B2B ecommerce is an extremely dynamic field. It continues to change, year-after-year.
Companies that are able to anticipate the growing trends are also able to leverage the best possible B2B ecommerce solutions before their competitors have a chance – a major advantage.
On the other hand, those that don’t adapt to the dynamic changes of this industry are left vulnerable. No matter how helpful their products or services are, they lack the tools to let their market know about them.
The 6 Most Important Trends in B2B eCommerce Solutions
That’s why you cannot afford to let your B2B ecommerce strategy stagnate. At least once a year, you must check in on the most important trends that are evolving among B2B ecommerce solutions. Otherwise, you’re relinquishing a major advantage to your competitors.
Fortunately, the following six trends in B2B ecommerce solutions cover everything you need to know to start seeing more conversions.
1. Influencer Marketing Is Working for B2B Companies
The growth of B2B marketing isn’t just an important trend at the moment. Years from now, it may prove to be one of the most important B2B ecommerce solutions for an entire decade or more.
In short, this B2B ecommerce strategy involves identifying those people in your industry who stand out as an authority – or “influencer.”
Obviously, you can’t choose a competitor, but most industries – even B2B industries – have at least a handful of thought leaders. Your goal is to pick one and convince them to endorse your product to their audience.
Here are some important traits to consider before deciding which influencer to go after:
- Reach: How many people within your industry see their published opinions? Do they have a large LinkedIn following? Do they have a popular blog?
- Relevance: How are often are they “on topic” in terms of your industry. Someone may be seen as an authority in your field. However, if the same goes for other fields, you may want to pick someone else. Ideally, your influencer should be someone who publishes the majority of their content on subjects relevant to your market.
- Resonance: How far does their content “travel”? Comments are a good sign of their ability to engage, but check how many social shares they tend to get, as well. Being a subject-matter expert is great. Having someone who’s support for your company will resonate throughout your market is much better.
- Reference: How often do other influencers or companies in your industry reference this person? The more references, the more likely they’ll be to move the needle for your business.
Once you’ve identified this individual, connect with them to see what it would take to gain their endorsement. It’s good to research a number of different influencers in case the first one isn’t in your budget.
After you’ve secured their endorsement, get to work using their influence across as many of your B2B ecommerce solutions as possible. You can have them guest post on your site, mention your brand on their blogs, mention your brand on other blogs, and even use them to help drive paid search.
There’s no doubt that securing the help of influencer can be a lot of work. Still, consider some of the following benefits of working with influencers:
- Content created and shared by influencers creates ROIs 11x higher than the average display ad produced in a year
- In 2017, more than 90% of marketers that leveraged influencers described the strategy as “effective”
- 71% of marketers view brand ambassadors as the most effective type of influencer marketing
If all you take from this list of B2B ecommerce solutions is to secure the support of an influencer, you can expect to see a better bottom line this year.
2. Adopt Some B2C Tactics
Most experts would probably agree that, in general, B2B ecommerce solutions have lagged behind their B2C counterparts.
There are a number of reasons why this shouldn’t be too surprising.
The first is that most B2C companies don’t have B2B options for securing customers. They don’t have tradeshows, for example. They can’t realistically call a prospect directly and ask for a meeting.
B2C companies have had to adopt just about every online marketing opportunity available.That’s why some of the most powerful B2B ecommerce solutions in the coming years will resemble those that have already been proven in the B2C world.
Here are five online shopping capabilities that B2B companies need to adopt:
- Enhanced Search
- Ratings and Reviews
- Personalized Recommendations (We’ll cover this in greater detail later on)
- Promotions and Specials
- Mobile-Optimized Website
That’s not to say that all of these can be transformed into B2B ecommerce solutions for your particular company. If you sell an especially expensive item, “promotions and specials” probably aren’t an option.
However, a mobile-optimized website should be. The same goes for providing ratings, reviews, and other feedback about your products and services.
3. Embrace Vendor-Agnostic Content Marketing
Another example of a page your company can take out of the B2C marketing handbook is to leverage the power of content marketing.
This may seem like an odd suggestion. Content marketing has been one of the most popular B2B ecommerce solutions since the beginning of the Internet.
The problem is that B2B companies tend to rely on content that openly favors their services or products. This includes whitepapers and case studies – which makes sense – but there are also plenty of B2B companies with entire blogs dedicated only to what they have to offer.
In Forrester’s now-famous report, “Death of a (B2B) Salesman”, it’s shown that three times as many B2B buyers prefer to self-educate over learning about a company’s products and services from a salesperson.
That’s why you need to invest in content that a prospect can use to become a more informed buyer – and not necessarily of your company’s product or service.
Furthermore, 86% of B2B buyers prefer it when companies offer them self-service tools to use instead of going through a representative.
