At Wave Commerce, we’re often asked about B2B ecommerce trends (a business selling to other businesses online) and whether or not Shopify is the right platform for a B2B business. The answer depends on your B2B businesses’ current needs (such as do you plan to sell solely under a B2B model e.g., wholesale, distributor, etc), or is your business headed towards direct end-consumer engagement?
The core Shopify platform is a DTC (Direct-to-Consumer) platform that powers an incredibly intuitive B2C (Business-to-Consumer) experience. Shopify is the global DTC platform leader, but increasingly, over the past couple of years we’ve seen a growing trend of B2B clients launch or re-platform to Shopify.
B2B businesses are increasingly placing B2C as a strategic business focus - many traditional enterprise B2B brands understand that the shift of consumer engagement to digital channels has unlocked new opportunities to control their brand, and sell and engage with more consumers. This has led to an explosion of digitally native direct-to-consumer companies that have eaten into traditional sectors dominated by traditional B2B brands (e.g., FMCG). B2B businesses are now investing in B2C business units, and Shopify is a leading choice for a B2B brand to launch their brand’s online DTC store
Shopify is continually adding B2B capabilities into their DTC platform - the launch of Shopify wholesale and Shopify’s acquisition of Handshake is a start, but over time, app developers and system integrators are also adding B2B delivery capabilities into the core Shopify DTC platform
At Wave Commerce, we’ve helped dozens of emerging and established B2B brand leaders like ASICS, Bombol, Logitech, Mead Johnson, and Nestle go DTC in Hong Kong or beyond. In some cases, such as Nixplay, going as far as launching their international B2B business on Shopify.
In this post, we’ll explore how some of our clients have used Shopify to run a B2B + DTC business and some of the emerging B2B commerce trends that we’re seeing.
Why do brands from Bombol to Nixplay choose to manage B2B and DTC on Shopify?
With the B2B market double the size of the DTC market, and growing at a faster pace annually, consumer-centric businesses shouldn’t have to choose between investing in one and not the other. It simply makes sense to manage both from the same commerce platform, which unlocks new opportunities to drive growth.
Better together - Shopify Plus gives the best of both worlds:
Manage separate storefronts for both B2B and DTC customers
Reduce operational overhead by sharing resources
Manage B2B and DTC orders, inventory, and customers from one place
Automate and review wholesale account signups
Provide a 24/7 self-ordering portal for wholesale
Operate with less manpower than traditional systems
How Bombol manages both B2B sales and multi-country DTC business all on Shopify
Defining B2B ecommerce trends over the past year
Credit: Some of the trends and statistics are based on predictions from Shopify, found here. Other trends and statistics from a Hong Kong perspective are from the team of experts at Wave Commerce.
Before we explore the B2B ecommerce trends shaping 2022 and beyond, many of the trends from the past 2 years are still shaping websites today. After two years of work from home and a surge in doing business online, digital experience expectations and preferences have shifted. Consumers demand more from UI/UX, have less time to spend on a single website/brand, and are extremely cautious about what sites to browse or buy from. In fact, most DTC selling trends eventually shape how people engage with B2B brands as well. What are some of the past themes that are still equally important today?
Mobile-first websites (still very underemphasized!)
Google suggests that when customers have a negative mobile experience on a website it negatively impacts their trust, and are 62% less likely to purchase from that brand in the future.
Data from Oberlo shows that 73% of total ecommerce sales in 2021 came from mobile, so if you haven’t designed your website to be mobile-first yet - it's time to get started!
A mobile-first strategy means rethinking your structure, design, layout, and customer journey - by designing it to be experienced on mobile in the first place, with a desktop experience considered second.
Personalized commerce experiences
Understanding what your customers want and why they are visiting your site is key. Then, show them you care by presenting relevant product and service recommendations and retargeting them with tailored messaging.
A partner like Insider is needed to provide just that. Integrated with Shopify, Insider connects typically siloed or scattered customer data from across channels and systems, predicts a customer’s future behavior with an AI intent engine, and orchestrates a bespoke individualized experience for every customer through product recommendations, push notifications, IM/SMS and email marketing.
What is omnichannel selling? Omnichannel selling means meeting customers where they are, to give them choice on when and how they buy products or services. This means providing a consistent and customer-centric experience across channels, whether offline, online, third-party, or self-service.
Supply chain resilience
In early 2021 the container ship Ever Given blocked the Suez Canal and became somewhat of a poster child for the impending year-long supply chain crisis caused by the pandemic.
Multisourcing: having a wide range of distributors as a backup plan in case some are unable to deliver
Nearshoring: using distributors that are nearby or within the same region to have more control over the supply chain
While Hong Kong may be lucky to be close to the world’s major supply and manufacturing hubs, it means local consumers have even higher expectations around delivery and product availability. With continued covid restrictions greatly impacting goods and services in the city, ensuring there is a plan A, B and C are essential.
Top 5 B2B ecommerce trends and statistics for 2022
Metaverse, NFTs, and crypto payments
Meta and Metaverse became two of the most searched terms in 2021 not just because of Mark Zuckerberg, but because of the attention it brought to the concept. Instantly brands started buying property in the various metaverse, associated crypto coins boomed, and investors rushed in to buy NFTs and virtual assets.
