Dozens of business leaders and technology partners were featured as part of B2B Next’s inaugural conference in Chicago to discuss the challenges and opportunity of the insurgence of digital commerce in the B2B space. Hundreds of brand manufacturers, wholesalers and distributors met to discuss the topic “Reinventing Business for a Digital-First Economy.” The conference emphasized that the time for traditional B2B brand manufacturers to digitize their buying journey is now, and is growing faster than anticipated. Check out our 5 takeaways from the conference below:
Marketplaces Will Dominate B2B Commerce
There are 5 things B2B Buyers expect: Selection, Value, Convenience, Trust, and Mobile. Opting into digital marketplaces like Alibaba, Amazon and JD.com provide brand manufacturers and distributors the chance to meet the expectations of the emerging B2B buyer by setting the standard for selection, merchandising, shipping and fulfilment, marketing, pricing and service. This eases the pressure on traditional brands to manage their own direct-to-consumer site in the early stages of digital commerce transformation.
Clean Up Your Data & Think about the End Users
For most brand manufacturers their products go through numerous supply chain channels, i.e. wholesalers and distributors, before reaching the end user. Data and content need to be tidy, accurate, and broken down for each channel to provide the full value to each end user. When you clean up your data and determine what the gaps are, brands who consider the end user will be the most successful, according to Apryl Erikson, VP of E-business & Customer Centricity at HID Global.
Traditional buying journeys and tactics are not going away today, or tomorrow but they are evolving and brand manufacturers need consistent and accurate product information across print, digital and physical sales channels. Digital-first goes beyond the need for a robust ecommerce presence: it means having easy to access product information and catalogs to equip sales reps and providing end user information to distributors. Some industries will continue to see buyers purchase offline --but only after researching online-- which means sales reps must be able to speak to the digital content experiences in a consistent manner.
Measuring the Impact of Online Research to Offline Sales is Possible
In 2013, Global industrial distributor Rexel, foresaw the changes in B2B buying and developed a digital marketplace of their own to fuel growth. They sought to measure the impact of online engagement with offline sales---the company saw a 8% year-over-year growth in Sweden (one of their primary markets for introducing ecommerce) in 2014 was driven by a 28% increase in sales from customers who purchased online and offline. Rexel found that for “every one euro a multichannel customer on the web, they spent an additional 4.1 euros offline” -- they targeted a few thousand German accounts to monitor online usage with offline sales to prove that Research Online, Purchase Offline (ROPO) was more than just correlation. Customer behavior across countries, and channels, indicated that if a user interacted online with Rexel, their offline purchases increased between 7% and 29% on average.
Brands Need a PIM
In order to work in the quick moving world of digital commerce--brand manufacturers need a centralized source of truth to manage the demands of buyers and the ability to deliver products to market in a fast but accurate manner. Implementing a PIM to work in tandem with an ERP allows brand manufacturers to take control of product information and data and deliver an optimized end user experience to each part of their value chain. Inflexible and rigid technology systems are not equipped to handle changing requirements and expectations.