So, while some of your B2B ecommerce solutions can directly pitch your company – influencer marketing being a perfect example – don’t forget to become a valuable resource to your market, as well. This has become essential for attracting leads.
4. Invest in an Actual Live Chat Experience
Once you are able to bring leads to your website, the next step is to engage them – something chat boxes are great at doing.
Chances are that you have visited a site where a chat box pops up, prompting you to ask the “operator” any questions you have.
Even if you’ve never complied, you probably won’t be shocked to learn that, a lot of the time, there’s actually no one on the other end. After you ask your question, the bot will ask you for your contact information, so someone can respond “in a timely manner.”
Chatbots can be extremely successful at helping you fill your funnel with leads. That’s why they have become one of the most popular B2B ecommerce solutions in recent years.
That doesn’t necessarily mean that this approach is best, though.
Instead, you’ll be far better off by ensuring someone is always available to engage with prospects who visit your site.
For one thing, many people simply disregard the chat box altogether because they (rightfully) assume it’s a bot that’s not designed to actually help – just to secure their vital information.
Those that do ask questions will be pleasantly surprised to learn that your company cares enough to make someone available during normal business hours.
Of course, it also makes it much easier to keep someone from leaving your site and visiting that of a competitor. Moreover, you can take the opportunity to not just secure their contact information but offer them something that will bring them further into your funnel.
If, for example, you make corporate accounting software and they had questions about handling state taxes when you have sites in numerous states, your employee doesn’t have to just answer that one question. They can also offer to email the prospect a blog post or eBook you may have done on the subject. Now you have their contact information and have taken another step toward conversion.
5. Take Social Media Marketing Seriously
For years, a stigma has existed around social media marketing among most B2B companies. While it’s generally seen as a viable option for B2C companies, it’s been declared “obvious” that social media is no place for marketing to B2B prospects.
If this ever was true, it’s definitely not anymore.
For example, the average decision-maker visits Facebook roughly 18 days out of every month. So, while that’s not to say that you’ll receive their buy-in from a Facebook ad, it should be clear that you’re at a distinct disadvantage if a competitor is using the platform to build greater mindshare with this kind of exposure.
Just like with SEO, social media marketing gives you the option to scale up your ability to attract leads through either organic or paid search. You also have a number of metrics for measuring the success of your campaigns. These include impressions, engagement, and follower count.
Social media marketing is also a great vehicle for making the most of the influencers with whom you’ve partnered. If they have massive followings, you’ll definitely want them to share information about your company with their audience.
Just remember that, on your own account, keep most of the content vendor-agnostic. No one will follow you if all you do is talk about how great your company is. Provide plenty of truly helpful information to the reader.
Finally, start small with which platforms you choose. Each of these B2B ecommerce solutions are not necessarily equal in terms of their impact with your market. As we already covered, Facebook is probably quite popular with your prospects, but you may find that Twitter or LinkedIn is actually much better.
Once you do that, you can even create different target audiences, using a different b2b ecommerce strategy for each. Due to the helpful metrics we mentioned earlier, you’ll also find it very easy to decide which strategies are working and which need to be adjusted for better results.
6. Personalization Is Becoming King
The stiffer competition gets, the more your prospects expect from companies like yours that want their business.
That’s why you need to invest in vendor-agnostic content – it’s why you should have a chat box, so you can give them immediate assistance.
It’s also why you should strongly consider implementing personalization on your website. This would mean giving your prospects a digital experience that conforms to their unique preferences. In other words, no two prospects would have the same experience when visiting your website.
This is no passing trend, either. By the end of 2018, Gartner predicts that 40% of B2B sites will use price optimization to personalize prices and quotes based on their prospects’ unique traits. That same report predicts that using personalization to recognize prospects’ intentions will give companies a 15% boost in profits, as well.
Fortunately, this isn’t nearly as difficult to do as it might sound. Like so many B2B ecommerce solutions, personalization can be accomplished with any of a number of different software platforms.
This ease-of-implementation is also another reason why you should make personalization a priority as part of your b2b ecommerce strategy ASAP.
While you may have a few more years to enjoy it as a competitive advantage, personalization is a trend that will soon be a standard across all B2B industries.
Making the Most of These B2B Ecommerce Solutions
As we touched on when we covered social media marketing, don’t rush in to utilizing every one of these B2B ecommerce solutions right away. While they’re all very powerful, you’ll most likely find yourself spread too thin, which is never good for the success of a B2B ecommerce strategy.
Instead, look at where your company is currently weakest. If its inbound leads, you may want to find a social media platform and start creating content for your target audiences.
If you have plenty of inbound leads but a huge bounce rate, a chat box or personalization would probably make the most sense.
Take some time considering the six B2B ecommerce solutions described above – but be sure you begin implementing at least one in the very near future. Just because they’re trends doesn’t mean they don’t have the potential to take your company to new heights.