In today’s rapidly evolving ecommerce environment, marketing departments need to shift their priorities to ensure that B2B buyers are getting the same level of service they’re accustomed to receiving during the B2C purchasing experience, writes Joris Kroese, the founder and CEO of Hatch.

JorisKroese-Hatch

Joris Kroese

While B2B interactions were once limited to catalogs and phone calls, most customers now expect the same level of digitalization and personalization as when shopping with B2C companies. If your B2B brand is yet to combine the best of both commerce worlds, here are some trends to keep in mind for 2021.

The bot had the ability to predict various outcomes, and as a result, the brand was able to assist customers quickly and efficiently.

Instant delivery

Customer expectations are higher than ever before. Thanks to the ‘Amazon effect’, 56% of online shoppers aged 18-34 now expect next day delivery, and 96% of consumers believe ‘fast delivery’ means same-day delivery. And it’s a similar story with B2B commerce, with customer expectations continually growing.

Instant delivery sees items delivered to customers within a matter of hours and has been a hit for big companies like Amazon and Walmart. This speedy delivery service merges online and offline channels, leveraging warehouse or physical store stock and its proximity to consumers.

In 2021, B2B companies will need to work harder to keep up with competitors on things like order fulfilment and delivery. According to a survey by Sana Commerce, the main aspects of B2C customer experience that B2B customers would like to see are easier and faster checkout, along with quicker delivery and improved tracking.

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AI chatbots

By 2024, 75% of organizations will be using AI technology operationally instead of experimentally, according to research from Gartner. This technology will include sophisticated chatbots and other AI applications.

Chatbots have proven extremely helpful in the B2C world so far and can offer many of the same advantages for B2B commerce. Not only do they save businesses time and money through automation, but they also help provide better customer service and increase sales.

One example comes from leading paint expert, AkzoNobel, which added an intuitive chatbot integrated with ‘Where-to-Buy technology’ to one of their brand websites. The bot had the ability to predict various outcomes, and as a result, the brand was able to assist customers quickly and efficiently—even outside of business hours.

When it comes to B2B, chatbots can cut down customer wait time, answer basic FAQs and play a role in lead generation. While it’s thought that around 58% of companies that currently use chatbots are B2B, data also suggests that just one in 200 B2B companies actually have a chatbot, indicating room for improvement in the year ahead.

Online marketplaces

Another trend that’s growing in the B2B world is the use of online marketplaces like Amazon and Alibaba. For businesses, online marketplaces offer the chance to reach a wider audience and increase sales revenue. For buyers, marketplaces are a ‘one-stop shop’ that prevents them from having to use multiple channels, therefore saving time and money.

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To maximize sales potential, some brands have even launched their own marketplaces, which work brilliantly for brand collaborations. In fact, research from Gartner suggests that 15% of medium- to high-gross-merchandise-value e-commerce organizations will have created their own marketplaces by 2023.

One example is Intel, a brand that has a marketplace on its website listing a range of devices powered by its processor. When a customer goes to purchase a product, they’re shown a list of stockists, giving them the ability to choose their preferred retailer.

According to iBe, worldwide B2B marketplace sales could reach $3.6 trillion by 2024, up from an estimated $680 billion in 2018. If you’re one of the few B2B brands not already utilizing this sales channel, 2021 is a good year to do so.

Whether we’re talking about B2B or B2C, the same common threads continue to hold each new trend together: omnichannel commerce and the customer journey.

To provide the best possible customer journey, brands and marketing teams need to focus on just that: the customer. This means putting buyers’ needs first, providing various purchase options and offering solutions that keep customers coming back for more.

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Joris Kroese, who has worked in ecommerce for 20 years, is the founder and CEO of global omnichannel commerce solutions provider Hatch.

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