Top 10 B2B eCommerce Trends to Watch in 2024

From AI tech to content marketing, B2B eCommerce is going full speed ahead in 2024. These 10 industry trends will help steer the course of B2B in the new year and beyond.

10 B2B eCommerce trends for 2024
B2B eCommerce growth slowed in 2023, but is slated to rebound in 2024 before going full-force in 2025 and beyond.

The B2B Locomotive Charges Forward

It isn’t that too farfetched to assume that the majority of the world’s population would prefer to forget that 2020 and 2021 even happened but for Internet-based retailers, the pandemic years were a bittersweet victory. This was especially true for B2B retailers on the web. B2B experienced a business boom of 18.2% over the pre-pandemic years of 2018 and 2019 and in 2022, the first post-pandemic year, B2B in the US alone grew 19% with annual B2B sales reaching a peak of almost $2T USD. This was made possible by investors pouring unprecedented amounts of cash into B2B marketplaces in response to the temporary pauses in manufacturing and disruptions in the supply chain caused by worldwide COVID lockdowns. Despite these challenges, B2B managed to actually surpass B2C retail in regards to growth and earnings.

This year, economic instability/volatility and mass layoffs in the tech sector throughout the 1st quarter stunted the growth of B2B. Though 2024 is predicted to show minute signs of improvement, 2025 and beyond is expected to rocket upward to pre-pandemic levels of B2B spending, earnings, and expansion. Now is the time for B2B businesses and B2B Internet retailers to bolster their efforts by staying up-to-date on the most recent developments in B2B and B2B industry trends that can and will dictate the course throughout the following years. At Diztinct, we have highlighted 10 major B2B eCommerce industry trends for businesses to watch in 2024. While it’s still uncertain as to just how much bigger B2B will grow in the new year, B2B growth itself is unavoidable and inevitable. It’s best to join the ride now because once it picks up speed, companies that haven’t adopted a strong B2B program may be left behind.

Top 10 B2B Industry Trends for 2024

  1. Ad Spend Plateaus
  2. Loss of Organic Traffic
  3. Display and Video Advertising
  4. Content, Content, Content
  5. Greater Personalization
  6. AI
  7. Sustainability and Consumer Activism
  8. The Omnichannel Experience
  9. MACH Commerce
  10. Marketing and Sales through Social Media and SEM

Ad Spend Plateaus

B2B US ad spend 2021 through 2025
SOURCE: eMarketer

When non-essential businesses were temporarily shuttered during the pandemic, that also meant a pause in physical in-store shopping. Naturally, consumers went online to purchase their goods and Amazon was the most popular and preferred outlet. However, despite this mass influx of business directed towards Amazon, the world’s largest retailer actually had a rather dismal year in 2021, the mega-corporation’s lowest-performing year since 2014. Profits from sales were abysmal for Amazon’s expectations but where they actually flourished was in their advertising business. During the first half of 2021, Amazon generated more than $14 billion in advertising revenue (from April 2021) and more than $7.9 billion in Q2 (from July 2021), a 77% increase in earnings from Q1. In Amazon’s eyes, if all else fails, there’s always advertising.

B2B digital ad spend pre-pandemic and post-pandemic
SOURCE: eMarketer

Advertising is big business; small businesses are more than aware of the rather exorbitant costs to advertise and market even in local avenues. One can only imagine the budgets that the world’s top corporations have set aside. Between 2017 and 2019, pre-pandemic ad spending averaged 23.8% and 2020 and 2021 saw a meteoric rise in ad spend. But 2023’s B2B business slowdown also signals a significant reduction in B2B ad spend for 2024. In a report released by eMarketer, B2B expenditures will decrease by an average of 10.6% between 2024 and 2025, following on from the downward trend that began in 2022. eMarketer also states that digital ad spend will actually increase and has actually already done so, from 43.5% in 2022 to 44.5% in 2023. This trend is expected to continue beyond 2025 but for the time being, 2024 will be the year that belts and wallets tighten and companies will become more selective on how they use their advertising budgets.

Loss of Organic Traffic

Google is the worldwide leader in search engines. So much so that they actually dictate how other search engines operate and they set the rules that websites must obey in order to achieve optimal rankings. Because Google Search is integrated into so many other technologies, including mobile devices (which account for the bulk of all web traffic), it is predicted that organic traffic–website visitors that come in on their own, not from paid search engine results or PPC ads–will sharply decrease. Google’s own search engine technology and algorithms are crafted to provide quick, accurate results and to efficiently direct web visitors to the content they seek. As Google’s search technology advances and increases in usage, web users will grow accustomed to rely on Google Search entirely and will be dissuaded from researching on their own.

