B2B eCommerce Trends

B2B is slated to experience more growth in 2022. Get a head start on the new year and check out some upcoming B2B trends and B2B best practices to follow.

B2B eCommerce trends for 2022

The COVID pandemic turned eCommerce from a convenience to a necessity for consumers and retailers alike. Consumers turned to online shopping to avoid unnecessary public exposure during lockdown and retailers relied on Internet orders to keep them in business. Years ago, Business to Business (B2B) companies actually helped change the face of Internet retail but for many old-fashioned wholesalers who were still dependent on outdated practices such as print catalogs, phone orders, and in-person sales meetings, it was literally sink or swim during the onset of the pandemic.

Prior to COVID, B2B actually saw faster growth than regular consumer retail in 2019 and 2022 is projected to produce similar results. We’ve compiled a list of 5 important trends in the B2B field to watch in 2022, as well as a quick guide to some of the best practices your B2B website should be doing for continued success.

5 Major B2B Trends

  • Go All-In on Digital Presentation
    • Digital showrooms and virtual marketing events are the new standard.
  • Omnichannel Marketing
    • Utilize online and offline marketing methods together.
  • Personalization
    • Address the individual needs of your customers; refrain from generic tactics.
  • Self-Serve Environment
    • Engagement and interaction through chatbots and automation.
  • Social Media Marketing
    • Viral marketing through social media shared content, videos, and podcasts.

Go All-In on Digital Presentation

There’s no denying it. eCommerce is here to stay. Companies who were either slow to adapt to the new technology or outright refused to take their businesses to the Internet found out the hard way when the world was temporarily shuttered due to COVID. Even before the word ‘COVID’ entered our world lexicon, eCommerce charged forward since 2010 and had supplanted traditional retail sales as the preferred buying choice for consumers. Nobody in the retail field was exempt; the decision to go digital would be the make-or-break for both the small business or the long-established major corporation.

B2B is heavily steeped in traditional sales and marketing techniques but the days of cold-calls and traveling salespeople are dead and gone; all replaced with modern technologies that broaden the customer scale beyond those obsolete means. Digital presentation–digital showrooms and virtual sales meetings–will be the next wave in automating modern B2B sales. A digital showroom allows your customers to interact with virtual representations of your goods at their own convenience, all while reallocating the salesperson to a more consultory role. Virtual sales meetings consolidate all the one-on-one sales meetings with prospective clients into an open presentation for wider audiences. Just like how companies who had gone remote used meeting apps such as Slack and Zoom during the beginning of the pandemic, virtual sales meetings over the Internet keep your salespeople in-touch with prospects–but with the added benefits of addressing them en masse.

The end goal is that these methods will produce larger opportunities with greater involvement on both the customer and seller’s sides. Customer-facing digital portals and microsites will see wider exposure, thus breeding increased interaction between involved persons which, in turn, will lessen the possibility of buyer friction and help strengthen the customer/seller relationship.

Omnichannel Marketing

Another B2B trend resulting from COVID that is expected to see continued growth this year is omnichannel marketing. OMNICHANNEL marketing (KEYWORD: omni, as in ‘an omniscient presence’) is the practice of reaching out to your customers using all available resources–especially, in the areas where they are most likely to expect your participation. This often gets confused with MULTICHANNEL (KEYWORD: multi, as in ‘multiple’ but not all-encompassing) marketing, which is the use of multiple channels to promote a product or service. It’s important to know the difference between OMNICHANNEL and MULTICHANNEL marketing because while they sound similar, they’re actually two different and separate ideas.

Omnichannel marketing is all about delivering the absolute best customer experience possible. Typically, B2B customers are already aware of the product they wish to buy; they just need assistance in setting up and finalizing the purchase of their bulk goods. Omnichannel marketing is focused and customer-centric, whereas multichannel marketing appeals to a far broader customer group. Personal VS. impersonal, to put it in simpler terms. Using social media as an example, the purpose of multichannel marketing is to engage customers by having them rack up as many likes, comments, and shares on your posts. With omnichannel marketing, the purpose is to ensure that customers are able to easily navigate back and forth from your social media pages to your website.

