Until a few years ago, the B2B ecommerce site build followed a set format: limited access, custom catalog, pricing and purchase order payment options, pick lists, and so on. B2B sites were all about enabling purchasers to sign on quickly, place repeat purchases, and leave.
The goal of the B2B site was clear: promote self-service in order to free up the sales teams to focus on new clients rather than take orders over the phone. In other words, it was about channel shift.
Lately, however, client “asks” have been different. Today’s B2B companies want sites that look and feel more like the typical sites meant for consumers. On the one hand this isn’t all that surprising, as all people, including those who are professional buyers, participate in ecommerce. It’s natural that B2B buyers have opinions about every ecommerce experience.
Still, it definitely seems as if a new model has emerged: B2b (the small “b” is intentional). Small-b buyers can’t be bothered with specialized onboarding or enablement training, they want to purchase using an interface they know intuitively.
Is this the future of B2B? Will business buyers expect to see the same tactics that consumer brands deploy to encourage loyalty? And what will that mean to the future of B2B site builds?
To answer these questions, Rightpoint surveyed 1,000 people, predominantly Gen Z users, to ascertain which features they find most valuable when purchasing for their businesses. Below are just a few of the insights we learned.
Predicting the Future of B2B
The first thing the data told us is that the future of business purchasing lies with Gen Z. This cohort is more than 60% more likely to have buying responsibilities than older Millennials and Gen X cohorts. Therefore, agencies that build B2B sites need to consider Gen Z priorities in their designs.
And what are those priorities? Four out of five Gen Zers who buy for work already use their mobile phones to place orders or expressed interest in doing so. Business buyers are significantly more likely to use their phones to track orders. These business buyers also want features and functionality that are prevalent in Gen Z-centric apps. For instance, 78% said they actively seek out digital experiences that reward them for shopping.
Gen Z buyers seem to want the buying experience to add some fun into their daily grind. For instance, 75% said they’d like to see games and contests that reward them deals and discounts, and 71% said they want memberships to unlock exclusive deals and discounts. Another 70% said they want quizzes and polls to help them identify products and app-only drops of limited-edition merchandise.
Social media is another top priority, with 77% of Gen Z business buyers saying they want visually driven, scrollable product displays, and 69% saying they want the ability to join communities of other buyers with similar interests. The overwhelming majority (93%) said that social media is important to their post-purchase journey. Snapchat, TikTok, Discord and Slack are their preferred channels.
The upshot: as Gen Z takes over business operations within the next five to ten years, we can expect the consumerization of B2B to accelerate, perhaps to the point where it’s impossible to distinguish a business site from a consumer one.
New Opportunities for Established and Emerging Brands
There’s another interesting consideration to this consumerization of B2B. For brands like Ambev and Cisco, the emergence of the B2b model opens a new opportunity to acquire a class of customers they couldn’t really service before due to a lack of resources, namely very small businesses, bodegas and restaurants. A self-service B2b model means their reps won’t need to take phone orders from tiny establishments, which has traditionally been a barrier.
And, emerging rollup acquisition companies, like Thrasio, which has been busy buying up Amazon brands, can also benefit from the B2b model should they opt to enter the physical retail market. A gamified B2b website will make it easy for owners of bodegas, curio shops and housewares stores to place orders.
Every generation brings its own technology predilections into the office, forcing those around them to adopt and adapt; Gen Xers brought their PDAs to work, Millennials brought instant messaging. Gen Z wants more from mobile commerce than mere convenience, accessibility and efficiency. This generation wants the same mobile experiences that penetrate every area of life to reach into the B2B ecosystem as well.
Phillip Jackson is chief commerce officer at digital transformation agency Rightpoint, where he is the head of commerce strategy, partnerships, and evangelism. Phillip also hosts the podcasts Future Commerce and Merchant to Merchant.Favorite