B2B eCommerce Trends for 2020

Every year, I identify over fifty technical trends that are impacting B2B eCommerce, then narrow that list down to the top ten and remove those that are not addressing very obvious trends, or trends that have been the same for many years (e.g., move to mobile, increased personalization, AI).

 

My final list favors trends that are immediately useful and actionable for a typical merchant. For each of this year’s trends, we will clarify:

  • What the trend is
  • The metrics behind the trend
  • How vendors and merchants can derive value from the trend
  • The risks or downsides of the trend.

Trends that have NOT Materialized:

Predictions are not always perfect. On review of our past predictions over the last five years, the following B2B eCommerce trends have never fully materialized as quickly as we predicted:

  • Rise of open source eCommerce solutions for B2B
  • Rush towards internationalization by US companies
  • VR eCommerce for B2B becomes a common channel
  • ADA Compliance becomes major UI focus
  • Large B2B marketplaces in almost every industry (not much outside of China-based)
  • Cryptocurrency will become a common payment option for international B2B eCommerce transactions.

 

Trend #1 – B2B eCommerce will continue to be 2X B2C:

Background/Statistics

Total B2B eCommerce transaction value will continue to be at least two times that of B2C into the foreseeable future.

 

Global B2B eCommerce sales are estimated to reach over $6.6 trillion for 2020, surpassing B2C sales at $3.2 trillion. In a 2019 report, Statista estimated the worldwide eCommerce revenue of B2C vs. B2B, while B2C had a revenue of 2.8 trillion dollars, B2B brought in nearly 2.5x that with a worldwide eCommerce revenue of 6.7 trillion dollars. Although there is much debate on the actual volume (some claim B2B is six times B2C), Forrester predicts that by 2023, USA-only B2B eCommerce will hit $1.8 trillion (currently $1.1 trillion). This is only 17% of all USA B2B transactions (currently 12%) meaning B2B eCommerce will experience a 10% annual growth rate.

 

How to Take Advantage

Vendors can take advantage of this by making sure their eCommerce products and services have a strong and separate B2B play. On the merchant side, B2C merchants should investigate B2B channels and should be looking to sell directly to their buyers.

 

Risks

The risks associated with increased focus on B2B are centered on B2B complexity.   B2B eCommerce is much more complex than B2C, and massive B2B marketplaces may become more common instead of direct B2B sales.

 

Trend #2 – Integration of Blockchain:

Background/Statistics

“A blockchain is a digital and distributed ledger of transactions or decentralized database that keeps continuously updated digital records in real-time across a network of computers. Every transaction must be cryptographically validated before being permanently added to the ledger. Blockchain technology doesn’t require a central authority to approve a transaction.” David Schatsky, managing director at Deloitte.

By the end of 2020, most large B2B eCommerce implementations will have integrations into public/private blockchains. With Blockchain quickly becoming a “platform”, there has been $2.7 billion spent worldwide on business blockchain solutions in 2019.

Because of Blockchain’s incredible integration potential (supply chain, payments, inventory, product data, and security being some of the top areas), 53% of Global Businesses say Blockchain is a top 5 priority for 2020. With many more direct Blockchain integrations, many traditional solutions and markets are going to be disrupted or displaced.

In addition, there are many Blockchain use cases already live:

  • In supply chain, product and part marketplaces are being created using Hyperledger to track mining equipment parts.
  • In the field of banking/payments, The Ripple blockchain is being used to make very low-cost international payments.
  • And hundreds more…

 

How to Take Advantage

Vendors should take advantage of the blockchain by utilizing a blockchain integration framework and using blockchain in their solutions. Merchants should verify and look for blockchain solutions that can be integrated into their eCommerce channel.

 

Risks

Blockchain technologies (including cryptocurrencies) are the “wild west”.  There are thousands of blockchain projects – selecting the right application for your business should involve some serious due diligence.

Governments are equal parts fascinated and terrified of Blockchain technologies, so the potential for legal and regulatory risk also exists.

 

Trend #3 – The Rise of Purchasing Bots:

Background/Statistics

Automated bots will be widely used for ordering parts, price comparison, and breakpoint volumes. Also, these bots will generate a material portion of user activity on a B2B site.

As far as statistics go, there are no stats for B2B purchase bots yet, but the trend to use Robotic Process Automation (RPA) by business for operations is already bleeding into eCommerce purchasing.

