B2B businesses have unique challenges in deploying new commerce systems. Often, they have created specialized information technology systems that support their unique business requirements and have endured several waves of technology. In adopting a new practice, it’s necessary to reach a consensus amongst stakeholders which usually generate internal debates, mulling over the incredible number of details that need to be addressed when considering any new enterprise venture. B2B e-commerce initiatives aren’t exempt.
A late 2013 survey of Australian B2B businesses conducted by Frost & Sullivan revealed that 90 percent of participants still hadn’t implemented an e-commerce system. Despite many of the study’s partakers stating an interest in pursuing the development and use of an online sales channel, most have yet to make a committed investment. Looking to the United States’ B2B e-commerce 2013 revenue forecast, Australian organizations should make it a business-critical priority; research and consulting firm Forrester projected this number to hit just under the $560 billion mark.
Citing concerns of compromising the integrity of existing buyer relationships, system integration challenges and the potential of having to lower price points, Australian business managers may be hesitant to move forward, but have the opportunity to gain a first mover advantage if they take action soon. Fortunately for these B2B organizations, the Game Plan B2B e-commerce Forum in Sydney, Australia is a few weeks away. Serious consideration needs to be given to each of the areas mentioned for a new B2B commerce initiative to succeed.
What about my buyers?
- While business and account managers may fear losing a personal relationship with clients, an e-commerce solution actually improves the customer experience. Buyers have around-the-clock and on-the-go access to product information, order histories and account management, making for more satisfied buyers and higher retention rates.
- Deciding to leverage an online sales channel demonstrates a commitment to progress, technology and growth.
- Simply because a B2B organization implements an online solution for buyers, that doesn’t necessarily mean it needs to or will sell direct to the retail market. While business requirements and goals will vary, management should focus on providing ease of use for clients, not competition. Many B2B businesses use e-commerce systems and can still find creative ways to avoid channel conflict and enable their partners and dealers to sell more.
What about my system integration points?
- Australian B2B organizations are perfectly positioned to succeed with regard to timing. Being slower to adopt the newest technology means Australian companies can benefit from the lessons learned in other regions and avoid many of the mistakes made by early adopters. Technology has vastly improved as well, with many solution providers now offering applications, mobile platforms and social strategy to B2B businesses.
- Plan. Take an organizational-wide approach which accounts for each system, every piece of technology and all possible scenarios that have affected sales historically. While time-consuming, this will ultimately save resources in the long run; by evaluating existing technology now, B2B managers will gain a better understanding of the systems they can continue to leverage.
- Find a solution integration partner with B2B e-commerce development expertise. Upon e-commerce platform evaluation, work with providers to find a partner with specific skillsets which align with the needs of the business.
What about my prices?
- Private-sale functionality allows B2B organizations to sell products to a specific client at the price it deems appropriate. With a username and password, buyers can be directed to pages which surface only the prices and items that they’ve been given permission to see.
- Bulk and reoccurring order discounts can allow B2B e-commerce companies to remain competitive. With all pricing information updated in real-time, account managers can easily make adjustments to individual orders when necessary.
- Customized content, which is shown to particular clients based on buying habits and order histories, can be displayed in a flash-sale type setting. Through highly personalized online interactions, average order values will increase, which may allow for the lowering of other product prices in the future.
While challenging, the risks are well worth the return. The time for B2B e-commerce in Australia is now; through a bit of research and considerable planning, every organization should be offering the online option to its clients and customers.
There may be some Australian B2B business managers who have already established a framework for the online goals they have, but need a better understanding of some of the unique intricacies of B2B e-commerce; these individuals are highly encouraged to register for the ICF Interactive B2B e-commerce Deep Dive. Hosted by ICF Interactive’s e-commerce experts, attendees can look forward to an intimate setting in Melbourne on Friday, April 11 to discuss, in detail, their challenges, goals and strategies.
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Arthur Lawida is the founder and CEO of ECA (recently acquired by ICF Interactive). His career has spanned over twenty years and several technology waves. From the first company he founded in 1989, Arthur has been focused on a single concept. Freeing business innovation from technology limitations.He has developed software businesses within both private and public companies.>