The Looming Disruption of B2B Marketplaces

The launch of AmazonSupply last April was touted by some industry experts as a win for B2B brands eager to claim their share of the online marketplace. According to Forrester research, many B2B brands are predicting that online commerce will soon comprise 50% of their total sales, and AmazonSupply offers a seemingly painless entry point for B2B firms making the leap to omni-channel commerce.

b2b-300The emergence of AmazonSupply is only the beginning of a larger trend in B2B commerce. Recently, Google entered the game with Google Shopping for Suppliers, a site dedicated to channeling relevant (and often paid) search to B2B buyers. With the B2B commerce market expected to reach $559 billion in sales in 2013, it’s clear that Amazon, Google and other players are set on disrupting B2B marketplaces with turnkey commerce solutions and selling opportunities.

But despite the apparent convenience and benefits these solutions offer, there are serious questions about whether or not they can provide the flexibility, functionality and independence B2B brands need to effectively compete in the digital space. For example, many B2B firms that leverage AmazonSupply will discover that their storefronts foster customer relationships with Amazon and not the brand itself.

So rather than relying on AmazonSupply or similar commerce opportunities, B2B sellers are incentivized to create their own commerce platforms as a way to forge independent connections with customers and prospects.

Building a B2B Commerce Platform
There’s a common misperception that building your own B2B commerce platform is more complicated than creating a storefront on AmazonSupply or other turnkey commerce site. But depending on the required scope and features, today’s technologies enable B2B brands to build highly functional and user-friendly commerce platforms with relatively little effort. The key is to ensure that your commerce technology incorporates several must-have capabilities.

Multichannel/Cross-Channel: Business buyers rely on a diverse range of devices for in-store and online shopping experiences. This means your platform will need to include rich, multichannel capabilities as well as cross-channel buying opportunities (e.g. online purchase/in-store pickup) and sophisticated mobile features including in-store promotions delivered to B2B shoppers’ mobile devices.

Single View of Content: Robust content management is a prerequisite for B2B commerce technology. Leading commerce platforms enable your business to create truly seamless customer experiences, delivering single views of products, customers and orders across all channels.

Global Readiness: Buyers do business in a global B2B marketplace. From the beginning, your commerce infrastructure needs to be built to support complex global business transactions, including the ability to handle multi-language, multi-currency and regional requirements.

Flexibility and Ease-of-Use: When you set out to build your own commerce platform, it’s important to focus on a commerce technology provider that offers flexible technology, flexible contract terms and flexible deployment models. As a growth-minded B2B brand, you should be looking for a provider that specializes in commerce and makes it easy to do business with them.

Many B2B companies are building their own commerce platforms because they recognize that business requirements are the driving force behind technology planning and commerce platform development. Instead of adapting business models to accommodate turnkey solutions, B2B brands are leveraging tailored B2B commerce platforms to deliver important advantages to their customers and their bottom lines.

Steven Kramer is American Executive Vice President of Sales at hybris Software.

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