There were some significant changes in B2B transactions throughout 2016. In keeping with the demand for faster payments, ACH payments got quicker, mobile commerce gained in popularity, and contactless payments and mobile wallets continued to gain their share of the market.

2016 was also a year where newer, more exciting technologies were never far from the headlines, with blockchain and its potential for the financial sector making further advances. But what trends are likely to be newsworthy in the payments industry in 2017? Here’s a look ahead.

B2B & Global Markets

By 2020, online B2B transactions are predicted to be worth $1.3 trillion in the United States alone, with the drug and pharmaceutical industries performing particularly well. Forrester Research predicts machinery, motor vehicles/parts and electrical/electronic products will start to perform well, but these won’t be the only growth areas, and in the more immediate future, global markets are set for expansion.

Richard Gilbert of Payoneer told PYMNTS.com that in 2017 the majority of B2B companies plan to seek out new international customers and there is also likely to be more opportunities to reaching out to emerging markets.

As Gilbert explains, international expansion has become easier in recent years, and companies are looking further afield to China and India etc. for more opportunities. And it has become far easier to cater for overseas customers.

Companies can make international buyers feel more at ease by ensuring that their website speaks their language, and by accepting multiple currencies for greater transparency when taking transactions.

More Advances in Blockchain

Of all the innovations in the payments industry, blockchain is one of the most talked about. It was frequently in the news throughout 2016 with numerous financial institutions filing patents, conducting research, or further announcing their commitment to blockchain technology as a future solution for faster, more secure transactions. 2017 seems already set for another year of innovations in blockchain.

Working in conjunction with China, Visa is planning to launch a pilot of B2B Connect among financial institutions. On announcing its decision Visa stated: “While evaluating the best use cases for our clients and their customers, we realized that one of the biggest opportunities is in corporate international business-to-business payments.”

In its banking and security key trends report for 2017, Deloitte feels that banks will further explore blockchain and predicts “blockchain working groups between leading banks will likely ramp up to test trading.”

In the future, blockchain could also change the way B2B businesses work, and companies in this sector seem prepared to embrace it. Deloitte says B2B manufacturers are planning to invest a significant amount in blockchain throughout 2017, and a considerable proportion plan to file blockchain patents in the next year.

For its part, Deloitte has launched a ‘blockchain playground,’ but it will be some time before we see what it means for the future of the financial industry and payment processing.

Mobile Transactions Rise

With smartphone use increasing, mobile transactions are also likely to be another growth area for both researching products prior to buying, and for purchasing.

Mobile shopping offers advantages in the form of greater efficiency and allowing consumers to shop on the go, and overall mobile transactions are set to be worth $1 trillion by 2019.

However, it is not just regular consumers who are taking advantage of mobile technology. In 2015, 42 percent of B2B researchers turned to mobile to help them make purchasing decisions. Given the move towards mobile, your B2B website needs to be optimized for mobile search so it can be found easily, and your website should be set up for payments.

Flexible Payment Options & Acceptance

As B2B commerce becomes more competitive, companies need to be more flexible in the types of payments they’ll accept.

Research shows that 37 percent of entrepreneurs still use checks. However, electronic payments aren’t far behind at 35 percent, and 36 percent of those interviewed are planning on implementing electronic payments at some point.

In addition, most business owners interviewed were aware of the benefits e-payments offer, and the more company owners realize the benefits, the more important it is that your B2B platform is equipped to accept electronic payments.

This might include credit cards via a payment gateway or eChecks, and if you deal with high volumes of B2B transactions you’ll need to work with a company who can offer level 2 and level 3 processing for reduced processing rates.

2017 Sales Trends

If you want to know which techniques to use to potentially gain more sales in 2017, there are several predictions that are already standing out: social media, sales funnels and content marketing.

Although social media has been a vital part of building a brand and customer relationships for a while now, in 2017 it is thought B2B companies will be moving towards interactivity and video content and sharing it on social media to drive sales.

Research shows just how powerful videos can be for increasing sales. However, social media content usage should also be more targeted and relevant to your audience as many analysts expect personalization to be increasingly important to B2B marketing throughout 2017.

Content marketing will also be crucial to B2B success in the next year; white papers, press releases, infographics, blogs, newsletters and video content are just some of the ways that B2B businesses can use to reach their audience, with whitepapers being the most shareable, according to Curata.

In addition, Kristen Buzzaird predicts that the use of sales funnels among B2B companies is likely to become more common. As Buzzaird explains, sales funnel leads are qualified and cost effective, and provide an excellent return on investment.

Conclusion:

Throughout 2017, the way B2B buyers purchase is likely to continue to evolve. B2B merchants need to be able to respond to these changes and they’ll need to offer a wider range of payment options, accept a variety of currencies and cater for mobile customers by providing a seamless mobile experience.

However, it will also be important to use the right marketing channels to reach out to customers, and trends for 2017 so far indicate that social media, sales funnels and content marketing will be among the most effective means.

David Anderson

Founder and CEO of Preferred Payments. Financial guru and advocate for transparency in the merchant provider space.