Skip to content

Exploring B2B eCommerce Trends, Challenges and Solutions

As businesses increasingly pivot towards digital platforms, the future of B2B eCommerce emerges as a crucial cornerstone for growth. In this article, I’ll explore the exciting trends shaping the B2B eCommerce horizon, from the integration of AI and personalised experiences to the rise of marketplaces and the significance of omnichannel strategies.

I’ll explore the common challenges and complexities that businesses encounter when venturing into the realm of B2B eCommerce, such as meeting customer expectations, streamlining complex buying processes and adapting to customised pricing structures.

Amidst these challenges, we introduce SparkLayer, an innovative platform that offers a seamless solution for businesses seeking to enable B2B eCommerce within their existing stores.

The future of B2B eCommerce

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.¹ The pandemic accelerated digitisation and eCommerce has finally taken off: As of February 2022, 65% of B2B companies offered eCommerce capabilities.²

There are endless opportunities and benefits in expanding your store to B2B markets and B2B eCommerce growth will be one of the top trends in eCommerce in 2024 to keep your eye on.

According to Forrester³:

  • B2B eCommerce sales will double in the next 5 years – while US B2B eCommerce sales reached $1.7 trillion in 2021, Forrester’s 2022 B2B E-Commerce Forecast finds that this volume is estimated to exceed $2 trillion in 2023 and $3 trillion by 2027.4
  • B2B eCommerce sales witnessed their highest growth ever in 2021, at 22.9% YoY
  • The share of eCommerce sales will rise from 17% in 2022 to 24% in 2027

Here are a few key B2B eCommerce trends that you should consider when developing your store:


B2B eCommerce platforms are increasingly incorporating personalisation features, such as tailored product recommendations, personalised pricing and custom catalogues, to enhance the user experience. AI and ML tools, as mentioned below, can be used to collect data and achieve hyper-personalisation as seen in B2C shopping experiences.

Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Machine Learning (ML)

In addition to personalisation capabilities, AI and ML technologies can be used for predictive analytics, demand forecasting, chat bots for customer support, and to streamline processes and enhance decision-making in B2B eCommerce.

AI chat bots ensure that B2B customers receive immediate responses to queries at any time of day. By analysing customer data and past interactions, chat bots can provide tailored product recommendations and deals, increasing customer satisfaction and potentially boosting sales.

AI can also be used to create automated workflows, enhance procurement processes and boost productivity. Robotic process automation (RPA) can handle repetitive back-office tasks while AI solutions can spot errors in real-time. AI can uncover usage patterns to optimise inventory levels and logistics. In addition, AI automation can segment customers and produce personalised marketing at scale.

Another useful way that AI can be used is by creating AI-powered interactive product wikis that supply bite-sized, personalised guidance for B2B customers to obtain relevant information quickly. For example, rather than scouring lengthy product manuals or catalogues, B2B sellers could incorporate dynamic FAQs that show tailored articles based on interaction history, or training videos with AI personalised playlists.

Voice Commerce

Voice-activated technologies are finding their way into B2B eCommerce, making it faster and more convenient for users to search for items, place orders, track shipments and perform other tasks using voice commands. If customers are unable to type, voice technology offers an inclusive and accessible solution.

Voice assistants can use purchase history and user data to provide personalised recommendations and offers.

Omnichannel Sales

B2B customers now regularly use ten or more channels to interact with suppliers (up from just five in 2016).⁵

Just like a B2C buying journey, B2B companies should aim to provide seamless omnichannel experiences to meet customers where they are. By incorporating multiple touchpoints, such as social media, chat bots and enquiry forms, B2B customers can interact and complete their purchasing journey in the way that they choose, leading to greater satisfaction and increased conversions. For example, there are potential customers who prefer to use chat bots and those who’d rather ask questions on the phone. By providing both options, you are giving them the autonomy.

Customer data should be shared between channels to enable a personalised experience across devices. The key is to bridge any gaps between touchpoints to ensure continuity when customers switch between them.

Customer Experience (CX) Focus

84% of B2B buyers would choose to buy from a supplier that they have a great relationship with.⁶

Improving overall customer experience remains a key trend, with a focus on user-friendly interfaces, quick and efficient customer support, and seamless order processing.

Loyal customers are key to growth and the lifetime value of B2B customers is much higher than that of B2C buyers. Therefore, it’s important to adopt a customer-centric mindset by optimising every interaction that a B2B buyer will have with your company’s people, products and digital assets.

Marketplace Model

Marketplaces are now the fastest-growing sales channel in B2B eCommerce. In 2021, marketplaces grew nearly 7.5 times faster than total B2B eCommerce sales.⁷

B2B platforms are evolving into comprehensive ecosystems, offering a wide range of products and services from multiple vendors within a single marketplace, providing a one-stop-shop experience for buyers. Marketplaces also give buyers access to product reviews, customer ratings and comparison shopping.

By creating a marketplace, B2B sellers can increase awareness and expand their audience, beyond their existing channels.

Augmented Reality (AR) and Virtual Reality (VR)

By 2024, it’s anticipated that there’ll be an estimated 1.7 billion mobile AR user devices worldwide.⁸

AR and VR technologies are being used to enhance the product visualisation process, allowing buyers to virtually experience products before making purchasing decisions. Interactive 3D models and AR simulations bring products to life, enabling buyers to see them in their intended environment.

Common Pain Points and Complexities When Entering B2B eCommerce

For many businesses, transitioning from B2C to B2B or expanding their B2C store to include B2B will be a challenge, due to the differences between B2C and B2B.

