Friday, May 14, 2010

Next-generation B2B e-Commerce: An Interview with Srini Rangaswamy


I recently had an opportunity to catch up with our lead B2B Product Manager, Srini Rangaswamy. Mr. Rangaswamy is responsible for driving Next-generation B2B e-Commerce and has helped many companies innovate their B2B experiences. I thought it would be worthwhile to pick Srini's brain on the latest trends and topics that are shaping the B2B space


How do you define "Next-generation B2B" and what makes it different from B2B eCommerce as the rest of us know it?

Next-generation B2B e-commerce is about delivering a streamlined, buyer-centric and engaging online experience that enables buyers to efficiently interact and transact with the brand and at the same time allows sellers to reduce administrative costs, increase sales, and improve brand loyalty.

But for many companies B2B e-commerce could simply mean online “order taking” using a web-based catalog। With the next-generation B2B e-commerce strategy these companies can employ retail-like online marketing and brand building techniques to transition their web channel from an “order taking” to “order making” solution।


What trends are shaping Next-generation B2B e-commerce?

Over the last decade, Business-to-Business (B2B) e-commerce has evolved dramatically from basic communication and transaction to the involvement of communities as part of the buying experience। There are three key trends shaping the B2B e-commerce। First, increasingly B2B companies want to deliver B2C-like rich and interactive shopping experience to ease the transition from phone/fax/e-mail to on-line channel.

  • According to the IBM Institute for Business Value 2009 Global CRM Leaders Study, “The path forward – New models for customer-focused leadership”, 47% of business leaders have increased focus on e-commerce and 46% are focused on developing effective digital customer experience.
  • Second, B2B companies are transforming from product-centric to buyer-centric marketing by delivering personalized campaigns and promotions. AMR International study on “Online B2B Marketing in the United States: Assessment and Forecast to 2010” reported that “Annual growth in US B2B online marketing spend is forecast at 8% in 2010 and is set to reach 14% by 2012”.
  • Third, B2B companies are rapidly adopting social media to generate leads and promote brand. Business.com’s 2009 B2B Social Media Benchmarking Study indicates 81% of B2B companies maintain company profiles on social media sites and 75% participate in microblogging.

What B2B Innovations are reshaping the market?

As businesses emerge from the economic downturn, B2B companies are innovating business model to open new channels and reach new markets. A good example of business model innovation is Mazda opening a new revenue stream by selling OEM accessories through dealers. Another example is JCWhitney.com selling automotive parts through marketplace at Sears.com. For strategies and practical guidance on business model innovation, I suggest IBM Institute for Business Value study on “Seizing the advantage: When and how to innovate your business model”


What are some common challenges that companies face as they deploy their B2B strategies?

It really depends on their online business maturity level. Companies that are just starting on the e-commerce journey might find it challenging to transition their customers from traditional phone/fax/e-mail to the online channel. One solution is to provide incentives, discounts, and training to motivate buyers to use online channel. For instance, one of our customers offer $50 discount on every 5th online order which helped to keep the momentum going.

Once the company crosses the online on-boarding phase the challenge would be to increase account penetration via cross/up-sells। The new Precision Marketing capability in WebSphere Commerce v7 will significantly help with this challenge by enabling businesses to build an ongoing dialog with the buyer by following their online behavior and profile information. For example, B2B companies can capitalize on triggers like contract expiry and inventory levels to offer targeted marketing promotions.


So what's in store for us? How has B2B spending weathered the economic downturn and are you seeing signs of recovery?

As the economy shows signs of recovery, B2B companies are investing to acquire new customers and strengthen existing relationship. AMR International study on “Online B2B Marketing in the United States: Assessment and Forecast to 2010” reported that businesses are allocating 38% of marketing budget for online lead generation (versus 34% for online and offline) and 34% for customer retention (versus 28% for online and offline). According to another report released by Outsell, “Spending on digital advertising and marketing will overtake print for the first time this year”। The report, “Marketing and Ad Spending Study 2010: Total US and B2B Advertising,” forecasts that marketers will spend $119.6 billion on digital strategies and $111.5 billion on print, which includes direct mail and newspaper and magazine ads.


So there is clear evidence that B2B companies are investing to take control of their digital future and the next-generation B2B e-commerce strategy is a good first step towards that mission।


For more of Srini's insights, visit his new blog at www.b2bsellside.com

5 comments:

WebXpress said...

Thanks for posting something about e-commerce.
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EJ said...

I think B2B model of multi-channel transactions need comprehensive channel sales strategy that include new technologies like partner portals in order to drive revenue.

Wes said...

Regarding your statement...."Companies that are just starting on the e-commerce journey might find it challenging to transition their customers from traditional phone/fax/e-mail to the online channel. One solution is to provide incentives, discounts, and training to motivate buyers to use online channel."

This is a great way to entice customers to use the online channel. I might suggest that the company enter every new online order into a drawing of some sort. Honestly, I think drawings are lame, but my customers really enjoy them. Just a thought.

-Wes
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Errol Denger -- Strategy Program Director for WebSphere Commerce said...

Wes, Great input and I whole-eartedly agree. Rewards shape all of our behaviors, the challenge is finding one that is economically feasible. Drawings are economically attractive, fun, and we naturally over estimate our odds of winning. Capitalizing on our addictions to gambling and wanting to increase our odds of winning (with every order entered) sounds like a great way to reshape behavior.

Thanks for sharing your best pratice!

-Errol

Aries TechSoft Pvt. Ltd. said...

Thanking you

I appreciate this valuable information.

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