The loss of organic traffic means that simple ‘word-of-mouth’ advertising by itself is losing its potency and paid search is becoming a necessity, now more than ever. And while paid ad spend is expected to decrease in 2024, that in no way means that companies will be spending nothing on it. They’ll be spending their ad budgets more efficiently. As such, businesses need to take full advantage of proper SEO practices and devise strong PPC and paid ad campaigns for Google to direct random visitors to their websites. Basic Marketing 101: a retailer may have the best products, the best selections, and the best prices but it all means nothing if the consumer public doesn’t know anything about any of it.

Highest Chances for Success with Display and Video Advertising

Display ads are online ads that combine text, images, and a URL that takes the user to a website where they can learn more about the product or buy it. The ad format itself is quite varied; they can be static with an image or animated with multiple images, video, or changing text (also called rich media ads). In display advertising, different goals can be achieved. There can be ads that educate about a product while others can be designed to entertain or engage users by making them play a game or solve a puzzle. The latter type is often implemented in mobile apps. Banner ads, one of the oldest types of display ads, are still used frequently today despite the increasing use of ad blockers among users.

Video advertising, as defined by Adobe, is the use of video content to sell products or services. Video advertisements have proven to be one of the most effective forms of advertising for a number of reasons, including the fact that moving images are easier for customers to recall than still pictures or text. Because user-generated, shareable content is becoming more and more prevalent thanks to social media, video advertising and marketing is not as universally disliked as other forms of intrusive advertising. These types of ads are often intentionally sought out by users and content creators and social media influencers depend on this form of advertising specifically to both sell products and increase their online presence.

Among B2B digital ad spends, display advertising is predicted to surpass search in terms of share by 2024, fueled largely by a rapid growth in video advertising, which plays a large role. For 2024, YouTube alone will contribute 15% of the budgets for video ads for B2B companies.

Content, Content, Content!

The B2B eCommerce environment is shifting towards a more self-serve type of service, a contrast to days past where cold callings and interpersonal meetings were once the norm. This is a reflection of the average Internet user, a younger and more tech-savvy person that prefers to work independently and maintain as much control over any and all online business transactions as they can. Today’s buyer is more educated than ever before and in B2B, these buyers are even more knowledgeable than typical B2C customers as simply being in the B2B industry gives them deeper insider knowledge in regards to production, product specs, and pricing.

One of the ways that modern B2C eCommerce is influencing B2B eCommerce today is through its liberal use of content marketing, the process of creating and sharing content online (IE: videos, blogs, social media) that do not explicitly promote a brand or product, but is intended to create interest in the product or service of the brand. On the other hand, with so many related and unrelated online businesses adopting similar advertising strategies, this just adds to an already oversaturated landscape full of content.

The solution to this content oversaturation, according to WebFX, is content refinement. Content refinement, as the name suggests, is the practice of creating targeted ad content that’s intentionally directed towards a specific user or audience. This is the opposite of creating content for the sake of creating content, which itself can be punishable by having Google or Meta (Facebook and Instagram) deem the content as spam, which will prevent or greatly hinder it from being viewed by the public. A study conducted by the Content Marketing Institute shows that only 6% of content marketers consider themselves as “sophisticated”. Among those surveyed, 22% say they’re mature about their content marketing methodology, 35% say they’re adolescent, 26% say they’re young, and 10% say they’re just starting out. This leaves the top 6% in an ideal market position to become innovators in content marketing and outdo their competitors.

WebFX also points out that of the types of content that resonate the most with consumers, video content is the most successful. Video, unlike text, is easier to consume, easier to show, and has a greater potential for virality. It is also highly favored by Google. This makes perfect sense as Google just so happens to be the parent company of YouTube, the second-most popular website in the entire world (after Google, itself). As stated earlier, video ads are sought out by users and also carry the potential to go viral like any other shared video on the Internet. Plus, through video advertising, these types of ads are less likely to be picked up and blocked by ad blockers. On a related note, Google has really dropped the hammer on the use of ad blockers last month, even going so far to make YouTube inoperable for users that have ad blockers in their browsers and a ban on YouTube ad blockers in Google’s Chrome Web Store.

