The emergence of B2B
I definitely think it’s a great sign when the world’s largest eCommerce trade show, Internet Retailer Conference and Exhibition (IRCE 2013), dedicates a full session to the “emerging trend” of B2B eCommerce. For the last couple of years, every time I ventured around the Magento marquis event in Las Vegas, ImagineCommerce, I couldn’t help but feel like an outcast. It was B2C all day, everyday. Now that IRCE has a focus on B2B, maybe I can convince my friends at Magento to evolve their agenda as well.
So let’s take a deeper dive into the IRCE B2B agenda. To begin with, unfortunately, B2B isn’t at the beginning of the show. It’s on day two. But hey, I shouldn’t complain and be happy that it’s on the Agenda at all!
We start off with Andy Hoar’s much referenced “B2B is larger than B2C” story. (I was one of the many that referenced it when it first came out). I guess he is the conference’s B2B “fluffler”.
To summarize the “B2B” content that follows him for the rest of the day:
- How to use search terms to find new customers
- Since kids who use Facebook are our leaders of tomorrow, Social Networking is key to B2B
- Use the web to launch new products (although The Grommet (a Magento website) is really a B2C model)
- B2B is cross-border which has implications for currencies, payments, shipments, languages etc.
- The legal issues surrounding resale price discounting should be understood.
- B2B sellers are going direct to the consumer with B2C eCommerce.
That’s their agenda?
Of all the topics to cover, and practitioners in the world of B2B eCommerce, IRCE’s paraphrased messages are:
“B2B is big. B2C marketeers, you can bring your skills to the B2B party although, beware, there may be a few operational complexities in store for you.”
Based on the challenges that we’ve faced with our clients over the past several years, here are some of the topics that I know I would have loved seeing on the agenda. Who knows, maybe we’ll cover them in our upcoming series of user group meetings? 🙂
- What do you do with your existing B2B salesforce and CSRs when your B2B ecommerce website goes online?
- What’s the best way to support your larger customer’s in-house Purchase Requisitioning System?
- How do you create and support personalized catalogs and private Storefronts.
- Supporting the “other” B2B eCommerce business processes…Delivery Scheduling, Drop Shipping, Accounts Receivable, Warranty Returns, Sales Reporting.
- Transforming your B2B eCommerce website into an omniChannel Customer Services Portal for your fax/EDI customers.
- How do you handle the presentation of inventory in a true omniChannel world?
- What’s the best way to handle inventory and shipments across multiple warehouses?
- What are the best practices for managing and distributing content (product information) across a global Distributor/Dealer network?
- How do you manage promotions and discounts in a best of breed (SAP and Magento) eCommerce platform world?
After having written my proposed agenda, it dawns on me that the topics that our clients wrestle with on a daily basis are less about attracting new business than it is about better servicing their existing clients. In other words, for them, it’s less about using their B2B eCommerce website for marketing than it is for improving operations and customer services.
Maybe we need an Internet Retailer, or Magento, conference for people who care about making their existing customers happy as opposed to the existing agendas tailored towards those that are looking to find new ones?
Frankly, what I’ve learned from our clients is that if you make your existing customers happy, than the social networks will make it easy for new ones to find you. Which brings us right back to where we started. What does an interesting B2B eCommerce conference agenda look like? I don’t think it should be a B2C agenda respun for a B2B audience. They are different audiences.