While this may seem like something so much bigger than your business in Hong Kong, local businesses and tycoons have all joined in on the hype. Already worth US$1 trillion, the metaverse economy is a key strategy to modernize their business for PwC Hong Kong, Sun Hung Kai, SCMP, and New World Development’s Adrian Cheng, who is building a “GBA Pavillion” for Greater Bay Area startups to sell their products virtually in the Sandbox Metaverse.
Built by Hong Kong’s Animoca Brands, The Sandbox metaverse lets users engage with play-to-earn gameplay to earn $SAND cryptocurrency, The Sandbox’s own utility token. Anyone can play or take a creative role, building assets and worlds that can be traded as NFTs with other players, creators, and artists on the platform. So far, nearly 200 leading brands are investing in the Sandbox Metaverse.
Image source: sandbox.game
Investing in the future doesn't just mean the metaverse. Businesses across Hong Kong are beginning to accept cryptocurrencies for payments, such as the Sai Ying Pun restaurant, Okra, which turned to crypto to reduce bank expenses during covid.
26% of people in Hong Kong hold cryptocurrency, with the city having the second-highest Bitcoin ownership as a percentage of the population.
While these examples seem more like B2C ecommerce tactics, B2B businesses can capitalize on the trend in numerous ways. Trying out products virtually, testing usage with augmented reality, partnering with B2B marketplaces in the metaverse, or conducting important meetings and events in branded spaces are a few of the ways being used to increase B2B sales.
Exciting bonus: Mint and sell your own branded NFTs with Shopify and Shopify Payments. Currently beta testing with US-based merchants, soon merchants worldwide including Hong Kong will be able to tap into the booming NFT market from their Shopify store.
According to Forrester, “B2B customer retention rates stand between 76% and 81%. With the widespread adoption of recurring revenue models, marketing must maintain a focus on existing customers. Leaders should optimize the B2B Revenue Waterfall and work together with sales operations and customer success operations to maximize customer lifetime value.”
For 2022, B2B brands need to focus on putting in place strategies that help increase customer longevity and increase revenue from existing customers. Here are a few examples of revenue optimization strategies:
Optimize pricing: Understand how much your customers are willing to pay, and maximize it. Getting the price right is crucial for success, look how Amazon’s stock rose US$190bn (13.5%) in one day after it announced a planned 17% increase for Amazon Prime subscription fees.
Qualify lead intent: Not every visitor to your site is going to buy, but knowing who is a high potential, who is a return customer, and who is a VIP can help you close the deal faster. Tools like Gorgias integrate directly with Shopify, and can instantly inform which site visitors are most likely to buy, are a VIP, and the intent of their search queries so a human agent could jump in and support them through their buying journey for a strong customer experience.
Customer segmentation: In Hong Kong as well as many other regions, the ability to offer advanced promotional schemes and tiers are critical to driving sales as consumers often expect to see sales promotions, discount deals like “buy X and Y to get Z free”, student or corporate discounts, and tiered loyalty programs with differentiated deals and more. At Wave Commerce, we’re working on exactly this, and one of our latest products, Wave Omni, is an overall personalized member and rewards platform designed to address localized needs for sales, promotions, and customer loyalty management.
Social commerce is the act of selling goods and services directly on social media, such as Facebook, Instagram, WhatsApp, etc. Social commerce also aims to engage consumers by converting topics they are browsing or discussing into a call to action, such as “buy now” next to an image of a product or service in a Facebook group or fan page.
While payments can be made through social media in the US and other markets, it is currently more restricted in Hong Kong, usually linking products and services for sale directly to a website product page.
One way to handle social commerce locally is with SleekFlow. SleekFlow is an omnichannel social commerce platform from Hong Kong, that centralizes popular local channels such as WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger, WeChat, Line, Instagram, Live Chat, SMS, and Email. Integrating with Shopify and payment gateways, SleekFlow automates the customer journey across sales, customer support, and marketing.
While personalization was key in 2021, this year it's all about AI. Customer expectations are so high around customer experience, that brands need to really dig deep into data and leverage insights with AI power.
According to the latest research from MoEngage, customers are willing to share their data with brands as long as it leads to better omnichannel customer experiences. 27% of the survey respondents shared that they are frustrated with irrelevant marketing messages.
“In other words, your customers won’t mind hearing from you more often, as long as you are sending them content that feels personalized to them” - Raviteja Dodda, CEO of MoEngage
Klaviyo is an AI-driven marketing platform that sends relevant, well-timed emails and SMS in order to deliver customer lifetime value. Using a predictive analytics module, Klaviyo can determine the best times to prompt customers with the best products/services, and automatically generate incoming revenue.
Self-service buying portals
B2B websites with a self-service buying portal means that buyers can purchase a product or service without a sales rep (real human!). Especially with millennials taking more of a role in the buying processes, self-service has never been more important.
According to Gartner, 43% of all B2B buyers, and 54% of all millennial B2B buyers are looking for self-service buying portals.
In Hong Kong, many local creative and digital agencies are already publishing rate cards and offering buy-now packages online. While wholesale and corporate goods have been slower to catch up, given the popularity in the past few years we expect it to really take off in 2022.
Follow these B2B ecommerce trends and stay on top in 2022
As we race our way through 2022, make sure you stay ahead of the curve by implementing some of these trends.
To make it easier, reach out to us at Wave Commerce to see how we can help.