What does the future of B2B look like?

What is changing in B2B sales? What is the current standing? And what should salespeople pay attention to in the future? You can find all the answers in the following post.
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For a long time, B2B commerce was only viewed as a digital catalog with the ability to place orders. In many cases, the focus was not on the customer himself, but on the products that were to be offered. 

However, since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, it has become clear that something needs to change in this model. B2B purchasing has long been taking place digitally and will continue to become more so. 

PwC and Salesforce have this to say what will be important in B2B sales and marketing in the coming years and what the current status of B2B commerce looks like current study examined. We have summarized the most important key takeaways for you in the following article.

Digital channels in B2B commerce

Digital channels bring many advantages and have become an integral part of current B2B sales. They open up new opportunities for salespeople to better reach existing and new customer groups. It allows direct access to a customer base that would have been difficult or impossible to access without digital channels. 

Digital channels also allow data to be collected in real time, supporting the generation of insights. What can be improved? Where do customers drop off? What is the customer base made up of and how does the company best respond to this target group? 

Overall, customer satisfaction has increased significantly due to the increased use of digital channels. The reason for this is the existing Transperencythat customers increasingly want. Where is my order? What have I ordered in the past? How many products are left? 

The increase in digital channels therefore offers new opportunities and advantages for both the company and the customers to improve satisfaction in B2B sales on both sides.

The three current trends in B2B

The increased use of digital channels in B2B sales has resulted in various trends. We would like to introduce you to three of them below.

1. Digital natives form the basis

Millennials and Gen Z are increasingly leading the way and, according to the study by PwC and Salesforce, already make up the largest share of B2B purchasing decisions. They develop and demand means and tools to make work easier and easier. This thinking is strongly influenced by the private shopping behavior of these digital natives.  

The main factors here are the possibilities of online shopping and the high level of transparency, so that the expectations from the B2C sector and private shopping behavior are also transferred to B2B: Where is my order now? How many products are still available? How was the product rated? How much does the purchase cost in total? 

In addition, there are expectations regarding sales services during purchasing, well-established post-sale support and the fundamental issue of sustainability. Companies are faced with the challenge of having to stand out from other competitors and generate added value and communicate this clearly. 

For example, if a company wants to act sustainably and avoid excessive returns, it may be possible to try on the products beforehand using, if possible VR- or ARtechnologies. In this way, the product can be presented to the customer as realistically as possible before purchase and can be dressed virtually in order to determine the correct dimensions directly. examples for this are Misterspex or the furniture store Ikea.

2. Use the omnichannel strategy

According to the study, 58% of those surveyed would like to rely on the omnichannel strategy and use multiple channels in B2B sales in the next two years. These are usually social or D2C channels. 

It is important to be able to easily switch between different channels during the customer experience. Communication should always remain consistent and all products should be presented and prepared in the same way. 

Omnichannel is technically very complex and demanding, but offers many advantages. We have what exactly is meant by the omnichannel strategy and how it can be implemented in your company here summarized for you.

3. Increase in B2B marketplaces

The growth rate of marketplaces now exceeds that of e-commerce. 33% of those surveyed said they wanted to implement their own marketplace in the next two years.  

Own marketplaces are becoming more and more attractive and are a major trend. It is possible for companies to move beyond the boundaries of their own business. In addition, the marketplace operator has access to customers that would otherwise have been difficult to obtain.  

What does the future of B2B look like?

Leading companies are already taking the trends presented above to heart. But the future of B2B is likely to be more complex. In the coming years up to 2040 there will be a so-called Autonomous business to go out. Characteristics of this are technologies that can make their own decisions, i.e. act completely autonomously in everyday business. These primarily included blockchain, Artificial intelligence and ecosystems.  

Only then does the idea of other, complex models become like a holistic one Metaverse Business conceivable. 

The focus of B2B is changing in the following ways factors

  • Who buys?  
    Above all, machine customers, i.e. non-human actors who can purchase goods and products.
  • Who manufactures? Who sells? 
    Here too, automation towards autonomous operations can be seen. The first Amazon Autonomous Warehouses are an example of this.
  • Pay attention to smart products and services 
    During production or after delivery, products should be adapted to customer needs and learn from them. Examples of this include robo-advisors or Tesla cars.

It is and will remain important in the future to ask the following question in B2B sales: How can the company be built in such a way that you can take your hands off the wheel at some point? And how exactly do I get there? 

Pascal Kohlhase, Manager Digital Commerce at PwC Germany, refers to a step-by-step process: digitalization, automation and then Artificial intelligence.

Key facts at a glance

  • The customer will continue to be the focus in B2B in the future. Who are the customers, where are they and what do they expect? 
  • It's no longer just about producing products, but also investing in company channels and customer engagement. Digitalization and automation will be important in the future. 
  • All considerations and actions in B2B sales should be data-driven in the future: collect data, evaluate data, get insights and use them profitably. 
  • Investing in your own employees is an essential part. In the future, employees in marketing and sales in particular will have to make data-driven decisions and act based on facts. 
  • Based on comprehensive, data-driven analyzes and existing needs, new, customer-oriented courses of action should be implemented and the corresponding expectations taken into account. 

Would you like to find out more about the future of B2B commerce? Then watch Pascal Kohlhase’s talk at the last Digital[IN] event. Here you will find the link to the recording.

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