February 6 by Omer Minkara
We’re living in the golden age of business. Rapid innovation and the resulting technologies have fundamentally changed the dynamics of eCommerce, and business-to-business (B2B) eCommerce is no exception.
Before we delve into the state of B2B eCommerce today and the impact of technology on it, let’s first define the term. B2B eCommerce refers to commercial transactions taking place between businesses on digital platforms. These transactions include, but are not limited to, the sale of raw materials and semi-finished products as well as the final sale of products to wholesalers and retailers.
Top B2B E-Commerce Challenges in 2017
Aberdeen Group surveyed numerous businesses over the course of the past year regarding their eCommerce activities. We found that the challenges facing B2B eCommerce firms differ from those facing their business-to-consumer (B2C) counterparts. When asked to rank their top challenges, here’s how executives responded:
B2B E-Commerce Firms
Rapid growth in use of digital channels has complicated how we sell, market, and service our products. (47%)
Struggle to grow market-share for our products. (29%)
Attracting and retaining the top talent needed to manage an increasingly complex customer experience ecosystem. (27%)
B2C E-Commerce Firms
We struggle to ensure consistency and personalization in shopper interactions. (37%)
Struggle to find and interact with the right buyers. (30%)
Attracting and retaining the top talent needed to execute our shopper experience strategies. (28%)
The findings in the above table show the percentage of respondents in both B2B and B2C categories who rank the stated challenge as a primary hurdle. A closer look reveals that B2C firms are farther along the operational maturity curve. That is, while B2C firms focus on personalizing consumer conversations and ensuring that they remain consistent across all channels, B2B firms still struggle with the implications of the digital transformation affecting their businesses.
The intense and ongoing proliferation of channels and technologies today has changed the nature of B2B eCommerce interactions. As a result, it has become more difficult for businesses selling to businesses to keep up with the needs of contemporary business buyers. Furthermore, even when companies begin to leverage newer technologies, they struggle to ensure that those technologies are seamlessly integrated with established systems such as ERP, order management, and CRM. Such integration, however, is critical when it comes to maintaining a unified view of customer data – a foundational element of B2B eCommerce success.
Given the complexity involved in B2B eCommerce, where companies often have to work with multiple distribution and logistics partners, maintaining consistency in pricing and ensuring a consistent brand experience across multiple channels is a constant struggle. It’s thus no wonder that B2B firms find the digital transformation challenging.
B2B E-Commerce in the Cloud as a Solution
The good news is that companies have options to alleviate these challenges, especially challenges associated with technical infrastructure and integration.
Specifically, cloud solutions allow B2B firms to more easily implement and use new technologies. Traditional technology deployments required companies to buy software and hardware, host it all on premises, and dedicate IT resources to its implementation and maintenance. Cloud technology, including the use of the public cloud and cloud-based software solutions, allows firms to avoid such costs. As a result, companies can add capabilities and scale IT resources as needed to meet demand.
Cloud technology allows companies to manage new channels and turn on new functionality in ways that are often integrated with core eCommerce systems, such as ERP and CRM. It thereby increases company agility and helps reduce complexity when navigating digital transformation.
Building a reliable and cost-effective technology infrastructure is only the beginning of the journey to success for B2B eCommerce firms. The next and most important step involves using the insights captured by enterprise systems – both those of the company and those of partners – to deliver omni-channel interactions. Read our related post to learn more on this topic.