There is no arguing that the B2B eCommerce industry is large. Forrester has forecasted that in 2023, the US B2B eCommerce industry will be valued at $1.8 trillion dollars and accounts for 17% of all B2B sales in the United States. Therefore, it is no surprise that many B2B companies have embraced B2B eCommerce as one of their sales channels.
However, for a business to successfully compete in the B2B eCommerce industry, it has to keep up with the latest trends to stay ahead of its competitors.
We have taken a look at the ascent of mobile B2B eCommerce, customer personalization, and multi-system integration in a past article on B2B eCommerce trends in 2018.
In this blog post, we will be looking towards the future and examine 3 themes we feel will define the B2B eCommerce landscape in 2020.
Editors Note: While these trends have been discussed at length in technology news, wholesale adoption and usage of these technologies in the B2B eCommerce space has not taken hold as of the writing of this article.
Blockchain is synonymous with Bitcoin and cryptocurrency; however, it is more than that. In short, blockchain is a sequence of records or blocks of transactions chained together using complex cryptography that functions as an immutable transaction ledger. This technology is significant as while you can add new data onto the ledger, existing data cannot be edited, adjusted or removed from the ledger.
One application of blockchain technology in B2B eCommerce is to increase the accountability of product information management. With blockchain, both business and customers will always be on the same page on product information such as product updates, history changes, and warranties proof. Blockchains, therefore, capture any modifications made to products that cannot be altered, eliminating the possibility for fraud. This instills trust between the buyer and supplier and also reduce the chance for arguments to occur over conflicting information. An example of a company investing in this technology is Inxeption, an industrial B2B eCommerce platform powered by blockchain that places product at the center of the organization.
Another Blockchain application is the maintenance of secure records that track the processing and handling of goods. From manufacturer to distributor, from retailer to customer, tracking goods across the whole supply chain is a tedious process. Businesses need to have secure product records to combat counterfeiters and manage product recall cases. During the production process, various raw materials and production components can be assigned unique serial numbers. Once a particular part is manufactured and is assigned a unique serial number on a block, blockchain technology prevents it from being altered. In the event of a product recall or any liability issues, the manufacturer has an accurate record database to identify the source of the problem. Furthermore, these records help retailers verify product authenticity, making it easier to spot counterfeit goods.
Blockchain technology can even potentially help make B2B payment processes more secure and faster. Some areas where blockchain can improve B2B payment processes are the facilitation of direct payments between business and buyers, the creation of more secure payment gateways and the acceleration of the payment process. This could become a reality soon. Visa, a global payment technology firm, is preparing to launch Visa B2B Connect, a B2B payment system running on blockchain technology, in the first quarter of 2019. It aims to speed up the process on cross-border B2B transactions by using B2B Connect to send transactions directly from the bank of origin to the beneficiary bank.
Internet Of Things
The internet of things, also knowns IoT, is increasingly changing the way we work in our workplace. This is true for B2B eCommerce. The Internet of Things refers to the ever-growing network of physical objects that can transfer data between each other without a need for human-to-human or human to computer interaction.
One area where Internet of Things can benefit B2B eCommerce is to help your business automate your customers’ ordering process. This is achievable with RFID technology. Customers can set up automatic requests to reorder items when the RFID technology detects that stock has fallen below the minimum stock level. With efficient tracking of customer’s inventory level, it prevents customers from running out of stock and ensures a steady stream of revenue for your business. Also, this reduces your business inventory holding cost. As IoT products automatically inform a business whenever a customer needs it, there is a reduced need to maintain a large amount of inventory.
IoT can help to improve your business delivery capabilities by tracking and monitoring the end-to-end delivery process of the good. With the aid of RFID and GPS technology to track goods, a business can have complete information about the delivery process like location and temperature. This can help to prevent lost product shipment and track the goods if it gets stolen.
Natural Language Processing
Natural language processing, or NLP, is a form of artificial intelligence technology where computers can understand and process human language. With NLP, voice search technology can be integrated into the B2B ordering process, allowing customers to enjoy a frictionless buying process. A standard B2B order involves multiple configurations and steps. Thus, customers often find it tedious to go through the ordering process when they are busy and the order is repeated on a consistent basis. Voice search help to reduce the customers' burden. Even when their hands are tied with manual labor in the warehouse, they can still order through using voice search. Voice search is beneficial as it can answer questions which the customers have, such as determine price quotes for products, delivery options, and existing orders, allowing them to place orders to restock their goods.
Another area where NLP technology is beneficial for B2B eCommerce is the use of automated chatbots to build and improve customer relationships. Customers demand instant answers when they have queries and having someone available to address customers concerns 24/7 is costly. Automated chatbots can solve this problem. Chatbots gives business the ability to interact with customers in real-time, responding to their needs in a faster, automated way. One example of an automated chatbot company is Drift, which allows you to use to help you to generate customer leads, book meetings, and answer customer’s queries. Currently, there are automated chatbots in the market, but they lack the personalized conversational experience customers crave. However, with the current pace of growth of NLP technology, there will come the point in time where automated chatbots will be able to reply in a way similar to humans.
To remain competitive, B2B companies need to embrace the latest technology to succeed. B2B companies who do not have a B2B eCommerce strategy will suffer in the long term. If you do not have a B2B eCommerce platform and are ready to reinvent your customer experience, why not try out Sweet’s B2B eCommerce portal? Our portal helps your business to deliver a customizable modern shopping experience for your B2B customers. Want to find out more? Click here to sign up for a free demo and discover for yourself how Sweet’s B2B eCommerce portal can transform your customer experience.