Here are a few common pain points and complexities that eCommerce stores that are new to B2B may face:

Difficulty With Meeting the Expectations of B2B Customers

Wunderman Thompson Commerce’s Future Shopper Report 2021 found that 92% of B2B buyers expect a B2C experience when making online business purchases.⁹

83% prefer ordering or paying through digital commerce¹⁰ and 72% are eager to purchase across channels.¹¹

B2B buyers are looking for more digitised and enhanced buying experiences. The B2B buying experience can be long-winded and time-consuming. The customer may have to complete lengthy forms or use a dated website with poor UX. B2B customers are looking for a simple self-service process, whereby they can complete a purchase in just a few clicks, with minimal interaction.

In order to meet customer expectations, B2B sellers need to incorporate B2B features within their eCommerce store, while offering customers the personalised, speedy and easy-to-use shopping experience they expect from shopping with B2C eCommerce stores.

Complex B2B Buying Process

B2B buying processes can be lengthy, involving more stakeholders and a longer decision-making process, bulk orders and extensive product lines.

Establishing a B2B Specific Catalogue

Just like B2C shoppers, B2B customers want relevant search results, easy navigation and suggested product content. B2B buyers also expect pricing, product catalogues and item selection to be tailored to them and organised according to their requirements.

By assigning catalogues to specific customer segments, you can personalise the B2B customer shopping experience and enable customers to see products and deals that are only relevant to them.

Incorporate an adaptive search function that uses machine learning to display products based on each buyer’s unique browsing and search behaviour. By using adaptive search, B2B buyers can search by exact part number or SKU, by industry terms or keywords, or by problem or issue solved.

Customised Pricing and Negotiations

B2B transactions often involve negotiated pricing based on factors such as order volume, contract terms and specific customer agreements. Adapting to a more flexible and customised pricing structure can be a significant adjustment.

Incorporating B2B Payment Methods

B2B buyers expect flexibility around ordering and paying because their own purchase process may be complex. The procurement process can include many documents, such as contracts, requisition orders, purchase orders and invoices. B2B customers will expect multiple payment methods, including a credit option.

Incorporating B2B Shipping Rules

When considering shipping options, you need to take into account client-specific requirements, such as frequency of repeat orders, shipment size, bulk orders, quoting and real-time rating, as well as existing agreements and contracts. For B2B shipping, aim for complete price transparency and multiple shipping options that are tailored to the customer.

Integration with Existing Systems

B2B businesses may already have established systems for order processing, inventory management and customer relationship management (CRM). Integrating the new B2B eCommerce platform with these existing systems can be complex and may require significant investment in technology.

Scalability and Performance

B2B businesses often deal with larger order volumes and more substantial data loads. Ensuring that your eCommerce platform can scale to accommodate growth and maintain high performance is a critical consideration.

When deciding on the appropriate platform for your B2B eCommerce store, it’s important to consider:

  • Can all staff members access and operate the software?
  • Is the order management system efficient and does it fulfil orders quickly?
  • Can you customise the software to meet your business’s needs?
  • Does it provide a user-friendly and responsive B2B shopping experience?

Mobile Responsiveness

While B2C eCommerce has adapted well to mobile platforms, B2B transactions historically occurred more on desktops. Ensuring that your B2B eCommerce platform is optimised for mobiles, tablets and other portable devices is essential as mobile usage for B2B transactions increases.

SparkLayer: Enable B2B eCommerce in Your Existing Store

A key issue that B2C businesses may face is transforming their existing eCommerce website into a B2B store. It’s important to find the right platform to allow for a smooth transition from B2C to B2B eCommerce.

SparkLayer is an eCommerce platform that “layers” on top of an existing online store, enabling sellers to rapidly scale their B2B operation. It integrates with current backend systems, such as ERPs, CRMs and PIMs, and combines B2B and B2C capabilities on one site.

SparkLayer has ready-made B2B-optimised frontend widgets that replace sections of your existing eCommerce store. Therefore, it eliminates the need for building a new store and maintaining complex B2B functions. The platform allows for extensive customisation and businesses can keep the design of their current eCommerce website.

SparkLayer integrates with a range of third-party platforms and solutions, but the eCommerce platforms it works with are currently limited to Shopify and BigCommerce.

SparkLayer has over 100 features, including:

  • B2B self-service portal – a user-friendly experience to place, track and manage orders
  • B2B teams with “company users” and account management
  • Create sales agents that can place orders on behalf of B2B customers
  • SparkLayer Dashboard for merchants to manage B2B data
  • Monitor B2B store performance and report on key metrics
  • CSV importing for large orders
  • B2B payment methods, such as Pay by Invoice and Buy Now Pay Later
  • Customer-specific pricing rules, pack sizing and maximum/minimum order quantities
  • Tiered price-breaks displayed clearly to give customers visibility of savings made based on the quantity of products
  • Automated B2B pricing and workflows
  • Credit limits and account balances
  • B2B shipping rules
  • Pre-orders and backorders
  • Address book management
  • Shopping lists for quick re-ordering
  • Quote requesting – customers can submit orders as quotes and they can be edited before processing
  • Search by product code

With a fast installation process, SparkLayer provides B2B merchants with greater flexibility to accelerate growth. Other key benefits include increasing team efficiency with less manual actions, reducing customer service overwhelm through self-service capabilities and decreasing cost by removing the need to build custom and costly B2B features.

With the right tools at their disposal, businesses can harness the full potential of B2B eCommerce, ensuring sustained growth, innovation and adaptation in the face of a rapidly evolving market. As an eCommerce agency, we specialise in delivering flexible, robust and future-proof eCommerce solutions. Please get in touch with our friendly team of experts if you have any queries about transitioning from B2C to B2B eCommerce or if you’d like support with creating a B2B eCommerce website.