Disruption and Opportunity: The Trends that Will Shape 2022 for B2B Brands

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Between supply chain delays, labor shortages, and evolving buyer journeys, this year will be all about the customer — attracting them, engaging them, and retaining them.

The past two years have fundamentally changed the B2B landscape. Even as businesses adapt to the current state of commerce, they continue to grapple with a host of pandemic-related challenges and uncertainties.  

If delivering on your annual growth mandate, profit margin, or KPIs is akin to climbing a mountain in normal times, the last few years have introduced B2B leaders to Mount Kilimanjaro. Forced to make difficult tradeoffs given delays in order fulfillment, one of the unexpected impacts to B2B buying behavior has been a dip in loyalty. While a history of quality and trust established with a distributor or brand remains important, supply chain issues have driven many B2B buyers to expand their supplier shortlist beyond previously vetted and go-to resources, which introduces more uncertainty and risk, making that next step in the climb one where you’re not sure if your foot is going to stick or lead to a fall.  

Additionally, COVID-19-related restrictions, “The Great Resignation”, and now “The Great Reshuffle” have exacerbated ongoing labor shortages. So not only is getting the product you need from the brands you trust more difficult, even if you manage to do that, keeping production, manufacturing, or service delivery on schedule with capable and trained resources has added a layer of cloud cover and uncertainty as to when or if you’ll reach the top where you previously had a line of sight. And if by some stretch of sheer will, you’ve kept it together thus far with limited disruption, throw in a windstorm at the top. The pandemic hastened a previously emerging shift in traditional B2B buyer journey expectations. Now B2B buyers are expecting a more omnichannel experience akin to the personal buying journey available for consumer products.  

Let’s face it, Mount Kilimanjaro might be an understatement. Today’s B2B executives recognize they have a tough climb ahead:  

  • 90% of businesses believe their business models need to change to remain viable through 2023. 
  • 33% of businesses believe that becoming more agile and flexible is a top-five priority, the first time this has been a leading priority for many companies. 
  • 5%  percent of companies plan to downgrade their growth outlooks due to supply chain delays

To overcome current and future business disruptions, many companies see this moment as an opportunity to build agility and flexibility into their organizations’ strategic planning. The first step? Identifying which of today’s array of challenges is most likely to affect their organization.

For business-to-business companies, it’s particularly crucial to monitor and adapt to these kinds of external variables. B2B brands not only have to be conscious of the needs of their own buyers, also understand their clients’ end-customers. Moreover, they must constantly remain mindful of how economic and social changes affect their clients’ business needs and, subsequently, the services in which they invest.

That knowledge, combined with flexible and agile business practices, allows companies to rapidly adjust their strategies to align with emerging and evolving challenges in even the most disruptive climates. It was through that lens that we developed our annual trends report, The Top 5 Trends Disrupting B2B Business in 2022. 

 

The 2022 B2B Trends: Supply Chain Disruption, Evolving Customer Needs, and More

My team and I are privileged to work with a diverse range of client businesses, brands, and end customers. Our work with you allows us unique and meaningful access to a variety of perspectives on the foremost B2B priorities and challenges. Above all, though, it allows us to develop data-driven insights to help companies meet their challenges and climb their own Mount Kilimanjaro head-on. 

This year, we analyzed the most significant challenges our current and future clients are facing and the approaches they are taking to strengthen their brands, mitigate risk, and capitalize on new opportunities. After a thorough evaluation — and validating our conclusions with secondary research — we identified the following trends shaping B2B organizations in 2022:    

  • Supply chain challenges and labor shortages will put a focus on agility.
    Between the strains of long-term supply chain disruptions, labor shortages, and inflation, companies are at risk of widespread customer dissatisfaction. To ensure high-quality customer experiences and drive loyalty, they’ll have to embrace new agile approaches that allow them to quickly pivot in the face of disruption.  
     
  • Companies will lean heavily on customer data and feedback to secure their loyalty. 
    With the pandemic forcing a shift in customer behavior and priorities, businesses are recognizing the role that data-driven approaches can play in driving meaningful, relevant conversations. To leverage this opportunity, businesses will need to upgrade their customer data capabilities to quickly collect and adapt to client preferences.  
     
  • Businesses will manage market risk by focusing on core markets 
    The willingness of customers to switch brands — combined with a host of economic uncertainty and business challenges — will prompts businesses to focus more on customer retention and their primary markets, instead of taking growth-oriented but speculative risks.
     
  • Businesses will need to balance growth and risk aversion.  
    While organic growth investments are fraught with risk, M&A activity is thriving. But in a more risk-averse climate, organizations looking to expand will need to make a case that they can protect their core business from unexpected risks and exposures by investigating potential investments more carefully than ever.
     
  • B2B companies will embrace omnichannel strategies that align with customer needs.  
    As customers choose to interact with companies using a variety of platforms and in a variety of formats, companies will need to adapt their sales and marketing approaches to support a hybrid strategy that provides customers with a seamless purchasing experience across all channels. 

Developing Agile, Data-backed Strategies 

Tracking trends — and anticipating the impact they may have on your business — is particularly important during a time of global uncertainty, with health and economic challenges continuing to affect both personal activity and business operations. Should you want some insight into how to tackle your own Mount Kilimanjaro with research support, Hanover’s “Top Five Trends Disrupting B2B Businesses in 2022” report aims to help you prepare for those trends by providing data-driven insights and analyses, along with actionable takeaways that you can apply to your own business strategies. 

If the pandemic has taught us anything, it’s that the face of business can change — significantly and permanently — with little to no warning. Yet we’ve also seen that companies can overcome these challenges when they have access to accurate, actionable data and agile strategies designed to withstand external pressures and avert risk, even as it evolves. 

I’m here with my crew of savvy research professionals who live to solve tough problems. As my colleague, and other half at Hanover says, “If it’s difficult, it’s probably worth doing”. When you need an extra hand to provide some insights prior to taking the next step in your unwieldy climb, we are here for you.

For deeper insight into the top trends affecting B2B companies—along with strategies and tactics to mitigate risk and unlock opportunitiesdownload our latest report Top Five Trends Disrupting B2B Businesses in 2022.  

-Katie Turcotte,  Managing Director, Corporate Client Services

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