Trends in B2B Ecommerce for 2011 and Beyond

B2B ecommerce is seeing a huge increase in innovation and added functionality surrounding site design. This is largely due to the fact that B2B ecommerce:

  1. Is relatively new for many companies, so new players are getting into the game for the first time.
  2. Previously consisted of EDI-only for early adopters who had “B2B ecommerce capability” rather than ecommerce as we think of it today.
  3. Historically consisted of a sparse “back room” portal design.

Until recently, B2B ecommerce was created to be purely functional–basic orders taken. Nothing more. Pictures were few and far between and interactive functionality was unheard of.

The good news is that the landscape of B2B ecommerce is changing rapidly. Here’s a list of B2B ecommerce trends I predict we will continue to see in 2011 and beyond:

  • Increased use of images. In considering many B2B ecommerce site designs of old, “increased use of images” might be something of an understatement. B2B companies are catching on to the idea that B2B purchases are made by company employees who are consumers at-heart, not mindless corporate drones. This new breed of B2B ecommerce site appeals to the consumer, albeit a corporate one, with rich graphics and images that educate and entice during each visit.
  • Increased focus on educating visitors. In the old days, a B2B ecommerce site was nothing more than an order-taking device. Today, B2B ecommerce sites are accepting orders AND simultaneously educating shoppers on product features and functionality. It’s become apparent that educated consumers are better shoppers all the way around, B2B or otherwise.
  • Increased use of robust product listings. The days of ordering from a plain HTML catalog of products via part number are over. Product listings now include images, detailed descriptive copy, and the specifications and technical details for each product. This increase in information keeps shoppers from having to guess that what they are ordering is actually what they want.
  • Use of interactive tools. Product configurators, quizzes, advanced search capability and store locators that help the consumer isolate the exact bit of information they need are quickly becoming the norm. These tools make it easier for the shopper to sift through SKUs on a site and locate the item they wish to purchase. It’s a win-win situation: The customer completes the order quickly and gets back his or her life and the B2B company closes the sale faster. The faster the sale closes, the less chance the customer will wander off to see what’s hot on a competitor’s site.
  • Increase in dynamic content. Product demonstration videos, client testimonial videos, user-generated product reviews and purchase suggestions based on current cart contents or previous shopping history (ala “customers who purchased X also purchased Y”) are on the rise. It’s no secret that dynamic content engages the user and drives sales–watch for more and more dynamic content on B2B ecommerce sites in the future.

B2B companies are catching on that a robust user experience not only appeals to its corporate buyers, but it also drives sales. Watch for more and more “B2C-style” features and functionality on B2B sites during the rest of 2011 and beyond.

Ready to learn more about how to make your B2B ecommerce site successful? Download the white paper, B2B Ecommerce Success – Seven Questions to Consider When Beginning an Ecommerce Initiative. 

 

Photo credit: Klearchos Kapoutsis via Flickr