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This Week in B2B Innovation: Globalization, Digitization and Better Payments 

B2B innovation

The B2B landscape is built atop a foundation of innovation designed to meet business needs.

And with the news that U.S. corporate bankruptcies have reached their highest level since April 2023, there are a lot of business needs out there in the marketplace to inspire innovation.

Particularly as commercial customer expectations evolve in the digital age, B2B firms must stay attuned to shifting preferences and behaviors by developing solutions that solve for ongoing challenges.

Against today’s backdrop, many of challenges that businesses currently face are around driving healthy growth while maintaining sustainable profitability, in large part by cutting costs and leveraging technology to capture new efficiencies.

That’s why PYMNTS doesn’t take a break when it comes to tracking the latest advances shaping the B2B landscape. The top themes we heard this week were around capturing growth from the ongoing digitization of the B2B space; the rise of cross-border solutions designed to make global B2B payments easier, more secure and increasingly streamlined; as well as the ongoing march of virtual cards as a key B2B payment mechanism.

Once Businesses Go Digital, They Don’t Go Back

An increasing reliance on digital technologies is reshaping the B2B space, particularly as businesses are pivoting toward faster and digital B2B payment options.

As detailed in two reports by Federal Reserve Financial Services, last year saw a 31% increase in digital wallet use by businesses. And this week, PYMNTS Intelligence noted that various verticals are being transformed by instant payments, including the restaurant industry; 74% of businesses surveyed sent instant payments in the last year. Moreover, 40% identify an instant option as their most used form of payment.

The rising tide of digitization is also creating new opportunities for working capital innovation globally, particularly in regions like the Asia-Pacific (APAC).

“In a lot of emerging economies, [we are seeing] a leapfrogging of technology and digital-first solutions, and it’s this corporate segment that tends to drive a lot of the growth in digital economization — they need that working capital to invest,” Chavi Jafa, head of commercial and money movement solutions, Asia Pacific, at Visa, told PYMNTS on Tuesday (May 14).

Emphasizing the rising tide of B2B digital solutions out there for businesses, PYMNTS unpacked what the enterprise-focused products announced at Google’s Tuesday I/O conference mean for the integration of artificial intelligence (AI) and traditional business processes. Google’s product launches come as Meta Platforms will be phasing out Workplace, its office collaboration tool, over the next two years. Workplace was designed for work interactions and aimed to compete with Slack and other workplace productivity tools.

Elsewhere on the cutting edge of B2B digital transformation, PYMNTS dug into how, against a backdrop where consumer-facing autonomy companies are facing federal scrutiny for the safety practices and marketing claims of their self-driving vehicles, the B2B space is emerging as a potentially safer and more regimented sandbox to experiment within.

B2B trucking typically involves transporting goods between fixed locations, such as distribution centers, warehouses and manufacturing facilities. These routes are often well-defined and relatively predictable, making them ideal candidates for autonomous vehicles, which excel in environments with clear parameters. Even so, the technology is still currently in the experimental stages.

Read moreThis Week in B2B: Lending Innovations, AI and Digital Payments

Capturing Cross-Border Growth

Globalization of the B2B landscape has also put a spotlight on the need to streamline cross-border payments.

The marketplace is responding. TransNetwork on Wednesday (May 15) acquired Inswitch to accelerate the development of its digital product suite for cross-border payments in Latin America. Also on Wednesday, Block-owned TBD and African FinTech Chipper Cash partnered to facilitate B2C and B2B cross-border payments across 40 African countries.

Elsewhere, Tassat Group and Glasstower Digital partnered on Thursday (May 16) to facilitate cross-border digital B2B payments. Their collaboration aims to provide multinational corporate institutions with secure, immediate and cost-effective solutions for cross-border transactions.

PYMNTS on Thursday dug into why the benefits of the upcoming migration to ISO 20022 messaging standards will have a particularly acute impact across both cross-border and B2B payments, exploring how integration of ISO 20022’s data capabilities with machine learning and AI innovations can provide include enhanced data quality, fraud detection, cash flow management, customer experiences, regulatory compliance, decision-making, business insights, interoperability and scalability.

Read more: AP Automation and Virtual Cards Shine This Week in B2B

Virtual Cards Keep Growing and Other Market Moves

Virtual cards are a growing presence in B2B, and one that PYMNTS has long been keeping an eye on.

This week was no different, with the news that Worldline has partnered with Visa to launch a virtual card issuing solution focused on the online travel agency (OTA) market. With access to this dedicated B2B virtual card program, OTAs will be able to pay suppliers more quickly and securely, the companies said Tuesday.

A day earlier, Expensify on Monday (May 13) added unlimited virtual cards to its spend management platform.

This, as Home Depot’s earnings call on Tuesday showed that the world’s largest home improvement retailer is determined to focus more on building its business with professionals.

Elsewhere, last Friday, business management software provider the Access Group agreed to acquire accounts payable (AP) automation provider Lightyear.

And Fifth Third Bank on Tuesday announced it was working with business payments provider Bottomline to offer new payment options, debuting new solutions designed to help B2B customers streamline their payment processes and enhance cash flow management and efficiencies.

For all PYMNTS B2B coverage, subscribe to the daily B2B Newsletter.