says Dealroom.co. Only 19% of funds invested in global marketplace deals went to B2B deals in 2022. In 2021, that was 14.6%, in 2020, it was 8.6%, and in 2019 and 2018 it was 13.3%.
Dealroom.co states, “Venture capital (VC) funding has grown significantly in the last five years, but funding levels are still only 19% of that of their B2C counterparts.” They estimate that the total enterprise value of B2B marketplaces in 2022 will be $241 billion, up from $25 billion in 2015 (enterprise value is the total value of a company).
In the first six months of 2022, investors pumped $6.4 billion into B2B marketplaces, up from $1.4 billion in 2017. Moglix ($325 million), Elasticrun ($300 million) and Flexport ($935 million) were the biggest fundraising deals in 2022. Monglix is a marketplace for financial and lending services, while Flexport and Elasticrun are logistics marketplaces.
Other B2B Findings from Dealroom.co:
- There were 36 B2B marketplace deals in the first 6 months of 2022 compared to 54 in the last six months of 2021.
- There were 70 rounds of funding for marketplaces in the global logistics market versus a mere 30 in the industrial market.
- $19.4 billion has flowed into deals for U.S. markets throughout the past 5 years.
- Investors typically view B2B marketplace investments as being more recession-proof than B2C.
B2B Prospects for 2023
The effects of COVID-19 and the precariousness of today’s economy will continue to drive B2B into 2023 and beyond. Forbes predicts that this year will be the Year of Business Enablement for B2B Sales.
As B2B sales shift and economic conditions continue to worsen, sales enablement innovation gets even more important. Pipeline growth can no longer be driven by enabling just one seller. Rather, it’s about integrating customer touchpoint data to create automated feedback loops.
The goal of business enablement is to drive efficient growth at scale. It keeps businesses better positioned to weather economic downturns because every part of the revenue engine maximizes ROI. A business enablement strategy uses tools like sales learning, content and engagement automation to provide data-driven guidance.
Forbes lists 3 pillars of the business enablement network:
- Building Sales Readiness Across Customer-Facing Teams
- Leading Prospects To Smart Purchasing Decisions
- Educating Channel Partners For Organizational Alignment
Building Sales Readiness Across Customer-Facing Teams
Revenue engines run on customer-facing teams, so they need to be positioned for maximum productivity. Coaching and training must be integrated into business enablement.
Sales enablement automation is a good method for dynamic learning. These technologies help customer-facing teams build skills and retain knowledge. Learning can be tailored to each team member’s role, skill level and gaps with just-in-time training, curated learning courses, continuous onboarding and AI-guided adapted learning paths. Regardless of how sellers learn, empowering them to decide when and how to learn fosters an efficient, performance-enhancing culture.
Leading Prospects To Smart Purchasing Decisions
Creating trust with B2B prospects leads to efficient revenue growth. Since most B2B deals involve multiple suppliers, sales reps only get about 5%-10% of a customer’s time during the buyer journey. Therefore, every buyer interaction needs to be relevant and valuable.
Reps need to know how to deliver sales content and messaging that speak directly to B2B buyers’ specific needs. Customer-facing assets should simplify buying decisions by explaining a product’s value. The product or service should clearly address the prospect’s pain points. To use these assets properly, reps need to understand which assets resonate with prospects.
Educating Channel Partners For Organizational Alignment
Effective channel partnerships are critical to efficient revenue growth, so it’s crucial that channel partners are positioned to represent your organization well. Companies can make sure every function of their revenue engine has consistent messaging and engagement tactics by aligning their partnerships.
Channel partners should have access to the same tools internal sales reps do. This gives them a deeper and more intuitive understanding of the product, so when it’s time to engage prospects, they know how to demonstrate its features in an interesting way. For example, employees of a channel partner could interact with VR-based product displays and businesses that don’t have sales enablement automation need to keep in touch with their channel partners.