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Future of B2B e-commerce

Cloud technology, machine-learning and intelligent agents are driving competitive advantages

Proliferation of digital channels is making it more difficult for businesses to keep up with the needs of contemporary business buyers. Even when companies begin to leverage new technologies, they struggle to ensure they are seamlessly integrated with existing enterprise systems, which is critical for maintaining a unified view of customer data – a foundational element of business-to-business (B2B) e-commerce success.

The good news is companies can overcome these challenges. Cloud solutions allow B2B firms to implement new technologies easily. Traditional technology requires companies to buy software and hardware, host it on-premise, and dedicate IT resources for implementation and maintenance. With cloud technology companies can minimise such costs, add new capabilities and scale resources on demand, increasing agility and reducing some of the complexities of digital transformation.

OMNICHANNEL B2B E-COMMERCE DRIVES GROWTH

Sixty per cent of B2B e-commerce firms use at least seven channels to sell, market and provide customer service for their products. This creates a maze of interactions that companies must master.

The path to success requires doing business the way customers want to do business, to meet and exceed their needs and expectations

When products and services are sold through multiple channels, a consistent buyer experience is critical. Pricing and promotion discrepancies across channels send a confused message to customers and can lead to lost sales. An omnichannel approach to ensure a consistent, personalised experience across all channels is an absolute necessity.

Findings from Aberdeen Group research reveal that B2B firms adopting an omnichannel approach to e-commerce enjoy 2.1 times greater year-over-year growth in annual revenue compared with those that don’t. These firms also see a 14.7 per cent annual increase in margins while increasing customer satisfaction by 15 per cent year over year.

B2B e-commerce firms must accept that company-centric ways of doing business no longer work. The path to success requires doing business the way customers want to do business, to meet and exceed their needs and expectations.

MACHINE-LEARNING: INJECTING INTELLIGENCE INTO B2B E-COMMERCE

Technology is an enabler, helping companies maximise efficiency across numerous areas through automation and finding “intelligent” ways to sell more products, increase market share and reduce costs. Now many B2B e-commerce firms are turning to machine-learning for such intelligence.

A system with machine-learning could automatically analyse thousands of proposals a company sent to prospects, determine which ended in wins and identify patterns common to success. Each new data point enhances the model, and the system can assess and improve proposals before they are submitted. B2B firms using machine-learning in this way on their e-commerce platforms can continuously improve performance.

Machine-learning capabilities can optimise online ordering of diverse products (hard goods, services and digital goods), selections from extensive catalogs, configure price quote (CPQ) functions for complex solutions, and reordering. The key is enabling the buyer to configure products to meet their precise needs, while also generating a price that is profitable for the seller and in line with the buyer’s budget.

INTELLIGENT AGENTS: THE FUTURE OF B2B E-COMMERCE?

Imagine a world where customers could work with a bot that guides them through the buying process. Bots are interactive services that provide a conversational experience via text or voice, introducing the potential for a new streamlined e-commerce experience.

While eliminating salespeople from the process entirely is unlikely, technology providers are experimenting with having bots manage parts of the buying process. Customers can work with a bot to compile or order and submit it for a quote. The bot then recommends an ideal solution using insights gleaned from machine-learning. This frees up employee time, minimises mistakes from manual processes and maximises sales opportunities. Bots supporting sellers and buyers in such a data-driven fashion are called “intelligent agents”.

The future looks bright with cloud technologies, machine-learning and intelligent agents helping B2B firms drive omnichannel e-commerce success.

For more information please visit apttus.com/e-commerce

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