By: Michiel Schipperus – CEO of Sana Commerce
By now it is clear that the global Covid-19 pandemic has had an impact on business unlike anything experienced before. As we continue to adapt to the changes caused by the pandemic, we are seeing just how fundamental the year 2021 is for e-commerce in B2B – accelerating growth, opportunity and innovation in a way we could have never predicted 18 months ago.
Looking back on 2020, we can see that any trends forecast pre-pandemic were quickly discarded, as businesses shifted their priorities to surviving the economic impact of workplace closures, national lockdowns and social distancing measures. As a result, we saw organisations in a race to digitalise in order to continue to sell to and serve their customers. This led to a rise in personalisation, probably one of the most significant e-commerce trends of 2020. Businesses were keen to mirror the intimacy of in-person interactions for their customers shopping online. As we move through 2021, there are three significant trends that I see standing out for e-commerce in a B2B environment:
As a result of lockdown, even the least digitally native B2B and B2C buyers have become accustomed to the convenience and safety that it offers. 2021 has supercharged the digital transformation process and any retailers hanging back from making online their priority have had to change their outlook. According to the Office for National Statistics, January 2021 showed an increase in total online sales of 9.2% when compared with December 2020. And while we may see this trend slow as we move out of lockdown, our prediction is that buyers will want to continue to experience the benefits such as ease of use, time efficiency and breadth of choice that e-commerce has to offer. We are seeing more companies committing to an investment in future-ready e-commerce software in 2021.
For businesses still in the decision-making process, it is no longer the question of if you should put your sales channels online but when. While the move to online may be a daunting prospect to some, those that don’t take the leap will miss out on the growth opportunities available to them. Based on our experience in the sector, we have seen customers experience upward of 30% increases in growth in the first year they implement an e-commerce solution. This is because it plays a fundamental part in building customer relationships and strengthening customer loyalty. Businesses need to look further than just the transaction and realise the possibilities of personalisation available through an online presence. Prioritizing customer relationships is a crucial step to achieve success in 2021 and beyond.
API driven ecommerce has become a ‘must have’
We will be seeing an increase in Application Programming Interfaces (APIs) to improve e-commerce applications. An API sets the rules for how the software should cooperate and communicate with each other. When used in e-commerce, APIs help developers to transfer information from one software system to another – eProcurement platforms, CRM applications, stock and logistics management systems – using this data in a single user interface.
APIs provide many e-commerce adoption advantages. They ensure up to date product information by connecting databases, for example giving real time information on stock levels and availability of products. They provide flexibility to retailers by customising website content to meet the needs of the buyer. Most importantly, they help e-commerce businesses to deliver a seamless and streamlined customer experience regardless of the systems and data required for this and where it resides, something that is becoming increasingly expected as more companies move online.
Rise in Progressive Web Apps
So, there you have it. Our three key e-commerce trends for 2021. Retailers need to remember that e-commerce is not about replacing people. It’s all about enhancing the customer experience, making sales more efficient and offering a complete omni-channel service. If you can get e-commerce right, you will be able to access the many benefits it offers, such as increasing brand awareness, strengthening customer relationships, penetrating new markets and driving profits.