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Succeeding in B2B Commerce, From Start to Finish

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When Balance Internet’s vision of a B2B eCommerce digital transformation whitepaper went from 16 to 146 pages, you know acclimating to digital commerce isn’t going to be easy. In order for businesses to be successful digitally, several departments need a paradigm shift to occur. In a recent Adobe webinar, Brandon Spear, President sat down with Jeremy Krause, Global Retail Brands, Scott McLean, LSC, Merline McGrego, Practicology and James Horne, Balance Internet to talk about what B2B brands need to do to succeed in B2B Commerce. From IT and Operations to Marketing and Finance, every team in an organization will be tapped to provide the best customer experience.

Starting with IT systems. There are a vast number of systems within one organization, around 18 in fact, that then need to talk to each other, and evolve over time. A few key systems include ERP, PIM, marketing, CRM, order management tools. Keeping up with today’s B2B buyer demands also means many merchants are participating in multiple B2B marketplaces, which disperses information all over the place. It will be key to understand the architecture of all IT systems, individually and together.  

One often forgotten piece of the architecture is finance. James Horne, Balance Internet, “when we look at the backend [purchasing] design, there’s a lot of friction with forms and unique requirements that have historically been filled in with the help of ERP systems but now customers are saying that’s not good enough.” Brandon Spear, MSTS, addressed key trends in payments, security and the relationship with customers today. It’s often simple to offer credit card options to B2B buyers but it’s important to understand alternative methods those buyers prefer like paying on terms (trade credit). Particularly because of the size of transactions, these buyers require terms to process payments.  

Historically, it has been difficult to offer trade credit digitally but not anymore with solutions like CaaS. Scott McLean, LSC, agreed “options to buy now, pay later are a large part of the decision-making process.” There needs to be the option alongside credit cards because buyers are looking for ways to make it easier to buy. Provide B2B buyers choices at checkout because “there’s a pivot from brand loyalty to experience loyalty,” Spear included. “We’re first seeing it in our consumer lives with the likes of Amazon and now with our customers.” Flexibility and transparency are the new buzzwords in B2B. 

Digital transformation in payments doesn’t occur without a security risk though. Fraud and theft is still happening, especially as more and more relationships are being forged on digital channels. It’s even more important to monitor transactions and understand how to manage this online. 

With several moving parts, the panel also discussed how to handle operations. Merline McGrego, Practicology, answered questions on timing, who needs to be involved, how does it work with supply and demand as well as rolling out IT.  

There are a few key considerations around people and resources in company-wide transformations. “Organizational structure can be a bit of an afterthought; could be one person even in large organizations and they somehow need to figure out how to scale.” The Channel Manager is possibly the most important (new) role to be effective in B2B. They are generally a jack of all trades but if there isn’t a resource to fill that role, a cross-functional team is a good starting point. Also bear in mind the people needed to setup the strategy today, may not be the team you need tomorrow to execute. Build a 30-day, 60-day, 1 year and 3 year plan to handle agile strategies and watch what channels your product is moving. Merchants should also consider support from 3rd party consultants or outsourced resources to avoid straining internal resources unnecessarily.   

The panel closed addressing the economic climate due to COVID. It’s proving businesses need to move even faster at digital transformation and even pushing some through a “forced agility”. To move quickly you need to start by understanding your customer. Jeremy Krause, Global Retail Brands, stated understanding their user experience and customer experience separately, as well as segmenting customers, in order to cater to their unique experiences will make the digital journey enjoyable and your business successful. Consider their industry, the persona and the channel they’re most likely to interact with. Start with a story and feed simple bites of information to engage people.  

But segmenting your audience is important on all sides whether it’s marketing or the purchasing experience. In payments, customer purchase frequency and volume vary so understanding their needs and offering buyers options is important. Same for segmenting your marketing message, know where they’re buying and how they’re consuming your content.    

Listen to the entire recording for more information on Succeeding in B2B Commerce

Panelists: 

Jeremy KrauseChief Innovation & Disruption, Global Retail Brands 

Scott McleanMarketing Manager, LSC 

Merline McGregoGeneral Manager ANZ, Practicology 

James HorneManaging Director, Balance Internet 

Brandon SpearCEO, MSTS

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