Top 5 B2B ecommerce predictions for industrial manufacturers in 2022

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Stronger revenue growth, a better customer experience, and improved operational efficiency are a few of the major reasons that B2B manufacturers and distributors are turning to ecommerce platforms. According to IDC, companies will spend $2.2 billion dollars on B2B ecommerce software in 2022 and B2B ecommerce revenue will reach $20.9 trillion dollars globally by 2027.

In a nutshell, more and more B2B interactions between suppliers and buyers will take place in digital channels each year.

2022 is a year ripe for digital transformation for industrial manufacturers. So we put together five predictions for how the landscape will change in the next year.

  1. Manufacturers will continue investment in self-service buying portals to complement sales and service experiences.
  2. Manufacturers will integrate product and commerce experiences within the marketing lifecycle
  3. Manufacturers will embed commerce functionality within their sales and service apps
  4. Manufacturers will launch their own e-commerce marketplaces, inviting channel partners and new sellers to reach their end-customers.
  5. Manufacturers will harmonize sales, marketing, and commerce data into customer data platforms.

1. Manufacturers will continue their investment in self-service buying portals to optimize sales and service experiences

If they haven’t done so already, manufacturers must automate and streamline repeat purchases using a self-service buying portal. B2B decision makers expect manufacturers to deliver this capability today. In fact, 70% of B2B decision makers say they are open to making new, fully self-service purchases of more than $50,000, and 27% said they would spend more than $500,000.

These investments will be justified by demonstrating they can retain customer loyalty and reduce operational inefficiencies.

Watsco, a leading HVAC/R distributor in North America, owns and operates five distinct business units. This $5 billion dollar company has fully embraced digital ecommerce with over $1.53 billion dollars in ecommerce revenue. The company is now pushing the envelope of self-service with a new progressive web app for its Carrier Enterprise business.

Watsco's B2B ecommerce self-service portal, built using PWA.

2. Manufacturers will integrate product and commerce experiences within the marketing lifecycle

By 2025, 80% of all B2B interactions between suppliers and buyers will take place in digital channels. That means almost the entire sales and marketing lifecycle from discovery, consideration, and purchase will all happen online.

Digital-first manufacturers can’t just launch brand sites and ecommerce sites independently. They must first integrate the customer journey so end users and channel partners can interact at any stage of the process seamlessly. This allows manufacturers to surface product and commerce journeys earlier and more frequently in marketing and lead generation experiences.

This approach requires manufacturers to integrate their digital experience and ecommerce solutions to create a unified customer journey. Leading that transformation is the emergence of headless ecommerce platforms, empowering brands to embed product, promotion, and purchase capabilities within their existing content management solution (CMS).

Pentair, a water solutions manufacturer, consolidated 35 brand andecommerce experiences into a single website to unify their brand experience and support ecommerce experiences for various personas including B2B buyers and consumers.

Pentair unified their brand experience and commerce experiences into a single website, servicing both B2B and B2C customers.

3. Manufacturers will embed commerce functionality within their sales and service apps

Customers don’t want to give up their sales rep or account team when a new ecommerce website is launched. Manufacturers must provide a variety of buying options rather than forcing their customers down one path or another.

According to a report from Forrester and SiriusDecisions, 42% of B2B sales still occur through a vendor’s sales representative. However, another 42% occur through some form of ecommerce channel today. The remaining sales are made through resellers and telesales.

This is the new normal. And it will require manufacturers to embed commerce functionality within their existing sales and service apps, rather than launching stand-alone ecommerce experiences.

There are several examples of embedding commerce functionality within existing sales processes:

  1. Launch a version of your ecommerce website for sales reps with additional features such as customer account dashboards, requisition lists, and ordering on behalf of customers.
  2. Cross-train customer support and service teams to utilize order management capabilities within an ecommerce platform to handle basic tasks.
  3. Embed AI product recommendations within sales apps for sellers to recommend products to customers.

The impact of integration sales and commerce experiences is reducing low-value tasks salespeople often get stuck doing within a CRM such as sharing order statuses, placing repeat purchases, or looking up customer records. This frees up precious time for sales to focus on the highest value activities and accounts using digitally enabled selling tools.

L’Oréal, the world’s leading personal care and beauty product company, operates a beauty supply business in the United States, including online stores and three retail brands: Salon Centric, State Beauty Supply, and RDA Promart. To make matters more complicated, their State Beauty Supply and RDA stores are independently owned and operated.

L'Oreal delivers commerce functionality within their existing sales and service apps.

Gabby Helms, director of ecommerce and digital marketing at Salon Centric shared that, “Today, sales reps are utilizing [the website] as a sales tool but as a business building and resource tool! We are now able to get a clearer look into conversions, ordering and service trends, which allows us to improve on this already beautiful foundation.”

Before launching their digitally enabled selling tools, SalonCentric sales consultants would keep binders and notebooks full of requisition lists. Now, sales consultants can manage online requisition lists for monthly replenishment orders, custom quotes, and front-of-house retail merchandising.

4. Manufacturers will launch their own ecommerce marketplaces, inviting channel partners and new sellers to reach their end-customers.

This is prediction is for the most ambitious and innovative industrial manufacturers. That does not mean it should be ignored because B2B sales via online marketplaces will increase to $4.0 trillion dollars by 2025.

Operating an ecommerce marketplace allows manufacturers to become the hub for new and repeat purchases from their end-customers. It also has the potential to disrupt existing business strategies as well.

The value of a marketplace is not solely in top-line revenue growth. One of the primary benefits to operating a marketplace is gathering first-party data about end customers for product research, channel strategy, marketing, and sales operations.

Aerospace manufacturer Honeywell launched an after-market parts marketplace called GoDirectTrade, which reached over $1 million in online revenue in their first 10 weeks of operation. This is an entirely self-service ecommerce model that has transformed how Honeywell distributes products to end customers. Now, third-party merchants and channel partners can become sellers on the GoDirectTrade marketplace.

Honeywell launched an after-market parts marketplace, an entirely self-service commerce webstore.

By operating a marketplace, industrial manufacturers can create a “walled-garden” around their products and customers allowing for better control over price, promotion, channel partnerships, and retention.

5. Manufacturers will harmonize sales, marketing, and commerce data into customer data platforms

Sales is not the only business function that will integrate with ecommerce in 2022. Marketing leaders will start leveraging the plethora of user, account, and order data that ecommerce platforms provide within their customer data platform strategies. In fact, 73% of companies report that a CDP will be critical to their customer experience efforts.

Today, industrial manufacturers face complexity across their supply chains, products, customer relationships, and channel partners.  Data is often siloed across multiple business units and functional areas.

Looking forward

The time has come for manufacturers to move beyond proof-of-concept pilots in B2B ecommerce. Digital-first manufacturing leaders will embrace a holistic, digital transformation approach for ecommerce capabilities and value realization including customer service, sales, and marketing benefits.

By investing in service buying portals and experimenting with marketplaces, manufacturers will learn more about their end customer needs. By integrating commerce, sales, and marketing journeys they will remove inefficiencies, automate manual processes, and increase customer lifetime value.

Read Bringing Your B2B Business into the Digital Commerce Era to learn three persuasive approaches that communicate the value of digital to decision-makers within your company.