Renowned B2B expert Andy Hoar, a former VP and Principal analyst at Forrester Research and the founder of Paradigm B2B, which organizes one of the industry’s most influential and fastest-growing events, B2B Next headlined a recent Collaborative Commerce Talk where he shared his always thought-provoking insights and predictions on B2B commerce.
Below are select highlights and takeaways from their conversation.
5 Stages of the Digital Journey
How does a business know where they are in their digital journey? (With a nod to ecommerce expert, advisor, and author Brian Beck.)
- No Digital Presence – aka “stage 1”. There are still a surprising number of manufacturers and distributors who are either reluctant or unsure of how to begin their digital journeys. For their own survival, this will have to change.
- Digital Experiences – The first step is to create digital assets, most often a website, which enables customers and internal teams (e.g. sales) to better engage with the brand and its offerings.
- Online Transaction-Enabled – This can be selling through 3rd party distributors or marketplaces or directly through owned digital commerce channels. Enabling customers to take a self-directed approach to purchasing opens up a new world of opportunities for sellers.
- Aligned Selling Channels (omnichannel) – With the understanding that digital channels impact virtually all other sales channels, digitally aligned companies provide their customers with an array of online and offline purchasing scenarios to maximize their reach, enable growth, and make the process of transacting as easy as possible.
- Digitally Transformed – These “post-digital” enterprises are companies that have already recalibrated their business on digital. They have fully committed to the idea and have actually made the changes to their processes, their people, and the technology infrastructure to enable continuous evolution of their digital practices.
Market Makers & Market Takers
There are two kinds of players in the B2B world: Market Makers and Market Takers. The key is to identify which kind your organization is (and it’s possible to be both) and build your strategy accordingly.
Market Makers, which encompass both enterprise distributors and manufacturers, have the scale and brand recognition to entice others in their vertical to join them. This has led to compelling marketplace offerings that complement and augment their already strong digital commerce offerings.
Market Takers may not have the scale to create broad marketplaces, but there are use cases for niche marketplaces to supplement ecommerce initiatives. In a “commerce anywhere” world, Market Takers must be opportunistic and participate in industry marketplaces, and even broader marketplaces like Amazon and Alibaba, to be wherever their customers are.
Monolith vs. Microservices
When it comes to building a performant, scalable tech stack, the days of the monolith are very clearly over. It is really a microservices-based architecture environment (i.e. headless commerce) going forward. However, do not confuse monoliths and microservices with a best-of-suite or best-of-breed approach. For certain environments, particularly companies that are less digitally mature and have fewer resources, a best-of-suite arrangement is still actually recommended. Larger organizations, with the resources to leverage microservices-based architecture, are migrating toward a best-of-breed approach because of the ability to plug-in or swap out leading-edge solutions based on business needs.
5 Keys to Creating Differentiated Digital Experiences
- Digital experiences must be Frictionless. For instance, for every 1 second increase in page load time, conversions fall by about 7%. If you’re creating a differentiated digital-first experience, you better make sure it’s fast and you better make sure that it delivers. Otherwise, alternatives are just one click away.
- The experience must be Personalized. The technology infrastructure must deliver an experience that anticipates people’s behavior, treats them as a known entity (e.g. leveraging purchase history), and delivers an experience accordingly.
- Channel-Agnostic experiences are the expectation. Brands must do business wherever their customers are, across online and offline channels. Every added channel increases operational complexity, but that’s the cost of doing business in the commerce everywhere world in which we live.
- Differentiated digital experiences are Transparent. This means pricing transparency and availability transparency are the expectation across customer types. This is putting particular emphasis on product PIM capabilities and CMS capabilities and making sure those systems are integrated with the ecommerce platform.
- We live in a world now where people are time-pressed. They want one-stop shopping. This means buying experiences must be Convenient. You can be really good at a particular area and very deep, or you can be very broad across a horizontal opportunity. Either way, you’re going to have to deliver a convenient solution. When building the experience however, don’t just try and recreate offline experiences online. That is a surefire way to fail.
Ready to dive deeper? Access the full virtual event, The road ahead: B2B commerce predictions with Andy Hoar.
Access a downloadable version of B2B Predictions with Andy Hoar.