As 2022 comes to end, it’s impossible to ignore global markets faced numerous challenges from supply chain issues, growing inflation, labor shortages, and a looming recession. Yet, businesses took these challenges head-on and made significant strides in innovation to adapt to market changes and to meet the ever-evolving expectations of their increasingly savvier and varied customers.
We’ve identified 4 key trends from 2022 that dominated the year in content discovery, B2B commerce, and omnichannel commerce.
1. AI & Automation Drive Operational Efficiency
The use of AI-powered technology focused on automation is becoming a key focus for businesses of all sizes and industries to improve operational efficiency across business functions. Automation is being used to replace labor-intensive tasks associated with product content upkeep and maintenance to enable employees to focus on larger, strategic activities. This improvement enables businesses to save significant parts of their budget on outside contractors who charge 100s of thousands of dollars to continuously update product content.
B2B manufacturers and distributors leverage automated sales processes by providing self-service digital sales experiences to improve sales efficiency. With B2B buyers becoming more independent in their buyer’s journey, businesses are finding that adopting AI-powered automation solutions are critical to their digital transformation.
2. B2B Digital Commerce is Evolving
2022 marks the year of the biggest shift in B2B commerce yet: McKinsey & Co research shows 65% of B2B companies are exclusively selling online. More B2B organizations are selling through digital channels than in-person sales. The progress of moving from offline to online channels is monumental but the buying experience remains lackluster. More than two-thirds of B2B buyers prefer remote human interactions or self-service over traditional interactions. Yet, research shows only 13% of B2B digital commerce sites have guided selling experiences to help buyers find their ideal purchase and also lack robust product content to facilitate streamlined digital sales.
Such a shift requires B2B organizations to fast-track digital transformation and focus on delivering customer experiences that emulate consumer brands and retailers. Those who prioritize CX and content discovery will be the leaders in the years to come as buyers become loyal to them and sellers find working at these organizations more palatable than traditional ones.
3. Phygital and Hybrid Commerce has Re-emerged
The customer journey is not linear – some consumers will only shop online, some will research online and then go to a store to purchase, while others go into a store and then buy online. Consumers approach their customer journey in whichever way best suits their lives. This means brands and retailers need to remember each of their channels must be consistent in their experience to adequately engage customers to get them to purchase from which touch point they prefer. In-store purchasing is still “king” but that doesn’t mean ecommerce or digital channels should take a second seat.
Consumer brands and retailers are taking note of the need to emerge the physical and digital customer journey to not only win over customers but to also help with labor shortages. Consider the use of interactive kiosks or QR codes on product displays that lead to AR experiences or conversational assistants that can drive in-store discovery without relying on staff. The use of in-store kiosks embedded with content discovery experiences and purchase support are helping shoppers receive personalized guidance without needing to speak with a sales associate. These phygital or hybrid commerce experiences combine the strengths of both digital and physical channels to create a superior customer experience to drive sales.
4. Reliance on Short-term Performance Marketing is Detrimental
Once upon a time, brands and retailers could invest heavily in ad campaigns across social media channels, PPC, or retargeting and see significant ROI. Those days are gone. By focusing on direct marketing activities over brand building, businesses are losing millions on social ads that are driving less and less conversion. There are a few reasons behind this consumers are inundated with ads from brands that rely on look-alike audiences to target customers, it’s easier than ever to expand ecommerce presence across channels, and the competition is stiffer as a result of the expansion of ecommerce over the last few years.
Consumer brands need to focus on brand building and connecting with their customer by being the easiest to buy from. That means investing in technology that helps with product discovery where they can find what they need with ease. When a consumer willingly engages with discovery experiences it is easier for businesses to market to them as you can work off stated preferences and needs from that consumer vs on assumptions. The opportunity to connect authentically with customers is key to brand building.