 

On the B2B consumer side, there are customizable bot products that can login into a B2B site, compare prices and breakpoints, and automatically purchase products without any human interaction.

 

Currently in the B2C space, an estimated 40% (by dollar volume) of all event tickets and shoe purchases online were completed by automated purchase bots in 2019. These bots will need to be embraced by B2B and not feared (as they often are in B2C).

 

How to Take Advantage

  • Vendors must plan for and create the ability to support bots in their products and solutions.
  • Merchants must work on separating site analytics by human vs. bot, as well as separate purchase flows that are bot friendly.

 

Risks

The risk for purchasing bots is also relevant:

  • They can bring a product’s inventory down to zero almost instantaneously,
  • They can negatively impact site performance (through site checks) and may force B2B pricing to be more competitive.

 

Trend #4 – Acceleration of Factory – Direct eCommerce:

Background/Statistics

Easier B2B eCommerce, support, marketplaces, and logistics will lead to an acceleration of manufacturers selling directly to their B2B and B2C customers. Today, about 50% of Alpine’s B2B eCommerce clients are currently selling – or looking for channels to sell directly to customers – in order to bypass distributors and traditional retail.

 

Already, 52% of US shoppers are going to a manufacturer’s website with the intent to buy. Tesla is a great example of this. In many areas (where legal) Tesla is bypassing the traditional dealership/distributor model to sell cars directly to consumers via the web as an eCommerce transaction.

 

How to Take Advantage

  • As a vendor, you can take advantage of this B2B trend by developing direct to consumer channels.
  • If you are a merchant, make sure your B2B eCommerce solution can support factory-direct purchasing.

 

Risks

The challenges with this trend are complaints from retailers/distributors as their volumes decline.   Direct business may all require additional investments in customer support, logistics, marketing, and other areas.

 

Trend #5 – Traditional B2B eCommerce features entering the B2C world:

Background/Statistics

Several features that we have traditionally seen as B2B only, are moving into B2C eCommerce. Some of these traditionally B2B only features will be utilized much more in the B2C world, including:

  • Parent-child users (families and purchasing groups)
  • Personalized pricing and catalog
  • Quantity price breaks
  • One click reorder
  • Multiple shopping carts and cart approval processes
  • Backorder and lead-times
  • Depth and breadth of payment options (store credit, financing, etc.)

 

How to Take Advantage

  • If you’re a vendor, we recommend limiting the separation of B2B vs. B2C features in products and solutions.
  • If you’re a merchant, don’t ignore the use of B2B features to improve your B2C channels–think outside the box!

 

Risks

There are a few problems you may run into though when adding B2B features to B2C:

  • Adding B2B features may add complexity to eCommerce transactions
  • B2B features are typically harder to implement and support than B2C features.

 

Trend #6 – Headless eCommerce becomes standard B2B architecture:

Background/Statistics

Nearly every large eCommerce implementation Alpine has implemented recently has utilized a headless architecture. In the near future, headless eCommerce (the separation of eCommerce engine from presentation layer and other major functions) will become the default architecture for B2B. Although there aren’t many statistics yet on headless adoption, it is becoming commonplace and is here to stay.

 

How to Take Advantage

  • For vendors, products and solutions must support headless commerce out of the box.
  • For merchants, if you’re implementing a new eCommerce system, you must have a very compelling reason for not going headless.

 

Risks

Depending on how it’s implemented, headless eCommerce may cost more, be more complex, take longer, and may not be worth the extra effort. The additional cost, effort, and complexity associated with headless eCommerce may be worth it for larger enterprises. In many cases, we would not recommend the “headless” path to smaller firms or implementations.

 

Trend #7-10 – Other trends having less immediate impact on B2B eCommerce:

The following trends are worth noting, but may have less of a direct impact than some of the others above:

  1. There will be a need in B2B to plan for and utilize Voice Commerce for your customers (B2B and B2C).
  2. The advent of Visual Machine Learning for product identification
  3. The death of the fully customized eCommerce system (companies are always starting with off-the-shelf eCommerce products now).
  4. Increased use of tax and tariff saving strategies that involve eCommerce transactions in international waters, in-orbit (space), and product routing through multiple intermediate countries.

 

Conclusion

This article was based on a “B2B eCommerce Trends for 2020” presentation given to several companies, vendors, and organizations in early 2020. If you are interested in having this presented to your organization or at your event, please contact Alpine Consulting. Thank you!

0 replies

Leave a Reply

Want to join the discussion?
Feel free to contribute!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *