Top 11 B2B Ecommerce Trends Emerging For 2023

Originally published Dec 4, 2019. Updated Jan 3, 2023.

In the world of B2B ecommerce, some trends come and go, while others stick around. In 2023, we’re looking at a fascinating mix of new trends (controversy surrounding composable commerce, the rise of “dark ROI” in B2B ecommerce, and more)—plus some familiar trends like the growth of B2B marketplaces.

Here’s everything that’s ramping up in B2B ecommerce for 2023 (click to jump).

1. The “dark ROI” of B2B ecommerce

2. Composable commerce turns controversial

3. Hesitation to take on too much responsibility

4. Growing preference for templatized, integrated solutions

5. IT resources are more constrained than ever

6. EDI customers turning to self-service portals

7. The rise of email order automation

8. Navigating S/4HANA migrations + B2B ecommerce

9. The end of the homegrown solution

10. The rise of the self-service B2B portal

11. The question of B2B marketplaces for manufacturers

 

1. The “dark ROI” of B2B ecommerce enters the spotlight

Revenue is the traditional focus for B2B ecommerce ROI calculations. But in 2022, we saw a new trend emerging as organizations focused more on holistic ways to calculate the value of B2B ecommerce.

Just as dark matter makes up most of the matter in the universe, “dark ROI” can represent a sizable chunk of the overall value of B2B ecommerce.

As organizations seek every edge they can find in a challenging economy, they are increasingly looking at dark ROI to understand the overall impact of ecommerce.

So what is dark ROI?

In a nutshell, it’s a combination of two factors:

  • Efficiency gains that flow from reduced customer service burden as customers use B2B ecommerce to track orders, pay invoices, look up products, and conduct their entire journey through self-service. (For example, our client Emmerson Packaging saw a 97% reduction in customer service effort from launching B2B ecommerce.)
  • Invisible “channel assists” that occur when a customer consults the B2B ecommerce portal but ultimately places the order through a traditional channel like EDI. While efficiency gains are fairly easy to calculate, “channel assists” are the true dark component of B2B ecommerce ROI.

In a nutshell, looking at dark ROI forces an organization to zoom out and consider their RevOps (revenue operations) as a whole. It’s a welcome exercise that overturns all stones—both inefficiencies that must be dealt with, and non-obvious benefits that B2B ecommerce delivers.

Read more here: The RevOps View Of B2B Ecommerce ROI.  

B2B eCommerce Trends Emerging Post-COVID | Corevist, Inc.

NEW Research:

Economic Uncertainty and B2B Ecommerce

Here’s where B2B ecommerce is going in 2023 and beyond: widespread shift to digital, Agile preferred, and more. Read now.

Download Now

 

2. Composable commerce turns controversial

Composable commerce achieved buzzword status in 2022—and for good reason. Rather than locking the ecommerce merchant into a single, monolithic architecture, a composable approach allows the merchant to pick and choose best-of-breed components and integrate them through APIs.

For organizations that are properly equipped, composable architectures offer a highly flexible approach to B2B ecommerce.

However, with great power comes great responsibility.

And while the benefits of composable are getting a lot of airtime, it’s worth looking at the caveats and costs.

  • Organizations that aren’t digitally mature may not be equipped to win with composable commerce.
  • Composable approaches require experienced developers (who are expensive). There’s no instruction manual included.
  • The merchant is responsible for maintaining the critical integrations between all the components.

Clearly, a composable approach is a great choice for some organizations. For others, it will create too much heavy lifting in the IT department.

Oddly enough, industry analysts are split on composable commerce. Gartner strongly recommends the approach in their 2020 whitepaper, Composable Commerce Must Be Adopted for the Future of Applications.

Meanwhile, Forrester’s 2023 Commerce Predictions Report (Oct 2022) pushes back hard against composable:

One-third of digital businesses will regret playing “software company”… In 2023, a third of digital businesses will abandon or restructure midstream projects that prove too complex to execute or maintain.


In 2023, we expect to see this trend continue. Organizations with small IT shops that got caught up in the composable hype will reevaluate their priorities. In cases where the IT organization has their hands full just supporting the ERP (and other essential systems), organizations will turn to prebuilt, configurable B2B ecommerce solutions that include ERP integration.
Read more here: Composable Commerce For Companies On SAP?

3. Hesitation to take on too much responsibility in B2B ecommerce

We could file composable commerce under this trend.

In 2022, we saw an increasing hesitation among B2B organizations to take on ownership for complex ecommerce architectures (rather than engaging one partner who owns the whole thing). Simply put, this type of architecture creates too much risk for the B2B merchant. As economic disruption continues into 2023, we expect this trend to continue as well.

This trend is especially pointed among companies that run on SAP ERP. With S/4HANA migrations looming on the horizon (see #8 below), these organizations have to weigh their appetite for complexity with great care.

Whether you’re migrating to S/4HANA or staying on ECC, one thing is for sure: If your ERP is the system of record for all business data and logic, then B2B ecommerce won’t work unless it integrates deeply with your ERP.

This is where the market is shifting away from standalone solutions—and toward solutions that include prebuilt, configurable ERP integration. Solutions like these provide everything that the B2B vendor requires to meet customer needs while leveraging the existing ERP investment.

In other words, ERP-integrated solutions provide everything that B2B merchants and customers need—right out of the box:

  • Personalized, real-time contract pricing, straight from the ERP
  • Personalized, real-time inventory availability (including ATP calculations), straight from the ERP
  • Instant, error-free order posting from B2B ecommerce to the ERP, with all relevant ERP business rules automatically enforced
  • Full order history and status, for all channels (ecommerce, EDI, phone, fax, email), straight from the ERP in real time
  • Real-time shipment tracking with integration to all major carriers
  • Full invoice history and status, straight from the ERP, for orders from all channels
  • Self-service digital invoice payments

It’s difficult to rebuild all this value on your own, and if you assemble a coalition of vendors, you’ll have to act as the referee between them. It’s more efficient (and valuable) to leverage a solution that includes all this out of the box.

That said, some organizations will want full control. By definition, a managed, integrated, template-based solution requires giving up some control.

The key? Define Your Ideal Balance Of Control In B2B Ecommerce.

4. Growing preference for templatized, integrated solutions with fast rollouts

This trend is the flipside of the one we just discussed.

Organizations that feel uneasy with large, complex architectures are choosing the opposite kind of solution.

In other words, they’re seeking templatized, integrated solutions that can launch fast.

For organizations with limited IT resources (see #5 below), this path makes sense. 85% of B2B buyers will abandon a supplier with a lackluster digital experience. This means it’s essential to get online quickly—with a B2B ecommerce solution that won’t leave your organization struggling to support it.  

5. IT resources are more constrained than ever

Some organizations have plenty of IT resources.

If you’re a multinational conglomerate, with local IT teams and corporate IT leadership, you may have the resources to build, launch, and maintain a complex, bespoke solution for B2B ecommerce.

Smaller organizations typically don’t have these resources. The IT team already has their hands full maintaining the ERP and other essential systems. If the company is on SAP ECC and migrating to S/4HANA (see #8 below), IT resources are especially constrained.

Add to that a difficult economic climate, and many organizations are saying, “We can’t grow our IT team. This team will have to support all our essential systems.”

In this climate, a managed, cloud-based solution makes a lot of sense—particularly when it includes SAP ERP integration. In 2022, we saw a firm uptick in preference for this type of solution, and that trend will only continue into 2023.

6. Self-service customer portals are making life easier for EDI customers

Remember that stat we shared earlier—the fact that 85% of B2B buyers will ditch a vendor with a bad digital experience?

This trend is coming for EDI.

While it’s doubtful that B2B ecommerce will ever replace EDI completely, self-service processes are making inroads into EDI territory.

In particular, we’re seeing organizations adopting self-service B2B portals alongside a legacy EDI channel. There’s little expectation that established EDI customers will place orders through B2B ecommerce—but there’s plenty of expectation that they’ll check inventory and track orders through self-service. And that expectation is well-founded.

The funny thing?

Offering self-service alongside EDI plays right into the “dark ROI” trend that we discussed (#1 above).

Read more here: Taking The Friction Out Of EDI Inventory Checks.

7. Email order automation offers a new path from 0 to 60 in B2B ecommerce

Does email order automation count as B2B ecommerce?

Technically, yes. It’s processing transactions through electronic means.

In 2022, we saw many organizations deciding it was a great entry point to a larger B2B ecommerce initiative. That trend will only pick up in 2023, as difficult economic conditions force companies to find any edge they can.

Luckily, email order automation is a no-brainer.

The idea is to set up an intelligent AI that knows your business rules and can read PDF orders submitted by email. This AI must be able to parse data in the order, compare it to the relevant business rules in SAP ERP, and decide what to do with the order.

In the case of Corevist BuyBot, the solution logs problematic orders for customer service to review—and it posts error-free orders to SAP instantly, hands-free.

Bonus points if your email order solution comes with SAP integration architecture that can support B2B ecommerce on the same platform. (Corevist does.)

This means you can start with email order automation, leverage the resulting efficiency gains, and build out B2B ecommerce on the same infrastructure.

For organizations that can’t imagine how to go from 0 to 60, this path is doable. It moves in manageable increments, and it doesn’t require additional technology investments. It’s a great entry-point to full-fledged B2B ecommerce.

Read more here: How To Automate Email Orders To Post To SAP ERP.

8. SAP companies are navigating B2B ecommerce implementations alongside S/4HANA migrations

For SAP companies, one trend is dominating all others as they contemplate new B2B ecommerce implementations. It’s the trend of companies migrating from ECC to S/4HANA—and it comes with a challenging question: Do we wait until after we’ve migrated to S/4HANA to launch B2B ecommerce?

From a strategic perspective, that’s a clear no. You don’t want to put customer experience on hold, particularly when the competitive stakes are so high (remember that 85% of B2B buyers will abandon a supplier with a frustrating digital experience).

The only question is the IT side. Can the organization really handle a B2B ecommerce implementation before S/4HANA—or during the S/4 migration?

