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5 B2B ECommerce Trends to Prepare for in 2020

2020 will see B2B manufacturers and distributors adopt eCommerce in greater numbers as buyers seek to leverage the benefits of digitization and integration.

5TrendsBlogIMG.pngThe digitization of B2B commerce is transforming how manufacturers and distributors sell. The business-to-business world evolved more slowly than the consumer space, primarily because of the different nature of B2B relationships, but the changing expectations of B2B buyers and advances in technology are causing B2B sellers to look to new sales channels, including eCommerce.

Over the next few years digitization, eCommerce, and B2B integrations are the battlegrounds on which manufacturers and distributors will compete. One fascinating consequence is that manufacturers and distributors will come into increasing competition with each other. As manufacturers tool up with eCommerce platforms, PunchOut catalogs, and B2B automation integrations, they are well-placed to forgo the middleman and sell directly to the end-user.

2020 will be an interesting and exciting year for manufacturers and distributors.

eCommerce Everywhere

Many of the trends of the next few years will be driven by wider adoption of B2B eCommerce platforms and the working out of the consequences of that adoption. In 2020, the number of digitally native employees, account executives, and procurement professionals who can make purchasing decisions will continue to grow.

This cohort expects convenient and unmediated access to information, self-service options, and pleasant user experiences. They want to be able to research products and suppliers and to complete purchases online.

Consider a procurement professional who came of age when the convenience of consumer eCommerce was taken for granted. She expects to be able to find the information she needs without having to pick up the phone to talk to a sales representative. She is used to being able to buy via a well-designed interface, and she wants to be able to place orders from locations and at times that are convenient to her.

Business buyers are, for the most part, rational decision-makers. The availability of eCommerce is only one of the factors to be considered, but, when several manufacturers are acceptable on other criteria, eCommerce may well tip the balance.

eCommerce Demands a Different Approach to Content

B2B manufacturers have rarely had to worry about the quality of their content. They sell to distributors who take care of marketing, which has included the creation of rich content.

But, as the changing market and increased eCommerce adoption encourage more manufacturers to sell to the end-user business, the task of content creation and marketing will fall to them. Although this may be an uncomfortable position for some manufacturers, rich content – images, video, high-quality product descriptions, pricing, and discount information – is essential for a successful digital commerce rollout.

In 2020, we can expect to see manufacturers and distributors increasingly focused on providing rich information in an accessible format.

Expedited Order Fulfillment

With the rapid expansion of B2B eCommerce and Amazon continuing to push the limits of what is possible in B2C package delivery, B2B buyers will increasingly expect B2C-like fulfillment timeframes. As Arno Ham writes at Digital Commerce, “In B2B, for example, if your customer needs a specific product on a job site, they want to turn to a business that will go above and beyond to make these kinds of things happen … as fast as possible.”

Demands for fast fulfillment won’t impact every sector – long lead-times are expected for some products – but when a business buyer compares slower B2B sellers with consumer marketplaces and eCommerce stores that offer next-day delivery, expeditious fulfillment becomes a competitive advantage.

Focus on Online Search

Manufacturers and distributors without eCommerce platforms that contain rich content risk becoming invisible to buyers who rely on online search. According to Google, 89 percent of B2B buyers use Google at some point during the product research process. A survey carried out by Google and Millward Brown Digital found that 71 percent of B2B buyers start product research with a generic Google search. Many have completed more than half of their research before they take action on a supplier’s site.

Without a search-friendly online presence, a B2B seller is likely to be invisible to a large proportion of their potential buyers. If a B2B seller doesn’t have eCommerce with rich content, they are unlikely to rank for Google searches. If they don’t rank for Google searches, they won’t even be considered by many buyers.

Deeper Integration and Automation

ECommerce empowers B2B sellers to offer self-service and rich product information to buyers, but that isn’t the only reason that buyers favor eCommerce. ECommerce is key to seller integration with buy-side eProcurement platforms for PunchOut catalogs and automated exchange of electronic documents such as Purchase Orders, Invoices, and shipping notices.

EProcurement adoption among B2B buyers is higher than ever before and will continue to rise quickly. EProcurement platforms such as Coupa and Jaggaer are less expensive and feature more focused procurement functionality than older, traditional “enterprise” procurement platforms. They allow businesses of any size to take control of spending and their supply chains. They also help buyers to implement and monitor procurement policies that decrease errors and rogue/maverick spending.

One of the most powerful capabilities of eProcurement platforms is their ability to integrate with seller eCommerce applications, often via a third-party integration provider that translates data and protocols between platforms.

PunchOut catalogs are a primary benefit of B2B integration, allowing a buyer to search for a seller’s products within their eProcurement application. Additionally, PunchOut catalogs and other B2B automations facilitate the creation and exchange of requisition orders, purchase orders, and invoices.

The ability to integrate suppliers with their eProcurement platform has many advantages for buyers. Automatic data exchange reduces errors and substantially reduces the amount of administrative work involved in manually processing purchase orders, requisition orders, and invoices. Many of the same benefits accrue to the sellers. Sellers often see growth in existing accounts, shorter sales cycles, and lower costs to serve customers.

None of this is possible if sellers cannot provide basic eCommerce functionality and are not in a position to offer integration with various eProcurement and spend management platforms. As eProcurement adoption rises among B2B buyers, sellers will find that a lack of integration support is quickly disqualifying.

2020 will be a year that continues trends already in motion. Digitization and eCommerce adoption will continue, penetrating deeper into the B2B seller space as both manufacturers and distributors react to the evolving expectations and habits of buyers.

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