When the whole nation is gearing up to “Go Digital”, the B2B eCommerce industry is largely going Digital
For a number of years now, the predicted growth of B2B eCommerce has been a key trend among major industry strategists, much like well-trodden topics such as Mobile Commerce and Big Data. Unlike these trends however, B2B eCommerce still remains in a relatively dwarf space, and successful adoption continues to lag behind B2C players, where consumers have long now expected a consistent experience across all touch points and devices.
We see digital early-adopter companies like Kobster from 2012 making huge innovations in the B2B space, by introducing technology-driven and market-differentiating capabilities to their offering(s). Kobster succeeds by leveraging best practices from their B2C counterparts, including responsive design, omni-channel pricing consistency by updating prices with immediate effect and business process simplification. However, other B2B players, particularly smaller-sized businesses, continue to remain behind the curve in both eCommerce and digital adoption in general.
Why is this digital “revolution” very important?
From the perspective of Kobster, as learnt, there are three primary reasons causing this:
- Tangled and Company-Peculiar B2B Business Methods
B2B buyers come in all different shapes and sizes- the scale, range and frequency of customer purchases can vary hugely within a single B2B organisation. As a result, B2B systems need a complex pricing model which can apply pricing at account level during the early stages of a contract signing. These need to accommodate price fluctuation, customer-specific pricing and quantity-based (bulk) discounts. If you then add the need to offer flexible, quotation-based pricing to customers, it is daunting for an organisation to entrust pricing solely to an eCommerce platform, and decrease reliance on person-to-person communication when applying discounts.
A Legacy called “Kobster Elite”
eProcurement systems like Kobster Elite typically involves the use of point-to-point connection between buyer and the seller through electronic data interchange, which do not lack the flexibility to scale, adapt and update alongside the shifting demands of the industry. This renders Kobster Elite successfully serve to, and be compatible with, software upgrades or enhancements by another member of the supply chain (courier partners) or members of their customer base.
Client Relationships that are entrusted, completely.
The ‘typical’ B2C customer journey does not apply in the realm of B2B buying and selling. B2B business relationships include purchasing permissions (approvals), contractual obligations and price quotations, all of which often require a need for real human expertise as part of the buying process. Again, it is challenging for B2B businesses to imagine a landscape where this complexity is integrated seamlessly into the eCommerce experience and it is easily achieved through the eProcurement tool- Kobster Elite.
- Internal “Digital vs. Non-Digital” Conflict
The Value of face to face business conversations
Despite the relative growth of B2B eCommerce, many sales are still made face-to-face between a buyer and sales representative, and completed via paper invoice and fax. This limits sales to within business-hours, and reorders then become a cumbersome task of filling out and faxing, or scanning and emailing, order forms or contract forms.
Nevertheless Kobster Elite gives it’s clients a freeway pass of talking to a sales representative, is seen as a value added experience, and their knowledge is a crucial asset for customer relations. It’s difficult to standardize such a human heavy process, and even more difficult for such a process to exist in harmony with a more automated eCommerce experience. This understanding of human values is another added advantage of Kobster.
The ‘Catalogue’ Mentality
Many B2B websites have emerged from a reactive desire for companies to get their catalogue online to remain competitive, rather than a long-term strategy for eCommerce growth. But the product hierarchies and onsite search of www.Kobster.com is fully equipped to deal with the ever-increasing product ranges required to remain relevant in the modern B2B market.
B2B organisations can become stuck in a ‘Catalogue Mentality’, where limited, paper-based information is supplemented with human expertise to achieve a sale. B2B eCommerce experiences have often failed to provide the rich site content needed to “hold its own” in a purchasing decision. The online catalogue of Kobster is the most relevant thing that a Business Buyer can find online today and Kobster is not stuck with the “Catalogue Mentality”.
Companies who have developed from non-eCommerce based models to becoming an online business, have often struggled to merge their growing ‘Digital’ function with more traditional areas such as Marketing, Sales and IT. To achieve eCommerce success, businesses need to merge these areas towards the common goal of creating a seamless, omni-channel experience. Kobster started off to be a B2B eCommerce based firm from the start and it strives to merge every single department i.e Marketing, Sales, IT and Operations with a common goal of creating an Omni-channel experience to the user.
- Attracting New Customer Segments
B2C seizing B2B Opportunities
As well as their traditional adversaries, B2B companies such as Kobster are now competing against massive online marketplaces, such as Amazon, Alibaba and Ebay, who are hijacking the B2B commerce. B2B relationships are moving from a one-to-many to a many-to-many model, the average B2B customer will conduct 12 searches via a search engine before even engaging with a specific brand’s site. Companies who have already mastered SEO as part of B2C commerce are much better placed, from a technology perspective, to adapt to the needs of a B2B customer base. Since Kobster has always had it’s priorities right with SEO, the website ranks much higher in the search results and it is continuing to grow as fast as the massive online Marketplaces.
Overcoming these challenges requires transformational business change, across process redesign, technology implementation and perhaps the most challenging: the culture of the organisation as a whole. Thriving in a B2B eCommerce platform requires a strategic commitment to eCommerce as fundamental part of the business, rather than just a supplementary revenue channel which has been the case with Kobster ever since 2012.