E-Commerce in B2B Arena: The wheels are moving albeit slow
Most of us are familiar with B2C e-commerce sites such as Amazon, FlipKart, Dell etc. and have been using them for quite some time now. Thanks to such sites, people have become much more comfortable with the E-commerce platforms. Businesses are also not far behind and are demanding a better experience from their B2B e-commerce portals.
Of late we have seen a trend of e-commerce generating a lot of traction in the B2B arena where businesses are looking forward to create a user friendly commerce environment replete with the features a B2C site could boast of such as Social & Mobile commerce, Personalization, Multiple payment options, RIA etc. Today, B2B e-commerce spending represents more than 85% of total B2X e-commerce spending worldwide (IDC). Let us explore the possibilities.
Latest E-Commerce TrendsEarlier it was enough for a business to just set up a B2B e-commerce site but this is not a competitive advantage anymore. Business has to consider introducing functionalities and UI much similar to B2C (B2C space is quite mature and why shouldn't people have the same experience at office!). Owing to multiple practical advantages and trends emerging which are worth exploring there has risen an imminent need to look beyond the traditional. Some trends worth mentioning (Source Gartner):
- Business executives are seeking to grow revenue via e-commerce, Social (fan buttons- Like, Follow us etc., Purchasing directly through FB) and Mobile commerce channels (iPhone, iPad, Android etc.)
- Interest rising in the B2B commerce space
- Organizations of all sizes moving online
- The client desire for vast capabilities in a single vendor is driving more partnering agreements as there is a need to assemble all these capabilities to complete their online customer experience and integrate that experience with all customer channels
- Sales of Top 500 North American retailers grew by 18% to $150 billion in 2010
- Customer experience becoming a big factor.
- Ownership options are expanding- Build, License, Host, SaaS and Outsource.
- Vendors with open, web services based architecture favored
B2B E-commerce Standout points
1) Lower operating costs:
• The interactions between companies in the selling/purchasing process represent a big chunk of costs, which can be lowered with the help of e-commerce implementations, streamlined workflows and automated processes.
• These adaptations lead to reduction of back-office support personnel costs, elimination of repetitive tasks & reduction of communication costs.
2) Enhanced customer experience & retention:
• It is always tougher to acquire a new customer than to profitably service an existing one. This insight is leading organizations to provide a better customer experience and e-commerce can help big time here.
• E-commerce solutions help in providing better product information (PIM-Product information mgmt., Search capabilities & User generated content support), helps clients to customize specifications (CPQ- Configuration, Pricing & Quotations) and to make easy purchases. All this leads to a better experience & eventually retention.
3) Better managed product complexity:
• As the complexity and number of products increase, it leads to a need of better managed, accurate, consistent & up to date product information.
• A lack of comprehensible information or lack of it altogether leads to flawed orders & incorrect shipments.
• PIM can help business here in reducing errors and improving efficiency.
4) Better sales in product-related service:
• Opening up of markets has given rise to extreme competition. Also customer expectations are rising making it a necessity to have an efficient customer service.
• Manufacturers derive huge profits from product related services e.g. Color cartridges provide higher margins to manufacturers than the printers themselves.
• All this leads to a need for better analysis of customer behavior, cross selling, up selling, targeting etc. which can be fulfilled by implementing a well-integrated e-commerce solution.
5) Faster Entry in new markets with limited investments:
• SMBs always faced this challenge of entering new markets due to the high costs involved, but all this is a thing of past as now businesses of all sizes can explore new geographies & segments with comparatively lesser costs.
• It has to be made sure that the site is discovered by the target segments and here SEO (On-site & Off-site) comes into the play, many vendors offer this as an 'Out of the Box' feature or provide integrations with 3rd party tools to cater to this aspect.
• Additional features such as multi-language, multi-currency, localization, internationalization capabilities etc. help in providing a better Geographic coverage.
6) Faster time to market for new products:
• Today with ever shortening product lifecycles it becomes pertinent to have effective channels to introduce products swiftly.
• E-commerce solutions help in doing this thereby providing an edge over the competitors.
B2B E-Commerce maladies from the Past and the Way forward:
B2B e-commerce sites in the past have been characterized by Bad UX (If you have used a B2B e-commerce portal you know what I am talking about. User experience has never been big on the business's radar), Basic features (Most will employ only basic features; we cannot rely on such offerings anymore and as already mentioned there is a need for better experience.), No product information, Tedious navigation and similar maladies. It is time business sits up and takes the lead for a better commerce experience for all the stakeholders involved.
Business can take an inspiration from the B2C implementations and embrace a more efficient way which is need of the hour in this highly competitive, open and uncertain environment!