With most B2B ecommerce architectures, the answer is no. A third-party integration is a big, complex project—and it makes no sense to build one now for ECC, then scrap it and build a new one for S/4HANA.

This is where Corevist stands out.

Our prebuilt ERP integration is included in our platform. It launches now for ECC—and easily follows you to S/4HANA when you migrate with minimal heavy lifting. There’s no disruption to the front end of your B2B ecommerce experience, and there’s no rip-and-replace project for a third-party integration.

In other words, you can provide the competitive customer experience that you need now—without holding it hostage to your S/4HANA migration.

Learn more here: Should We Wait For Our S/4HANA Migration To Launch Corevist?

9. Companies are abandoning homegrown B2B ecommerce solutions

For some organizations, it’s tempting to build B2B ecommerce in-house rather than choose an existing platform and a solution implementation partner. The thinking is that you can build cheaper than you can buy.

In some scenarios, this was true in the past. If you didn’t need complex ERP integration, and if you had no intention of keeping your UX (user experience) up-to-date with customer expectations, homegrown B2B ecommerce offered a path to an MVP (minimum viable product).  

The challenge here is ongoing support, ERP integration, and staying agile to meet shifting customer demands in terms of user experience. In all of these areas, a homegrown solution can’t compete with a managed, integrated solution that’s maintained by experts.

As competitive pressures increase and digital expectations rise, we’re seeing a growing trend of B2B sellers retiring their homegrown solutions. For organizations with limited IT resources and a mandate to improve customer experience, it’s far too complex, expensive, and risky to overhaul a homegrown solution. (This is just one reason that our client Emmerson Packaging sunsetted their homegrown B2B portal and replaced it with Corevist.)

The pain is especially real for organizations that are migrating from ECC to S/4HANA. That old homegrown solution, integrated to ECC, will be dead in the water when you go live on S/4.

Ultimately, homegrown solutions pose great risks. They invite technical debt, and they leave the B2B merchant on the hook for everything. That’s why in 2022, we saw a big shift away from homegrown—and why we expect that trend to continue into 2023.

Read more here: Still Suffering With DIY B2B Ecommerce For SAP?

10. The rise of the self-service B2B portal

Is it really B2B ecommerce if the customer isn’t executing a transaction?

Yes.

Commerce means business, and for some organizations, the transaction itself will never move online—but customers still want suppliers who are easy to do business with.

In 2022, we saw the rise of the self-service B2B portal as a tailored approach to digital business.

So what’s a self-service B2B portal?

In a nutshell, it’s a login-protected website that gives customers access to all their account data on any device, with that data coming from your ERP in real time. The portal typically provides:

  • Full order history and status for orders from all channels (EDI, phone, fax, email, ecommerce)
  • Full invoice status and history from all channels
  • Real-time shipment tracking with integration to all major carriers
  • Real-time credit status
  • Real-time pricing and availability checks (using the customer’s personalized business rules from your ERP)
  • The ability to select and pay off invoices through self-service

For some companies, launching with customer-self service capabilities may be an entry-point, with full-powered B2B ecommerce on the horizon. For other organizations, the B2B portal is the end goal, as there’s no need to execute transactions online.

So which bucket do you fall into?

The key is to recognize your customers’ needs and map them to digital workflows. Maybe customers will never buy that million-dollar piece of machinery online, but they would love to know where their orders are—and they’d like to pay off invoices online. (Maybe they’d like to buy spare parts online, too.)

In other scenarios, your biggest customers may be locked into EDI workflows, so they’ll never click “buy now” in B2B ecommerce—but they absolutely need access to their order history, credit status, and so on. 

But what about the long tail? What about all those smaller customers who can’t afford to invest in EDI infrastructure? In aggregate, their impact could be significant if you create a better experience for them.

All these reasons led to the self-service B2B portal staking out its territory in 2022. That trend will only continue as 2023 progresses.

11. Manufacturers are wrestling with the question of B2B marketplaces

This isn’t a new trend by any means—and it’s not going away.

The growth of B2B marketplaces is forcing manufacturers to define a marketplace strategy.

Big questions arise when manufacturers look at marketplaces like Amazon Business or Alibaba:

  • Are our products a good fit for B2B marketplaces? (The more commoditized a product is, the better fit it may be, and vice versa.)
  • How much control do we need over the transaction?
  • Are our products already sold on marketplaces—whether the resellers are authorized or not?
  • How will this affect our relationships with existing distributors?

Every organization will have different answers to these questions. Read more here: Are B2B Marketplaces Right For Manufacturers?

B2B eCommerce Trends Emerging Post-COVID | Corevist, Inc.

NEW Research:

Economic Uncertainty and B2B Ecommerce

Here’s where B2B ecommerce is going in 2023 and beyond: widespread shift to digital, Agile preferred, and more. Read now.

Download Now

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About Author

George Anderson

George serves as content marketing manager. A blogger and journalist with a passion for B2B ecommerce, he has written for the Magento blog, Digitalcommerce360, Supply & Demand Chain Executive, ERPgenie, and others.