Last year was an incredible year for the B2B industry. The E-commerce craze finally hit businesses all around the world, and for the first time in history, more people made B2B purchases online than they did through other conventional methods.
This was a huge step for an industry which has traditionally lagged well behind the B2C model when it comes to accepting and adopting new technologies.
Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the past decade, you’ll know that the B2C e-commerce market has already grown into a massive behemoth, with worldwide retail sales expected to cross 3 trillion U.S. dollars in 2019 and 4 trillion in 2020.
Now, it seems like the B2B industry is finally catching up.
The technological revolution is here, and anyone who doesn’t keep up with modern trends will more than likely get left in the wake of their more tech-savvy competition.
The fact that you chose to read this article means you’ve recognized this simple fact and don’t want to get left behind in the coming months.
Thankfully for you, we got in touch with some of the industry’s most well-known experts and asked them to give us their predictions on the trends that are going to rock the B2B sales world in 2018 and beyond. In this article, you’ll find 3 of the most significant.
Here are our experts’ thoughts on how the industry will evolve in the coming months.
1. Younger Generation Is Taking Over
The biggest reason for the recent shift towards an internet-fueled sales environment is what wholesale distributors are calling the ‘millennial takeover’.
An entire generation of entrepreneurs who grew up in the digital age are now reaching decision-making positions in major companies around the world. Nearly half of all B2B buyers are millennial, according to a recent Google Report.
The effects of this have been profound and wide-reaching. Since this entire generation grew up with the internet, they’ve grown accustomed to shopping for everything online and enjoying unmatched customer service while at it.
While this is nothing new as far as the B2C model is concerned, this trend has forced wholesale distributors to modernize their operations after decades of manually working the books.
It has also lead to a new customer-based ideology in the wholesale market. A few years ago, the only thing these distributors cared about was their profit margins. Whoever managed to sell their products at the best profits usually beat out the rest of the competition.
Nowadays, however, the focus has shifted entirely towards securing and retaining customers by providing additional value-added services, similar to how B2C companies do.
A lot of customers are more than happy to give up cheaper prices if it means they get faster delivery times, 24/7 E-commerce support, self-service interfaces, and any other convenience.
What does that mean for the rest of us?
You’ll start to notice two significant changes in how businesses are run:
- Everyone will build their own websites and start selling products online. Anyone who doesn’t shift to E-commerce in the next 3-5 years will likely lose too much business to continue.
- Competition between different businesses will be decided entirely on which one provides the better customer service.
2. Omnichannel Sales
There was a time, not so long ago, when B2B transactions were conducted purely through face-to-face interactions.
The wholesale company would send in a representative armed with a full catalogue of products to meet with the retailer, and both parties would discuss the terms of the contract during these meetings.
While this is still a popular way to conduct business, the majority of sales are now through virtual channels, such as on a website or mobile app.
This is a trend that started to gain traction in 2016, and will likely grow in the coming months. Modern consumers want to be able to conduct business however they feel comfortable, be it face-to-face or through a mobile.
The benefits of omnichannel operations aren’t just limited to sales.
There are incredible opportunities for businesses to capitalize on marketing and customer service over different platforms. Imagine how easy the lives of customers will be if they can do all their business at the simple touch of a button on their mobile phones or computers.
Digital marketing also benefits as stores start to produce content (textual and graphic) on their own blogs, establish a presence on social media, and significantly increase their marketing and advertising budgets.
3. Augmented Reality & Artificial Intelligence
Another area where the B2B industry has been slow to catch up, we’re finally seeing the proper implementation of AR & AI in the E-commerce world.
The first few applications came out early last year, all aimed at making people’s lives better.
For example, inventory management will be much easier in the future thanks to new artificially intelligent software that can predict how stock levels will vary over a period of time, and order relevant products in advance.
Similarly, augmented reality applications have proven to be extremely popular with customers, who can now visualize what a product will look like at home before they even make the purchase.
The greatest use of these new technologies, however, has to be in the customer service sector. New AI-enabled chatbots have started to flood the industry which can have near human-like conversations with customers and solve most of their common problems.
These bots reply instantly and can handle thousands of different customers at one, which is improving the customer service companies can provide by tenfold.