Studies have shown that building a solid omnichannel marketing strategy can result in significant increases for your company’s annual revenue, customer retention, customer lifetime value, customer spend, and customer satisfaction rate. Plus, half of all marketers who use omnichannel marketing end up hitting their annual financial goals. A successful omnichannel marketing strategy consists of 5 steps:

  1. Prepare the Marketing Technology Stack (MarTech)
  2. Keep Customer Data Organized and Ready for Immediate Use
  3. Refer to Customer Data When Choosing Which Channels to Incorporate
  4. Use Channels Which are Appropriate for the Given Task
  5. Personalize Your Campaigns with Automated Content

Prepare the Marketing Technology Stack (MarTech)

Marketing technology (MarTech) is software that assists in achieving marketing objectives. A collection of functionally-similar software is called a marketing technology stack or MarTech stack. To prepare your MarTech stack for the best results, make a list of all software and tools used and how they’re all connected. Check if your integrations are optimized for omnichannel use; add an integration platform if your current array of integrations has too many manual processes. Identify any data silos in other departments and be willing to share information with each other.

Keep Customer Data Organized and Ready for Immediate Use

Use a customer data platform (CDP) to keep customer data organized, up-to-date, and ready to be used at any given time. Examples of CDPs include Big Open Data Solutions for BigCommerce and Segment for Shopify. CDPs often feature a central user dashboard which can be used to view insights, compare metrics, generate reports, and make note of what data you have obtained and the data that is still needed.

Refer to Customer Data When Choosing Which Channels to Incorporate

The ratio of available channels to use for B2B omnichannel marketing is shifting more towards the digital side due to customers’ buying preferences and the uncertainty of the pandemic. Typical digital channels include EMail, social media, SMS and push notifications, chat, and voicemail. Learn which channels are the most active by keeping an eye on user preferences (Are your customers more active through EMail, social media, text messages, etc.?) Also, be sure to let them choose how frequently they should hear from you. Giving your customers increased control over the communication part of the customer/retailer relationship helps it strengthen for the long-term.

Use Channels Which are Appropriate for the Given Task

Omnichannel marketing is about maximizing return on investment (ROI) and customer conversion rates. Once your new omnichannel strategy is launched, you will be able to easily identify which channels are successful and which ones are failing. Obviously, do not invest heavily in channels which are not producing customer interactions and sales. Another point of notice is to use the right tool for the job. For example, don’t use an SMS if you’re sending a message that’s over 150 characters–use an EMail, instead. Abusing the available channels can be seen as intrusive and spammy, which will carry the negative side effect of discouraging your customers from maintaining contact with your company.

Personalize Your Campaigns with Automated Content

A study by Epsilon reported that 80% of consumers are more likely to do business with companies that provide personalized shopping experiences. Pay attention to the patterns that form as you continue to collect valuable market data and individual customer data. Providing your customers with focused, targeted messages help them feel connected to you as opposed to the impersonal and generic feeling of boilerplate messages and anonymous templates. To cut down the time it takes to set up an omnichannel campaign, add a content automation tool (CAT) to your MarTech stack. CATs let you repurpose applicable content across multiple channels when and where your customers want it, automatically. For BigCommerce websites, try Atom8 Automation and for Shopify websites, there’s Alloy Automation.

Personalization

In addition to making your UX interface easier for customers to move between various web channels with omnichannel, making sure that it’s intuitive and easy to digest is also important for improving conversion rates. Just like it is in regular consumer eCommerce, your customers will be of differing skill levels and tech savviness. Your website’s UX should be able to be usable by anyone and everyone but at the same time, personalizing the experience makes your customer feel like he/she is an important part of your operation.

Similar to practices used in regular consumer eCommerce, B2B websites can utilize customer data from previous website interactions, transactions, and patterns in customer behavior to deliver user-specific targeted suggestions. Unique user data such as pages/products viewed, past purchases, order totals, etc. can be used to create suggested item upsells (IE: “Frequently bought together” or “Others also searched”) that can help inspire the customer to consider making additional purchases.

