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B2B retailers are gaining by selling direct to their customers, but at a price

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Business-to-business retailers say the way they sell has changed enormously thanks to ecommerce, a new study has found. But while omnichannel is transforming the way that B2B operates, it also makes more demands on the supply chain.

The Intershop study, carried out by Vanson Bourne, questioned 400 European ecommerce decisionmakers about the way they sell to other businesses. It found that almost all (97%) organizations had felt the impact of change in their B2B channels.

Overall, respondents expect their organization’s digital platforms to grow by 13% in the next two years – a trend that is driving a parallel evolution of the e-commerce ecosystem from today’s web shop to a more complex and comprehensive customer engagement platform. Almost all (98%) respondents expect that their sector will benefit from the digitalisation of business, and the same proportion (98%) see opportunities in this. