Trends and Opportunities Affecting the B2B Shipping Landscape

The growth of the e-commerce industry is changing the way businesses of all types operate. As younger generations come into leadership positions and begin dictating purchases, traditional models and operational practices are shifting.

This growth and change is most often discussed in terms of B2C e-commerce brands, but B2B businesses are feeling it, too. The B2B e-commerce market in the U.S. reached the $1 trillion mark for the first time in 2018 and projections show that the $2 trillion milestone could arrive in just a few years.1 That means B2B shippers will need to stay on top of what’s changing and know when to adjust.

In our recent white paper, The Latest Trends in B2B E-Commerce & Shipping, we dig into actionable learnings to help your B2B business do just that. Here, let’s take a high-level look at some of the key trends and opportunities at play in the market.

Key Trends

Here are the latest developments in the B2B shipping market.

Half of all B2B buyers are millennials.2

This generation has had a huge effect on almost every piece of the economy. Now, they are growing into decision-making roles at businesses and have expectations about what a strong, positive B2B relationship looks like.

What this means for you:
Look to B2C shipping and e-commerce practices for inspiration. Millennials grew up with tailored, targeted and increasingly simple buying and shipping experiences. It is likely that, as B2B buyers, they will look for the same standards and values in the businesses from which they buy.

Smart, connected technology is transforming logistics.

As e-commerce evolves, so too does shipping technology. While autonomous vehicles for shipping are further from adoption, others, like Internet of Things devices, are already being implemented. Gartner predicts there will be around “20 billion internet-connected things by 2020. These ‘things’ are not general-purpose devices, such as smartphones and PCs, but dedicated-function objects, such as vending machines, jet engines, connected cards and a myriad of other examples.”3

These devices can help with tracking, optimization, efficiency and more, and they communicate with each other to make automatic adjustments.

What this means for you:
By using technology to optimize your logistics, you can better scale your B2B shipping business and continue to impress clients with fast, informed deliveries. Find ways to incorporate new technologies to assist in scaling operations and potentially cutting down on costs. We suggest specific tools in our white paper on the topic.

Top Opportunities

Keep your eyes on these opportunities to continue your business’s growth.

Develop a sustainable omni-channel strategy

Tackling omni-channel sales and distribution is an important step toward minimizing waste and maximizing flexibility. Research shows that many B2B companies plan to use online channels for sales and cut down on other methods.4

Once you open your business up to online channels, prepare your operations to answer the potential demand. Make sure you’re ready to fulfill additional orders by evaluating your network of distribution centers and finding ways to streamline logistics concerns.

Build loyalty with an easy returns process

In the B2C e-commerce world, returns are seen as an invaluable place to build loyalty. Companies that make returns easier, simpler and more convenient for customers can win more repeat sales. This is no different, and may even ring truer, in the B2B world.

When a business needs to send something back, it is most often because of a fault with the product, so it matters how quickly the issue can be resolved. Clearly articulate your return policy to avoid unwelcome surprises. Maintain strong communication with your customer. Make it simple to initiate a return, then proactively share information with your customer about the order’s status.

Conclusion

This high-level peek at some of the defining trends and opportunities in the B2B shipping market can help you see how your company could grow in the e-commerce space. Get a more in-depth and actionable look at the market by downloading our white paper, The Latest Trends in B2B E-Commerce & Shipping.

The Next Generation of Catalog

In an age of digital distraction and ever-shorter consumer attention spans, the catalog is reemerging as a powerful way to engage customers to interact with brands on a deeper level—and it’s not in the traditional format you expect. It’s smarter, smaller, and less expensive to produce. It can deliver big impact by supporting digital experiences while still giving your customers the physical, tactile experience they crave in the virtual world. Experiences that can help your brand cut through all the digital clutter and stand out from the crowd.

Traditional catalogs have a reputation for being time consuming and costly to create. That’s why retailers and e-tailers are now turning to shorter, lifestyle catalogs. This new generation of catalog is timely and relevant. And it’s helping marketers in business of all shapes and sizes bridge the gap between offline and online communication, giving their customers the best of both worlds.

New catalogs are:

  • Smarter. They are driven by consumer data gathered through multiple marketing channels, helping you target the right customers at the right time.
  • More economical. New production and printing capabilities have taken the cost and complexity out of tailoring versions of a catalog to individual customer segments.

“Catalogs may seem old school, but their increased capabilities and the brand-building potential suggest they’ll remain a staple in retailers’ toolboxes – and consumers’ mailboxes.” —Denise Lee Yohn, Harvard Business Review1

New Catalog Formats: Inventive, Inexpensive, and Easy to Produce

Micro-catalogs

When your budget for direct mail is limited, using a bi-fold or tri-fold postcard mailer as a type of catalog is a great way to start experimenting with direct mail. That way, you can see if it’s an effective marketing effort worth growing and investing more in. By including personalized URLs (PURLS) or QR codes in your mailpieces, you can more easily track results. Micro-catalogs are also a perfect vehicle for featuring a specific selection of your products that you want to promote.

Magalogs

A compelling mix of magazine and catalog, magalogs combine product information with editorial content. This innovative concept is taking the traditional catalog to a new level while helping to reduce production costs. Magalogs have become popular because they allow retailers to express their brand personality through storytelling about their product alongside compelling images—without sacrificing informational content. All of these factors are making the magalog an attractive option for marketers.

Mini-catalogs

The mini-catalog delivers big impact in a smaller package. Many marketers are finding that supplementing full-sized catalogs with this new category of “mini-catalogs” can help them do business more economically while improving key metrics such as response rate. Mini-catalogs mail at approximately the same cost of a standard automated letter and can provide up to ten pages to promote products which can help cut mailing and production costs. At the same time, they can be as effective as larger catalogs in driving customers to company websites.

“Traditional” catalogs with a digital twist

For businesses with a larger budget or extensive product line, the classic catalog style is still a viable option. However, these aren’t your grandmother’s catalogs. Today’s longer-form catalog has evolved from mainly being a direct sales tool, to being a mobile, website, and in-store traffic driver. They have become digital enablers—supporting innovative technologies such as augmented reality (AR) which bridges the gap between our physical and digital worlds. For example, a popular catalog created by a major furniture company uses AR to bring their pages to life; customers simply hover over the page with their smartphones to place a 3D image of the product in their space.

Catalogs add value to the omni-channel experience

Marketers who take advantage of the full range of marketing channels available are better positioned to enhance brand awareness and reach their target audiences. Leveraging more than one marketing channel helps deliver a diversified, connected, customer-centric strategy that increases the chances for successful customer acquisition. With their ability to bridge physical and digital channels, catalogs can play an important role as part of an omni-channel campaign.

Today’s smarter catalogs can deliver big impact because they:

  • Cut through the digital noise yet enable digital experiences.
  • Enable personalized messaging and targeted outreach.
  • Support storytelling, the new gold marketing standard.
  • Offer a platform for bold visual images.
  • Can cost less to produce and are easier to create.

Best of USPS Omni-Channel Campaign

As marketers and strategists, we all strive to find opportunities to transform campaigns from one-dimensional to omni-channel. With nearly limitless options, we’re faced with the challenge of leveraging the strengths of the right channels to reach consumers with the right message at the right time. Read full article