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How B2B digital commerce will unfold in 2023

Editor’s note: Google Cloud partner commercetools shares how modern technologies like composable commerce, cloud-native infrastructure and artificial intelligence/machine learning (AI/ML) will lead the way in business-to-business (B2B) digital commerce this year.

Digital commerce in B2B has been predicted as the next big thing for years; yet, at the start of COVID-19, 60% of B2B companies had zero or limited eCommerce capabilities. The pandemic accelerated digitization and eCommerce has finally taken off: As of February 2022, 65% of B2B companies offered eCommerce capabilities. 

The behavior of B2B buyers is also changing: Consumer-like expectations are at the heart of successful B2B commerce, and this is how manufacturers, distributors and wholesalers will shape their customer experiences. Today, 73% of B2B buyers want a personalized business-to-consumer or B2C-like experience. 83% prefer ordering or paying through digital commerce and 72% are eager to purchase across channels

With digital commerce dictating how B2Bs will grow in 2023 and beyond, what trends will spur digital transformations across this business model? Here’s what the team at commercetools expects to unfold in B2B eCommerce this year.  

#1 B2B firms are switching to cloud-native, composable commerce 

B2B players still plagued with manual processes and siloed backend systems will move away from monolithic platforms and choose composable commerce. In a nutshell, composability enables businesses to select best-of-breed components, such as search, cart or checkout, and “compose” them into a custom application.

B2B firms will modernize their commerce backend, interoperating siloed systems like Configure Price Quote solutions (CPQs) for sales and enterprise resource planning solutions (ERPs) for order entry with an API-first and composable commerce stack. They will also pivot from on-premise deployments to cloud-native architectures as the baseline for auto-scaling capabilities instead of pre-provisioning online capacity during traffic peaks. That way, B2Bs can customize customer-centric experiences to boost revenue while reducing the complexity and cost of in-house IT infrastructure, as well as gaining operational efficiencies.

B2Bs will maximize the cross-section of composable commerce and cloud-native infrastructure by leveraging a commerce backend like commercetools Composable Commerce hosted on Google Cloud. This combined solution provides commercetools’ ready-to-use components built as microservices and exposed as APIs, such as product information management (PIM) and unified cart, integrated through the Google Cloud Marketplace

#2 Strong focus on data quality and personalization 

Focusing on data quality continues to be a big trend in 2023. B2B buyers expect product, pricing, inventory and shipping data points to be accurate across every touchpoint so they can make better purchasing decisions, such as when to order products and calculate quantities.

With so many data points to capture throughout the customer journey — product, inventory, pricing and customer data — we’ll see more B2B companies reorganizing their vast information pools to elevate customer experiences. They will pivot to modular and API-first solutions, plus flexible data models, so they can break data silos from legacy monolithic platforms and access such data when needed. 

We also expect to see more customer analytics to unlock data on buyer behavior. By understanding what customers see, click and add to their shopping lists, B2B businesses get valuable insights into how buyers behave, using this data in the shopping journey according to product interests. That way, it’s possible to offer personalized experiences across touchpoints without hassle. 

“It is important for B2B companies to look at their data as if it is one of their products; invest in its upkeep and integrity while finding ways to continuously improve it. Using advanced analytics powered by AI and ML to identify patterns from large amounts of data, B2B companies can activate insights into customer decision journeys to maintain loyalty, personalize experiences to improve satisfaction and boost revenue, while also finding ways to optimize costs. For example, with analytics, enterprises can streamline spend to focus on the highest-performing channels and reduce waste.” — Carrie Tharp, Google Cloud VP of Retail and Consumer  

With data-driven tools coming into play like Google Cloud’s Discovery AI, Recommendations AI and Vision Product Search connected with composable commerce, B2B players can boost customer analytics to personalize experiences, improve customer satisfaction and reduce churn.  

#3 The B2B customer experience will be redesigned

B2B players are taking a page out of the B2C playbook to elevate experiences throughout the customer journey. While intense work needs to happen in the backend commerce engine, B2B players will also redesign their digital frontends. That means boosting website performance, while mobile responsiveness and personalization will be at the forefront of these advanced digital initiatives. 

More than ever, B2B companies are looking for digital storefronts delivered as progressive web applications (PWAs) for optimized performance and responsiveness across devices, as well as fast-loading and responsive experiences to boost your digital presence, SEO rankings and conversion rate. B2Bs can further streamline frontend development with solutions natively connecting to Google Cloud Marketplace, which supports a variety of storefront providers, including commercetools Frontend

Leveraging Google Cloud’s unique capabilities, such as PWA web app development, Google Cloud Discovery AI solutions that include Retail Search and Vision API Product Search, among many others, B2B companies are well positioned to boost digital commerce in the years to come.   

What’s next in 2023? 

2022 was already a turbulent year; for better or worse, 2023 is expected to have a similar fate. For B2Bs, even the ones with tight budgets, investing in digital commerce can help future-proof businesses for whatever’s happening this year. To dive deeper into all predictions and insights by commercetools in collaboration with Google Cloud, read the guide Pivotal Trends and Predictions in B2B Digital Commerce in 2023.

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