020 emphasised uncertainty and 2021 will be remembered as the year that companies heavily invested in digital transformation.
2022 will be the year for Food & Beverage industry to focus on new, ingenious solutions to head off challenges on multiple fronts, be it to address the demand and supply challenges, track and trace, or last-mile delivery. Digital transformation initiatives and the increasing demand from consumers to shop online has resulted in a surge in e-commerce, especially for the traditional B2B industries including the food and beverage industry.
Businesses across the globe are refocusing their efforts on improving production capacity and scaling their e-commerce capabilities. Business-to-business (B2B) food industry giants have moved online and are already seizing the market opportunity. According to the B2B Food Marketplace Platforms Market Forecast global report, the market is expected to reach $71.6 million by 2028, registering a CAGR of 17 percent from 2022 to 2028.
Despite being one of the oldest industries, the food and beverage (F&B) industry hadn’t changed much. However, in considering the growing digital maturity of the whole sector, B2B e-commerce presents a huge opportunity in the region, making it imperative for businesses in this sector to buck the trend. According to Statista, the size of the F&B industry in the GCC is currently at $34.1 billion, and another report by Forrester suggests B2B e-commerce will hit $1.8 trillion by 2023.
Businesses in F&B are being forced to adopt new business models, supply chains and implement advanced technologies to meet the market’s ever-changing needs.
Here are four trends that I believe will become prominent in 2022 and beyond:
Trend 1: Demand for fast B2B order fulfilment will only increase
The market has witnessed major shifts in buyer behavior, and B2B e-commerce is now challenging the authority of traditional sales channels. According to recent research by Gartner, 57 percent of organizations cite, ‘delivering the desired customer experience’ as a critical challenge faced in B2B e-commerce endeavors.
As more and more B2B companies enter the fast-paced e-commerce world, they are expected to provide faster delivery speed. An increasing number of B2B customers will not only expect the same B2C shopping experience, but will also expect and demand for faster order fulfilment. Business buyers expect deliveries to be made within a certain time-period to meet their own cut-off times for next-day trading.
Trend 2: Multi-channel integrated marketing is a must in 2022
Multichannel integrated marketing is the practice by which businesses interact with consumers via multiple channels, both direct and indirect, to sell them goods and services.
A B2B e-commerce website can open the doors to several modern channels for B2B marketing, which can result in acquiring more customers without having to increase the sales force.
Industry estimates suggest that online marketplaces will account for more than 50 percent of global online transactions. The reason is marketplaces offer suppliers and customers a variety of benefits not available in the traditional business model, such as the ability to interact and engage with customers in a real-time basis for suppliers and the choice to select from an assortment of products and services at an extremely competitive price, delivered in a timely manner for the customers.
A multichannel e-commerce store allows customers to self-serve, view product catalogues and purchase products that they previously didn’t know were on offer.
Trend 3: Smart invoicing and the option of flexible payment will continue
The rise of mobile apps and popular marketplaces like Catch of the day and Amazon is a clear sign that B2B retailers are moving quickly from the nascent e-commerce channel experimentation to the complete omni-channel sales approach.
Providing the convenience and seamless experience that B2B buyers are looking for requires flipping the traditional way of thinking and doing business.
Every step of the buying journey must be considered, from how customers research their products and evaluate options, to what tailored help and content they will need along the way, and finally, to support post-purchase.
The manual process of invoicing is quite cumbersome and is not suitable for businesses generating a high volume of invoices every day in the F&B industry. This challenge can be easily overcome when the purchases are made through an online platform that provides an e-invoice that is identical to the traditional paper invoice and contains all the key information such as customer invoice number, shipping or service address, goods sold, price, quantity, PO details, payment information, dates of the transaction and supplier information.
Trend 4: Changing the marketing dial with social channels
Generating quality leads will continue to be a priority for B2B marketers; however, how these are generated is likely to change significantly next year and beyond.
B2B marketers are moving to geo-targeted, social-driven advertisements to generate leads that previously came from just in-person events. With the fast-pace of digitalisation, B2B marketers need to adopt more agile techniques beyond the surface level to drive engagement and more customers.
Customer-centric strategies, once reserved only for B2C consumers, are now fundamentally changing the complicated landscape of B2B marketing. The most important aspects businesses are now looking for is speed, flexibility, and transparency.
Today, what B2B consumers are looking for from the food and beverage industry is very different from pre-pandemic times, and these new expectations are here to stay beyond 2022.
Igor Nikoolenko, co-founder and CEO, SupplyMe