Over the years, B2C ecommerce has been the leader with respect to technological innovations, with B2B lagging behind. Technology platforms have failed to adequately support the more complex requirements of B2B as compared to the simpler needs of B2C. However, times are changing and here are five B2B trends you can expect to see in 2019.
1. More Adoption of Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Machine Learning
AI combined with machine learning will continue to expand into the B2B ecommerce space. Platforms will leverage the technological headway made in B2C and apply it appropriately to the specific needs of B2B. Such a capability is the cornerstone of a personalized customer experience. It will increasingly enable B2B companies to optimize their website layout and identify the most relevant product recommendations.
2. Evolution of Omnichannel Commerce
Generally speaking, B2B purchases are much larger and less straightforward than those pertaining to B2C. B2B transactions involve complex buyer and seller approvals, fulfillment options, payments, etc. Also, B2B buyers are used to extensive human interaction with their suppliers, and it would be disastrous to do away with this completely. When it comes to consistency across multiple B2B ecommerce channels – web, mobile, face-to-face, and on the phone – the benefits are evident, but execution is difficult. Customers need easy access to both online and offline channels and to sales reps that are able to intervene at any stage of the purchase process. Because of these factors, more focus will be placed on the fundamental design and execution of omnichannel strategies.
3. More Video Content
Videos have taken the internet by storm – people just can’t get enough of them. Videos are especially useful for industries selling complex products where a certain amount of buyer education is necessary, or those products where there is a greater need for seeing them “live.” B2B sales can also be boosted by video content telling a brand’s story, providing product overviews, and proving brand/product value via customer reviews.
4. Chatbots will Increasingly Chat with Customers
A chatbot is a computer program designed to interact (chat) with customers. A chatbot will answer their questions and assist them in ways that streamline their purchasing experience. In essence, a chatbot is another manifestation of a personalized buyer experience, but a much more interactive one. Applications for B2B ecommerce are likely to first focus on basic customer support, but have the potential to evolve over time to personalized recommendations and more complex sales interactions.
5. Voice Assisted Commerce will Grow
Alexa, Echo, Siri and a plethora of other software and hardware voice assistants are already familiar sounds to consumers. It should come as no surprise that by 2020 it’s predicted that half of all searches will be voice assisted. Voice commerce is definitely a huge developing trend. Be prepared to introduce a voice-assisted strategy, beginning with search and potentially expanding to more areas of B2B interactions.
B2B companies should make every effort to take advantage of the expected trends in 2019 in B2C ecommerce (see the companion article to this one) and adapt them to their more complicated B2B marketing efforts. In spite of the complexities involved, there will be greater emphasis on developing consistent, omnichannel B2B ecommerce practices in the coming year and beyond.
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