There is no time like the present for B2B firms to begin making their eCommerce operations more intelligent. Thanks to monumental advancements in technology, especially over the past two decades, companies now have access to truly unprecedented levels of computing power. As a result, capabilities such as machine learning, which were largely visionary projects up until recently, are now starting to influence the success or failure of actual businesses.
So, what does machine learning mean for the future of B2B E-Commerce? More importantly, how should you plan for a world where machine learning exerts a real impact?
The first thing B2B firms should consider is incorporating machine learning into their current E-Commerce technology platforms. For example, B2B firms frequently rely on Quote-to-Cash platforms to automate the activities involved with creating quotes that lead to actual orders. In many cases, sales representatives own these activities throughout the Quote-to-Cash cycle. That is, despite automation, the seller largely remains in charge of the process.
Now, imagine a world where, instead of working directly with a sales representative, customers could work with a bot that guides them through the entire buying process.Bots are interactive services that provide a conversational experience for the end user – the conversational experience can be via text or voice. In so doing, bots have the potential to bring about a new and more streamlined user experience to the B2B E-Commerce process.
The Rise of Intelligent Agents
While completely eliminating sellers from the Quote-to-Cash process is highly unlikely, technology providers have already started offering capabilities that allow bots to manage parts of the Quote-to-Cash cycle. For example, customers can work with a bot, via text or voice, to configure a quote. The bot then recommends an ideal solution using insights gleaned through machine learning and prescribe a specific action aimed at completing the sale. This process frees up employee time, minimizes mistakes borne from manual processes, and maximizes sales opportunities. Bots supporting sellers in such a data-driven fashion are called “intelligent agents.”
The benefits of intelligent agents are many. They can monitor prices to determine the ideal discount rate to be reflected in each quote and generate quotes based on these insights. This helps with price optimization. If data from partner systems is well-integrated and accessible to B2B E-Commerce firms, intelligent agents can extend their capabilities to the partner ecosystem, identifying, for example, which incentives best produce desired partner behavior.
The future of B2B E-Commerce looks bright. But only for businesses that recognize the vital importance of using intelligent agents to automate their activities, reduce costs, and improve revenue. These companies are best positioned to truly transform their business with the help of technology.