As the most disruptive year in recent history comes to an end, it’s time to anticipate what’s coming. With the digitization of sales as an obligation, B2B eCommerce will continue without pause during 2021. Jorge Zuñiga Blanco, an entrepreneur and eCommerce specialist from Costa Rica, discusses the main emerging trends, so you know how to tailor your business to them.
As with the 2018, 2019 and 2020 predictions, most B2B eCommerce trends in 2021 will focus on customer experience and user convenience. These topics resurface as technology becomes smarter and allows previous trends to continue to evolve further. Explains Zuñiga, “Many of the B2B eCommerce trends that are appearing are already common in B2C businesses, but not always for the same reasons. Here’s how we think these eCommerce trends will develop and what your business should do so you don’t fall behind.”
In a year where plans or forecasts collapsed, trends took a different course due to the coronavirus pandemic. Some of them, such as virtual and augmented reality, will still need more time to settle in the B2B world. Voice trading is another trend that everyone expected to take off in 2020, but it was also delegated as priorities shifted. However, the pandemic has accelerated another trend, personalized online experiences.
More than 75% of B2B buyers and sellers prefer to shop online and opt for remote interactions with sales reps, rather than face-to-face attention to traditional in-person sales. “This preference has only been strengthened after the first cycle of quarantines was lifted around the world,” adds Zuñiga. “Only 20% of B2B buyers expect traditional in-person sales to return; but the vast majority are increasingly willing to shop online.”
Even companies that in 2020 said they were struggling to stay afloat amid the pandemic have said they will implement an eCommerce solution by 2021. As priorities changed in 2020, some B2B organizations even transformed their business to sell anti-coronavirus products online. For example, Pepco began manufacturing hand sanitizers and selling them on its website. So, this year, we’ll continue to see B2B companies become totally digital.
API-driven eCommerce is going to pick up this year. An API sets the rules for how components of a software should interact. In that sense, an API-driven eCommerce includes everything from a shopping cart to a payment gateway or ordering options. That is, it helps organize all the basic transactions that an eCommerce should have. API-driven eCommerce enables companies to innovate quickly and continue to evolve to meet their customers’ changing expectations.
B2B business niche marketplaces will become more popular in 2021. Instead of shopping on platforms like Amazon, where even product-specific searches yield thousands of visits, niche platforms will provide a more personalized experience and a simpler purchasing process. However, marketplaces have their pros and cons. On the one hand, they can be a suitable choice for new B2B sellers, as they do not require initial investment nor is there much need for marketing to grow in a new market.
Progressive Web Applications (PWA) are expected to become more popular in 2021. Explains Zuñiga, “Unlike mobile apps, which are built specifically for Android, IOS, etc., PWAs are delivered over the web and are designed to work on all mobile devices and operating systems. This provides benefits for businesses, who only need to create and maintain a single generic application, and also for customers, who no longer need to download and install the app from the app store.”
We are already seeing that B2C eCommerce companies are moving towards reducing environmental damage. This includes highlighting the impact of certain actions on your customers. For example, some web stores label some delivery times based on their CO2 footprint. Thus, customers have the option to reduce their impact by opting for longer delivery times. At the same time, companies improve the efficiency of the delivery process for the business.
It is true that this is not yet the norm in B2C, and we do not expect it to have a major impact on B2B eCommerce trends in 2021. However, with people from all over the world and all demographic groups increasingly aware of environmental issues at home and at work, displaying and offering more sustainable options in the web store will give B2B companies a competitive advantage. But not only that. Companies often also have to report on their emissions and other environmental impacts. Optimizing your distribution chain with eCommerce can be key to achieving those goals.
This is where digital platforms and integrations of appropriate systems can play an important role, not only in reducing environmental impact, but also in increasing the efficiency and profitability of ordering and fulfillment processes.
In B2C, augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) are growing trends, focused on providing an inspiring and immersive customer experience. But there are also great opportunities to use AR and VR in real-life scenarios for B2B businesses. For example, it can be used to display and suggest the correct spare parts or to sell custom designs. “We like to talk a lot about AR and VR because we see it frequently in mass trading,” says Zuñiga. “However, having spoken to business-to-business sales experts, we have realized that at this time in B2B, it is a very distant tool for most companies.”
2021 will be an interesting year for all types of commerce, but there is a lot of growth ahead. The world is beginning to recover from COVID-19, which means there are new opportunities and new ways to look at old problems.