Business-to-business (B2B) e-commerce has revolutionized how companies buy and sell products and trade with one another. Companies around the globe conducted $14.9 trillion in B2B transactions last year--five times that of the business-to-consumer (B2C) market. According to Statista.com's "In-depth Research Report: B2B e-Commerce 2021," not only are business buyers open to e-commerce, two-thirds now rely on digital and remote channels throughout their purchasing journey.
Today, about half (47 percent) of U.S. SMB transactions are now via e-commerce--this is an increase of 12 percentage points since December 2019 and 4 percentage points since September 2020, according to the Alibaba.com U.S. SMB Survey conducted in December 2021. These digitalized businesses are more likely to report increased sales and cross border trade than their offline counterparts.
The Alibaba.com Trending NEXT Top 50 Product List for 2022 reveals best-selling and new products from the Alibaba.com platform. In examining the data, four megatrends were evident. In fact, new products are added in these four product categories, on average, at least five times faster than other product categories. On Alibaba.com, these trending products are drawing double the buyer interest of other products. That may spell opportunity for your business.
Megatrend 1: Sustainable products
From electric scooters and bikes, to "green" single-use products like sugarcane straws, the sustainable product category is growing faster than any other. The number of executives who view corporate sustainability goals as "very important" more than doubled in just two years (63 percent vs. 25 percent), according to research from EcoVadis, which provides business sustainability ratings. On Alibaba.com, new products were added to this category at six times the rate of other categories, on average.
Sustainability isn't simply good for the environment--it's good for business. Shopify finds that 77 percent of consumers are concerned about the environmental impact of the products they buy. Additionally, cost-saving is also driving more sustainable designs. "Because of the rising costs of overseas shipping, many products are now designed to be foldable and easy to fit in smaller packaging to be more suitable for air transport. Both buyers and sellers are thinking of using eco-friendly packaging materials." says Allen Qin, an industry operations senior expert at Alibaba.com.
To help buyers and sellers find sustainable product choices, Alibaba.com is rolling out a new Green Certificate program during March Expo, its annual global trade event.
"We are rolling out the Green Certificate Program at March Expo 2022 to showcase products which have global and regional eco or green certificates" says Minie Shi, lead of the renewable energy product category at Alibaba.com.
Megatrend 2: Smart products
Smart products--products that are linked to the internet and can share information, which are also called the "internet of things," or IoT--are another fast-growing category. On Alibaba.com, this category includes vehicle parts and accessories, no-touch appliances for public places such as automatic water taps, and smart home solutions from adjustable beds to adjustable desks. Newly listed smart products on Alibaba.com have 70 percent more orders than other products on average over the past three months.
The smart category also includes fast-growing gaming products. The pandemic accelerated gaming's growth, and so does the "booming metaverse"" says Ivan Zou, director of category management, 3C products, Alibaba.com.
"Gaming devices and gadgets are on the rise because gaming has become a way of releasing pressure, especially with people spending more time indoors since the dawn of the pandemic," Zou says. This comfort with technology is also sparking interest in wearables that monitor biometrics and sleep.
Megatrend 3: Health products
Even before the pandemic, interest in health-related products was booming. Health products newly listed on Alibaba.com in the past three months had 2.5 times more orders, on average, than other products. Health-related products, such as yoga mats, are seeing sales growth of more than 30 percent in the past three months.
"As fitness begins taking place in ever more locations, we see major growth opportunities coming in the field of personal training and coaching, both virtual and in-person," says Garrett Law, chief strategy officer at Attention Span Media, an innovation agency.
"Artificial intelligence infused with behavioral awareness is a key aspect of creating responsive and effective personal training systems like Tonal, Mirror, and a bevy of smartphone trainer apps," he says.
Health and sustainability megatrends overlap in the growing demand for organic beauty and health products. "Demand for organic sourcing is a trendline that will only get steeper over coming years, outpacing supply. To fill the supply gap, distributors will need to create or find new sources for organic [products]," Law says.
The pandemic inspired a focus on well-being at home. Products on Alibaba.com's top B2B e-commerce products list include simple pleasures, like puzzles and toys, and items that make living spaces more serene.
Megatrend 4: Lifestyle products
Business demand for lifestyle products on Alibaba.com is trending up. Social shopping forces like IG (Instagram) are key growth drivers, with companies purchasing jewelry, sunglasses, beach hats, and more, inspired by the social media platform. Lifestyle category products newly listed on Alibaba.com in the past three months have approximately 2.3 times more orders than other products, on average.
Alex Ouyang, who leads the apparel category for Alibaba.com, says customization is an area to watch.
"Fast fashion now becomes real-time fashion--that means flexible customization or flexible manufacturing capabilities that could also cater to a retailer's need for efficient logistics and smarter inventory solutions."
Indicative of a global trend--increased interest in the "great outdoors"--spending on sports equipment increased in many markets during the pandemic, including the U.S. On Alibaba.com, this "call of the wild" subcategory includes kayaks, hiking backpacks, and waterproof earbuds.
Another growth area--and trend convergence--is smart cleaning devices, such as a two-in-one vacuum and mop. Spending more time at home has prompted greater investment in time-saving tools that keep living spaces tidy.
Lifestyle, health, smart, and sustainability are critical B2B e-commerce growth areas that represent opportunities for business buyers and sellers alike. Be sure to check out the full Trending NEXT Top 50 product list for more insights.
To discover winning products and spot the latest trends to grow your business, go to March Expo.