B2B Commerce Growth Strategies Survey reveals biggest B2B priorities and challenges for 2023

B2B Commerce Growth Strategies Survey reveals biggest B2B priorities and challenges for 2023

The continuing shifts in B2B customer expectations, accelerated by the COVID-19 pandemic, have led manufacturers, wholesalers, and distributors to invest heavily in ecommerce. With that shift, they’ve had to rethink how to engage — and win — B2B customers in the digital age.

Adobe partnered with Digital Commerce 360 to conduct the 2023 B2B Commerce Growth Strategies Survey, which includes responses from 151 global B2B commerce business leaders. The survey explored and revealed the B2B commerce priorities and challenges that stood out most — commerce personalization, expansion into new markets and regions, conversion tactics, and technological choices. Let’s dig in.

Growing digital through new channels, markets, and marketplaces

Widespread adoption of B2B ecommerce is no longer a prediction — it’s here. Of respondents from companies with at least $500 million in annual sales (53% of those who took the survey), 72% say they already get more than half of sales from their ecommerce sites, and 80% believe that will continue to be the case in 2023.

A new focus on ecommerce customer experiences

This focus on ecommerce is driving manufacturers and distributors to respond to this shift with significant initiatives. Asked how their recent experience has impacted their ecommerce strategies, 63% said it’s led them to put a higher priority on improving customer experience on their websites, including through better personalization of content and customizing options to each visitor. Over half (62%) have shifted their focus to investing more in their ecommerce sites, and 57% plan to sell more products through their online channels.

So, what does that ecommerce experience look like? Buying portals are at the forefront of growth strategies, with 62% planning to launch a buying portal for distributor clients and 59% planning to add a buying portal for end customers. Additionally, 40% plan to launch ecommerce sites to sell directly to consumers.

Honeywell, ABB, and Accor Hotels have all launched B2B marketplaces recently.

What about marketplaces? Nearly half (48%) of B2B say they plan to increase the number of marketplaces they sell on this year, including 58% of larger firms. And 38% of respondents say they expect to launch a new marketplace where other companies can sell, while 36% plan to invite other organizations to sell on their ecommerce sites — creating their own marketplaces.

Expanding to new markets and regions

B2B sellers are expanding into new markets, both in terms of geography and reaching new customer segments with added product lines, taking advantage of the global reach afforded by ecommerce. A total of 58% are launching new ecommerce websites in new markets and regions as their top priority for 2023. New market expansion tops the list of challenges, however, as cited by 41% of respondents. 58% are launching new ecommerce websites in new markets and regions as their top priority for 2023. However, new market expansion tops the list of challenges, cited by 41% of respondents.

The shift to online buying by businesses and other enterprise purchasers is driving B2B sellers to invest in ecommerce through improving their websites, moving into new markets, selling more aggressively on online marketplaces, and creating their own online marketplaces.

“Companies also must decide whether to build each new country’s website on a standard platform or allow each local team to build its own site. Many B2B sellers are consolidating onto a single ecommerce platform after finding that maintaining different systems in each country is expensive and slows down deployment of new features.”

Ed Kennedy, Senior Product Marketing Manager, B2B Commerce, Adobe

Personalization tactics and priorities

Personalized commerce is a top priority, but companies are finding that customizing content and purchasing options is far more complex in B2B than in B2C. Among other differences, personalization in B2B means enabling each business buyer to do their job more efficiently — not just catering to personal preferences.

Top personalized commerce strategies for driving conversions

While companies of all sizes generally believe that personalization is working for them, those with more than $500 million in annual revenue report greater success in personalization driving conversions. Overall, B2B sellers are seeing the greatest return from tailoring site search results, for example, by showing buyers only products they are approved to buy and the prices their companies have negotiated.

The top personalization tactics for B2B sellers today include:

  1. Personalized site search results (58%)
  2. Personalized payment and shipping options (56%)
  3. Personalized product recommendations (48%)
  4. Targeting site content and promotions to specific segments (48%)
  5. Personalized site product category pages (44%)

Beyond personalization, B2B companies continue to invest in tactics to increase top-line revenue. Top conversion-driving tactics working well for B2B sellers today include:

  1. In-stock product notifications (68%)
  2. Product ratings and reviews (66%)
  3. Implementing a progressive web application (60%)
  4. Embedding commerce in other channels using headless (57%)
  5. Optimizing native mobile experiences (51%)

Interestingly, when it comes to headless commerce, despite 57% citing success, only 13% of those surveyed plan on investing in headless commerce architecture in 2023.

And when it comes to mobile ecommerce, larger B2B companies are investing more heavily and seeing better results, with 63.9% reporting that optimizing native mobile experiences have helped drive more conversions.

Personalization is all about the data

B2B companies have struggled in the past with how to activate data to personalize experiences. However, with new approaches to utilizing high-intent, first-party data, digital transformation efforts have jump-started driving stronger personalization, both on-site as well as through other systems.

Sixty-eight percent of organizations are using collected data to drive personalization across their website, and 57% use that data to drive personalization on other systems, like marketing, merchandising, and email.

“B2B ecommerce websites are a treasure trove of data for marketing, sales, and operations that most businesses aren’t fully utilizing. Digital signals from different users in different markets or segments can help improve marketing analysis, automate triggered messages to capture sales, and notify salespeople of customers who are ready to buy.”

Ed Kennedy, Senior Product Marketing Manager, B2B Commerce, Adobe

Biggest B2B commerce challenges for 2023

With any change — especially a shift to digital — comes inevitable obstacles and challenges. We asked B2B companies what challenges their company was most likely to face in 2023. The top challenges include:

  1. Expanding ecommerce operations to new markets/regions (41%)
  2. Securing budget to make the necessary investments we truly need (38%)
  3. Creating more personalized ecommerce experiences (36%)
  4. Integrating systems (32%)
  5. Creating a more sophisticated website to better meet the needs of our customers (32%)

Interestingly, 58% of respondents indicated that new market expansion was among their 2023 ecommerce strategy.

We also asked about what factors are preventing B2B companies from selling more online. Big organizations specifically struggled with three factors significantly more than small companies:

  1. Lack of IT resources to implement, integrate, and maintain their ecommerce solution (37.3%)
  2. Internal resistance to change (41%)
  3. Competition with internal sales resources (41%)

However, the two most prominent factors companies face (regardless of size) are low customer awareness and adoption of their ecommerce solution (36%) and too few customers knowing about their company’s products and services (36%).

“Many companies put up barriers to new potential customers by limiting access to their product detail pages to approved customers. That can be fixed. We’re seeing some manufacturers removing those barriers in hopes of attracting new customers to generate new revenue. In some cases, they require a login to see prices, but let anyone see the company’s products and specifications. That’s an example of adapting old policies designed to keep proprietary data hidden from competitors to the new opportunity provided by a digital economy.”

Justin Racine, Senior Commerce Consultant at Perficient

Dig into all the data

To see the full survey results as well as perspectives from B2B commerce experts, download the 2023 B2B Commerce Growth Strategies Survey.

Joe Hanson is a senior content strategist at Adobe.