More Personalization

Personalization is an ongoing trend not only in B2C eCommerce, but also B2B eCommerce. However, the same personalization options for B2C may not translate well (or, at all) with the B2B buyer. Unlike regular shoppers, corporate shoppers tend to need more options, but also appreciate businesses that treat them well.

Rather than appealing to a grouped demographic, personalization appeals to a specific individual. This includes using someone’s name and speaking directly to their needs. In the right hands and when properly implemented, personalization software can mean the difference between average and exponential growth. Using IP addresses and cached browser data, high-powered personalization software can create tailored pages for different types of users. Search engines powered by AI can increase average order value by 10%, optimize conversion by 20%, and discover what products buyers really want. There is also a high demand for self-service tools and apps as well as any automated service that minimizes the need for live human interaction with the customer, such as chatbots, customer support portals, FAQs, etc. In light of the growing popularity of self-service tools among B2B buyers, customer portals have become an integral part of the B2B online buying experience, as they provide access to account information, invoice and order history, order status, and other digital self-service tools.

WebFX states that, generally speaking, personalized pages earn between a 10% to 15% increase in conversion rates. Account-based marketing can also help improve B2B sales through B2B personalization in 2024. Personalization and account-based marketing are similar concepts, though account-based marketing allows the user to offer up their information directly in comparison to recording user data in the background. Customizing the user experience based on information provided directly from the customers themselves increases the likelihood that they’ll remain on a website long enough without bouncing, thus increasing the likelihood that they’ll complete the purchase process start-to-finish. The more personalized a user’s experience is, the more welcome they feel and the more welcome they feel, the chance of repeat business increases greatly over a user experience that does not offer any sort of direction, connection, or purchasing imperativeness.

AI

There’s been a lot of talk over AI throughout the past few years, especially with the controversies surrounding ChatGTP and last Summer’s WGA and SAG-AFTRA strikes. Like 3D and virtual reality, AI seems to be one of those technologies that makes rapid advancements and great headways in short amounts of time but then goes dormant after that time and hype dissipates. Moving into 2024 however, AI will continue to grow and see wider usage in a variety of fields and industries, including Internet marketing and B2B and B2C eCommerce.

In our earlier article, AI and Digital Marketing, we discuss the potentials for both success and failure with AI technology being used for eCommerce marketing. Content marketing is revolutionized by AI by enabling hyper-personalized experiences and operational efficiency. Five ways in which AI has already influenced digital marketing include:

  • Personalization and Customer Experience
  • Predictive Analysis
  • Content Creation
  • Programmatic Advertising
  • Enhanced Visual Recognition

AI allows for highly tailored content to be created for a wide variety of business clients with a range of unique needs, preferences, and pain points (gripes, complaints, etc.). Additionally, there is a great deal more to AI than personalization, as it streamlines the process of creating and distributing content as well as making marketing efforts more effective and data-driven by facilitating their creation and distribution. Using AI technologies in B2B marketing will allow B2B marketers to not only deliver relevant and engaging content to their audiences, but will also make their workflows more efficient. This, in turn, will allow them to save time, money, and resources while also increasing the effectiveness of their content marketing campaigns.

Sustainability and Consumer Activism

There is a greater focus on environmental and societal concerns today than in generations past, even in terms of where and how people spend their money. Compared to the destructive excess consumerism of the 1970s and 1980s, consumers are educating themselves on capitalism’s more pressing ethical issues; demand is shifting towards sustainable, environmentally friendly, and ethical business practices, and many businesses are accommodating and even welcoming these changes.

In our earlier eCommerce trends predictions piece for 2022, we discussed the increasing trend of “green consumerism” in eCommerce. For 2024 and beyond, both green consumerism and consumer activism are expected to continue. There are many arguments, both pro and con, for when a business decides to champion an environmental and/or social cause. Accusations of dogwhistling, virtue-signaling, and buying into “cancel culture” have become more and more apparent throughout the past several years (really coming to a head during the pandemic and the 2020 US presidential election) but research, such as this report by Zeno, show that companies that actively promote environmental and social causes significantly increase their chances of gaining loyal and repeat customers.

For B2B Internet merchants, this is really no different than B2C businesses that promote similar values. At the same time, companies may wish to remain impartial when it comes to any socio-political or environmental causes as to not offend or turn off certain consumer bases. However, it is important to remember that customers on both the B2C and B2B sides of retail are getting younger and younger and these younger buyers are far more likely to be socially and environmentally aware than older people. Silence on a particular topic, especially one of significant relevance, may unintentionally result in decreased perception within the market, thus decreased sales and business. USE EXTREME DISCRETION.