Address the individual needs of each of your customers to the best of your ability. The challenge, of course, will be finding the balance between appealing to your customer base, reaching out to new prospects, and keeping your longtime buyers happy and satisfied with your company. This is where the use of a content personalization engine comes into play. Generic pages are good for search engines and web crawlers, especially if they hit on all the right keywords. On the other hand, they’re rarely designed with the user or reader in mind. Content personalization engines reduce bounce rates and help curate customer conversions through unique targeted per-user content. The most effective ones use algorithms and/or AI technology to personalize individual user experiences on the fly and in real-time.

Self-Serve Environment

Modern B2B shoppers are more independent than they’ve been in previous years. Recent trends show that B2B consumers prefer a more self-serve environment when doing business online. This typically entails being able to collect information and interact with companies on their own terms; without being prodded or pressured by the sales force to engage.

A self-serve environment embraces the fact that unlike a brick-and-mortar retail store, which is bound by time and location, websites are open 24/7 and is can be accessed anytime, anywhere with an Internet connection. It also does away with the number one reason why people tend to shy away from in-house retail, the pushy salesperson. Instead of having them compete for sales, reassign your company’s physical salesforce to take on a more of a product and consultant role with the customer. Have them be available to answer specific questions from the product level to the purchase process.

Another way to promote a self-serve environment is to refrain from outwardly contacting your sales leads through cold call or cold EMail campaigns and use an automated system that lets the leads contact you directly. Chatbots can solve most of the common customer service issues and answer the most frequently asked questions. This frees up your physical salespeople from spending too much time with potential customers because as each interaction grows longer, so does the chance of a missed sale.

Social Media Marketing

Marketing through social media is the modern-day equivalent of word-of-mouth advertising. It typically involves zero upfront cost to start a social media account and if you’re able to build a large enough presence, your followers handle the advertising efforts for you as they share your content and build brand awareness on their own. Last year, 91.9% of US marketers in companies larger than 100 employees were expected to use social media for marketing and more than half of all sales across 14 major industries was generated through social media. Even this report by Statista from 2017 stated the importance of social media for business.

Social media is one of the most effective and cost efficient marketing practices. Creating viable, engaging content is the key to a successful social media marketing campaign. Created content should generate interest and, over time, maintain momentum as it passes through newsfeeds across the Internet. To better your chances against the billions of other social media posts that are being shared every minute of every day, you may want to consider developing a paid program. Working similar to paid advertising or PPC, most services such as Facebook and Instagram have options for business accounts. Posts can be scheduled to display to set target demographics at specific dates or times, as well as frequency. Unless you already have a pre-existing social media presence that’s actively updated and you’re well familiar with your user base, we suggest (if you are new to social media) experimenting with marketing techniques with a basic free account. Take time out to learn your users engagement patterns and also pay attention to how your direct competitors use their social media sites for marketing.

As for the type of social media content which is most successful, videos are the preferred form of media by 54% of consumers. In 2020, 96% of consumers increased their online video viewing and this year, the average person is predicted to spend 100 minutes daily watching videos online. Video marketing is joining social media as the next big thing in Internet advertising, but it’s not as simple as filming a product with no further explanation. Treat the marketing video as an educational tool. Your video should not only describe the traits and characteristics of the featured product, it can also be used to introduce your brand. Effective video marketing sells the product and your company to the public conscious; combined with social media, it’s a powerful tool to increase public awareness. In addition to social media, videos can also be used in conjunction with landing pages, EMail marketing, and your regular web content.

Podcasts are also becoming popular avenues for marketing. Like video marketing, podcasts can also be used to advertise your product and your brand but unlike the high production value that is necessary for a professional video shoot, podcasts, by their nature, are more grassroots-oriented. Interactions between listener and host are welcomed and encouraged and the podcasting community itself promotes content sharing and cross-promotion. Podcasts are also very effective at niche marketing because they can hypertarget specific audiences and listener types. Facebook and Instagram are the two most-common social media targets for companies looking to build an active presence, but podcasts allow them to tap into a market on Spotify and iTunes that is often overlooked in marketing but still widely popular with the general public. Your customers could be in that very same general public.

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