B2B eCommerce Trends Shaping the Future
Takeaways from Meet Magento Baltics
By using the knowledge gathered working with Magento and eCommerce for more than 10 years I want to share with you the most prominent B2B trends shaping the eCommerce future.
Since one of my day-to-day tasks is to meet business owners defining their eCommerce short term and long term vision, plans, and tech solutions, implementation steps, costs, timeframe, technical solutions and so on, I've been able to group the 6 B2B trends you need to know about.
Every other week we talk with someone looking to build a niche Marketplace. Here are 3 of the most often explored paths:
1) Companies with small-medium budgets and startups are usually going with adding a Marketplace extension to Magento. This path also works to build POC trying out a business idea.
The most popular extension 2 years in a row has been Webkul. However, I'd suggest running a quick analysis to find out:
- which of the features are necessary
- what is the amount and capabilities of vendors
- finance flow before proceeding with Marketplace extension as they bring a solid level of customization when no other extension won't be compatible with the installation.
2) Izberg is a marketplace solution created in France and is successfully used by ASOS. It allows customizations on your own, is available on-premises and also as a SaaS. Izberg is already a well-established solution which would work as a marketplace back-end with Magento being the FE layer.
3) Mirakl is a top tier solution — SaaS only, API based, enterprise-grade, Used by BestBuy Canada, Urban Outfitters, Walmart Mexico. Most of the large size companies in states are going to use it. You can't really do many customizations on your own as it is SaaS.
Recently a Marketplace was opened in the Baltics Pigu group inviting merchants to sign up.
Nordic Art Gallery is a Sweden-based Magento marketplace that we launched last year. Essentially it is a place for artists to sell their work. Art Gallery itself takes care of data quality and marketing as it is part of Bonnier Group which is something similar to MTG and has a wide range of marketing opportunities.
We didn't use any of the marketplace extensions as it would be too heavy compared to what the requirements were. As of now, they're doing surprisingly well and have exceeded all initial plans.
Here are some other names. Klarx — Germany's online platform for equipment rental. Omni — partnering with retailers that host and rent out goods for Omni and users will pick up themselves.
2. Manufacturers cutting out the middleman
There's a movement where producers are going directly to consumers skipping third-party retailers, wholesalers, or other middlemen. Of course, that creates challenges. To name a few: a need to create and establish branding, marketing, logistics, customer support and so on.
We had the opportunity to visit the 2nd largest shoe producer in the world for training and consultation on Magento and blockchain. They are making Nike, Jordan, Adidas, Skechers, Columbia, Crocs and most of the shoe sports brands you know. They're also creating their brands to enter the market with better quality products having higher margins.
Another example: recently there was another discussion with Printer brand opening an eCommerce channel going directly to the consumer.
3. Integrated B2B and B2C
The next trend goes hand in hand with cutting out the middleman. It's integrated B2B and B2C channels, in other words, opening one of the channels when previously it used to be solely a B2B or vice versa.
What we experience is that merchants are adding another channel more and more frequently. Here are a few recent examples:
Urban Cottage industries from the UK have been working with B2B, have an amazing portfolio and lots of brands across the UK, however, very little B2C, and they produce everything themselves in the UK which is something people love. The goal for 2020 is to establish a proper B2C eCommerce channel.
eCommerce of Country Casual from the United States appears as B2C when the majority of their clients are B2B.
Byggmax, a Sweden-based DIY retailer similar to Depo, also has both channels available on the website.
4. B2C-like experience & mindset
B2B — What is it actually? Behind every company, there are actual people we deal with, therefore, it's only natural that expectations towards B2B shopping experience are shaped by traditional shopping. Here the idea is to provide the same smooth customer experience that you would be providing as a B2C seller.
And it also works vice versa — merchants are asking for DATA in order to understand their customers:
- what are they searching for
- what are looking at
- how can we facilitate shopping,
and arriving at features like well-integrated analytics, BI tools, real-time stock, personalization and automation across the site.
5. Cleaning up & replatforming
Next year we'll reach the end cycle of Magento 1. Most of the merchants are using this opportunity to bring in and update B2B operations together with re-platforming their B2C channels.
They want to move to one technical solution for both as it would mean working with one solution partner, known technical stack and system, less training, therefore, lower maintenance costs.
6. Rich content & PIM system
The last trend is about data quality that's been tremendously increasing in value and importance. If there are multiple languages, solid number of products, frequent catalog updates — PIM is a must to consider. We've seen PIM kick-off last year, and now be a solid part of the overall eCommerce ecosystem.
It's also proven that quality data increase conversion rate and search engine rankings.
Akeneo is the official PIM solution for Magento and so far our experience with it has been very good.
In conclusion, do a small retro asking yourself a few questions in order to figure out what is next for you and what you might be missing out on.
How is my industry changing? How is the tech changing my business?
Why do the buyers buy from my competitors?
Will this platform work for me in 3-4 years?
What is the current user experience in my store? Would I like to shop there myself?
Product data quality — is it informative enough? How much time does it take to enrich and add new data? How often is it performed?
Can I go fully D2C? Have I considered it?
Does it make sense for me to have B2C and/or B2B channel?
Don't be afraid to launch small micro-projects to verify ideas and fail during the process. It'll all be worth it for your business in the long run.