It’s no secret that the global B2B eCommerce market is six times bigger than B2C, and that a significant double-digit growth is expected for B2B eCommerce in upcoming years: a CAGR of 17.5% from 2020 to 2027. This is clearly an encouragement for B2B merchants to embrace or even expand their digital commerce operations.
Given these developments, we wanted to take the pulse of the B2B digital commerce space. Even more so, during this unprecedented year of the pandemic, it was especially critical that we check in with B2B companies to get to the heart of how 2020 has affected them.
Our most recent global survey, conducted during October and November 2020, we asked 840 B2B company executives, sales VPs, and other professionals to share what their main challenges have been and what they are looking forward to in 2021.
Not surprisingly, the results were varied, with some companies reporting downsizing and others recording growth. What was consistent was that most respondents were affected by the pandemic and reported they will narrow their focus to certain key areas of sales and marketing as they work to overcome the challenges this year has brought.
2020 Was a Good Year for Some, But Clearly Not for All
Almost half of B2B companies interviewed – 47% of them – said they achieved profit increases in 2020, while a third of them, 33%, held steady with their results from 2019.
Not all the news was good, however. Almost 20% of respondents said that the year was a difficult one, with decreases by up to 25% or more, with 9% reporting a decrease of more than 25% in this momentous year.
The survey also revealed that US companies have struggled more versus global averages. While 37% reported an increase in business, 30% said their business was down and 33% reported their business had remained the same.
Survey Measured COVID-19 Impact on B2B
It came as no surprise that the B2B survey respondents counted the global COVID-19 pandemic as the greatest factor in generating either growth (61%) or contraction of revenues (79%) compared to 2019. The good news is that companies that pivoted to focus on online sales registered marked growth, as signaled by 62% of respondents.
2020 Was the Year of All-Digital, and B2B Companies Used a Mix of Channels
With brick-and-mortar shuttered and restrictions keeping people at home, some companies were ready for the shift to digital while others were not, and many of them used a disjointed combination of channels for their sales.
On average around the globe, B2B online companies said they used at least three sales channels, including online direct/self-service via website (55%); phone (48%); email (44%); or assisted sales (35%), although there was not always a smooth integration among the channels.
This scattershot approach was consistent among those surveyed, with some variations. In the US, B2B companies responded that they, too, used at least three channels for sales, including by phone (62%); through assisted sales (57%); via email (57%); and online direct/self service via their website (54%).
Challenges and Opportunities Going Forward
The survey helped illuminate what B2B companies are struggling with the most, and that is managing the sales funnel. Almost half of all respondents expect to struggle with finding new leads in 2021, while a third anticipate having to deal with longer sales cycles.
To address the new challenges they face, almost half of the surveyed B2B companies reported they will focus on implementing and improving their direct online sales, via self-service. Another 42% will focus on customer retention, while 36% will launch new products and/or focus on improving their assisted sales approach for higher-value deals.
Other areas B2B companies report they will focus on are improved nurturing of new leads and optimized strategies and customer lifetime value (CLV).
B2B companies say they will invest significantly in five main areas in 2021: marketing activities at 55%; sales processes at 43%; developing new products at 37%; and partner management and compliance and security, at 23% and 22%, respectively.
To see the complete results of our survey, visit the infographic on “2Checkout 2020 Survey: The State of B2B Digital Commerce.”