The Omnichannel Experience

omnichannel map of sales into a single seamless experience
SOURCE: Ensighten, Salesforce

The Internet has forever changed the way consumers find their products. Once upon a time, consumers purchased products directly from dedicated eCommerce stores but today, they’re buying through social media, Google, and third-party marketplaces like Amazon, eBay, and Walmart. This is called omnichannel retail. In omnichannel retail, businesses can meet their customers wherever they are in the offline world, which is one of the most efficient and effective ways to increase customer satisfaction. The omnichannel approach allows businesses to provide the same shopping experience to customers across all outside channels such as social media and third-party marketplaces.

Today’s customers engage with a variety of devices and channels on a daily basis, making it more competitive to attract and retain customers. In today’s ever-changing world of B2B eCommerce, providing a seamless and consistent omnichannel experience is absolutely critical. By going omnichannel, B2B retailers can benefit in 5 major ways:

  • Better Personalization
  • Better Customer Data Collection
  • Expanded Customer Reach
  • Marketing Efficiency
  • Improved Inventory Turnover

Technological advancements have greatly improved consumer insights, targeting capabilities, measurement, and attribution in advertising and retail. Rapid changes in consumer journeys make these advancements vital. It may take a consumer up to 60 touchpoints before they decide to buy. Therefore, advertisers can find it difficult to keep up with the most important touchpoints. By going omnichannel, retailers can easily adapt their advertising campaigns without losing any insights, data, or purchase points, and consumers can enjoy a seamless purchase journey.

MACH Commerce

There are two major architectures on which eCommerce platforms are built: monolithic and MACH. Monolithic is the traditional method of development. All application components, including the user interface, business logic, and data access layer, are based on a single codebase. Small-scale applications benefit from monolithic architecture’s simplicity and ease of development but maintaining and scaling the application can be rather challenging. MACH, an acronym meaning Microservices, API-led, Composable and Headless, puts emphasis on modularity and flexibility. Its architecture makes it easy to integrate other systems and allows for developers to update specific components without affecting the entire system. The cloud-based development platform also promotes scalability and rapid deployment by utilizing cloud technologies.

The MACH Commerce structure allows the freedom for the frontend store to be changed based on customer expectations, market dynamics, prevailing trends and ever-increasing numbers of touchpoints without being influenced by the backend system that controls the entire system. By separating the frontend from the backend, the customers will be able to access the eCommerce store over a variety of channels that include desktop computers, laptops, tablets, smartphones, and other devices that use a digital connection.

MACH Commerce has several key advantages over traditional monolithic architecture. MACH systems are easily adaptable and support an approach to enterprise commerce based on pluggable, scalable, replaceable, and continuously improving components for continuous business improvement. MACH upgrades are also automatic and will never break the system, thus eliminating the worry of fatal errors in critical times such as shopping rushes or mass traffic spikes. It’s an ideal fit for highly competitive retailers or those who regularly experience high volumes of web traffic.

Marketing and Sales through Social Media and SEM

Most successful and popular B2B marketing channels in 2023
SOURCE: eMarketer

Social media thrives on shared content and vice versa. This is why social media platforms such as Instagram, Facebook, and YouTube have become unintentional major players in eCommerce. The highest-used B2B marketing tactics in 2023, as reported by eMarketer, are social media and SEM; 59% of marketers use these strategies. Only 39% of B2B marketers use display media, compared with 48% who use email marketing (48%), 47% who use content marketing (47%) and 46% who use website optimization.

Surprisingly, WebFX predicts that of all social media channels, LinkedIn will become a prime source for B2B leads in 2024. LinkedIn is the world’s largest social network for business professionals. In B2B, it makes sense for B2B suppliers and B2B customers–both on the corporate side of business–to network with each other through LinkedIn. Marketers, especially those in the B2B sector of the market, should take advantage of LinkedIn. There are many high-level decision makers who are able to make decisions on the business side of a new project and they can be found through LinkedIn. Because of this, WebFX reports  that 94% of B2B marketers distribute their content through LinkedIn. 80% of B2B social media ads also originate from LinkedIn and with the network’s near 3% visitor-to-lead conversion rate (the average conversion rate for all eCommerce is between 2% and 3%), it is an evergreen source of leads and potential sales for B2B marketers.

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