Last updated: Lessons from the e-commerce frontline: The future is now

Lessons from the e-commerce frontline: The future is now


B2B e-commerce isn’t a trend, or something that’s happening in the future—B2B e-commerce is happening right now.

That’s the over-arching message from Game Plan 2014, and brands that aren’t prepared to change the way they do business to meet the new demands of a customer base that is deeply engaged in the digital world simply won’t survive. Sure, they might hang on for awhile, but eventually, like the dinosaurs, they will become extinct. From Erik Brynjolfsson, director of the MIT Initiative On The Digital Economy, to Robert Howl, e-commerce manager for Aviall, every session at the event hammered home that the future has arrived.

Customer engagement and the B2C habits of B2B buyers were at the top of the agenda, and success stories of brands that are learning to adapt to the disruption of the digital age came through loud and clear. Brand image, content marketing and omnichannel commerce are all trends that once were the realm of retail only, but bit by bit they are making their way to the B2B marketplace.

One of my favorite examples of this transformation came during a break, when I had the chance to chat with an attendee who shared a story about how his company ran a social media contest for electricians, capitalizing on the great pride this customer segment takes in the neatness of their wiring. Contestants entered by posting a photo of their best work on Facebook and were entered to win a prize. This is a fantastic way to use B2C tactics in an innovative way for a whole different audience, and over and over all attendees heard tales of success—and yes, also of failure—that created a pathway to a new way of doing business.

The B2B market offers an enormous opportunity to anyone willing to be a pioneer. Data shared by Andy Hoar, principal analyst and senior e-business analyst at Forrester, yielded four key findings:

  • High customer expectations are leading B2B firms to create rich, omnichannel experiences
  • A comprehensive omnichannel experience fosters customer loyalty
  • Brands that fail to adapt technology to support buyer needs will fall behind
  • Technology investments must be carefully aligned with process and organizational change

We will touch more on this data in future stories, but for now, here’s the takeaway: Fearing the change won’t stop it from coming. Instead, face the disruption head on, because from great upheaval often comes some of the greatest innovation and success. The time is now.

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