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A (Brief) Time Out to Assess B2B eCommerce’s Rapid Evolution

B2B marketplace

Lessons on Trust, Choices and Payments  

The pace of digital transformation was so exuberant in 2020 that even the acceleration of B2B eCommerce sped up as the year progressed. In May 2020, McKinsey reported the adoption of digital capabilities by business had jumped ahead five years during the first two months of the COVID-19 pandemic. Less than six months later, the consulting firm issued a separate bulletin examining how the pandemic has pushed companies past the technology tipping point; that October report indicated that business leaders reported advancing their digital transformation efforts and omnichannel strategies ahead “20 to 25 times faster” than they previously thought possible.  Global B2B marketplace sales are expected
to generate $3.6 trillion in 2024, up from approximately $680 billion in 2018.1

A Strong Foundation Supports Soaring Growth for the B2B Marketplace

Similar speeds and shifts defined the adoption of the B2B marketplace and related B2B payments improvements during the past 12 months. Regardless of whether your B2B eCommerce capabilities and omnichannel strategies are evolving five or 25 times faster than you anticipated a year ago, it is important to devote sufficient time to recognizing and evaluating how 2020’s  intense burst of innovation, investment and improvement is fundamentally changing the B2B eCommerce ecosystem and customer expectations concerning payments.  

If you operate in the B2B eCommerce ecosystem, you’re well-aware of some of the most noteworthy current changes and dynamics, such as the massive growth of B2B marketplaces and the crucial nature of delivering an excellent customer experience. There are number of similarly important changes and hard-earned insights that have not received as much attention amid the flurry of B2B eCommerce activity that occurs each day.

These insights include: 

Omnichannel Strategies Reveal: B2C eCommerce is not the best model for B2B eCommerce

A certain massive B2C online marketplace permanently rewired customer expectations that have been spilling into the B2B realm for years now, as we’ve seen with the rise of the B2B marketplace. And, yes, Amazon created the blueprint for exceeding customer expectations on the basis of convenience, speed and price. That said, some of the newest and most valuable learnings and insights concerning B2B eCommerce improvements are coming from B2B companies that contend with the distinctive challenges of B2B eCommerce on a daily basis. Organizations that have advanced further along on their B2B eCommerce journeys have done so by devising innovative solutions to problems and sources of friction that crop up throughout the procure-to-pay cycle.  

Trust also needs to be digitalized

While all transactions depend on trust, B2B transactions tend to require a little more trust. A company purchasing bearings used to manufacture a jetliner’s landing gear must trust that the product meets its quality specifications. Sellers offering net terms want to trust assessments of their buyers’ creditworthiness. For decades, this trust was largely established and sustained through in-person interactions; now it must be established and fostered virtually – without hindering the customer experience. These expectations require buyers to devise new ways to build trust into their digital capabilities – and B2B marketplaces to have the tools and capabilities in place to efficiently and effectively vouch for the participants that transact on their platforms.  

Everyone wants options

As the B2C eCommerce revolution has shown, and further omnichannel strategies have revealed, buyers love choices. But they’re not alone when it comes to B2B online transactions. Sellers need to be selective about who they extend terms to. Buyers want options regarding how sellers share purchasing data with them to drive internal decisions regarding sourcing, pricing, discounts and accounting treatments. Marketplace providers want to choose technology partners whose specialized solutions ultimately increase trust and reduce friction. And both buyer and sellers have ample reasons to put payments options in place that extend beyond credit cards. While credit cards are well-suited for infrequent, unexpected and/or low-volume purchases, net terms are a more attractive payment option for higher-volume buying and repeat purchasing activity.   

If 2020 and the two decades that preceded it are any indication, the evolution of B2B eCommerce, and in turn the B2B marketplace, will continue long after this current eruption of adoption, innovation and insights subsides. Buyers, sellers and B2C and B2B marketplace providers that leverage today’s rich learning opportunities are most likely to be thriving two decades from now.   

For more insights on B2B eCommerce payments options and leading practices, read the 2021 Edition of our Choices at Checkout white paper.

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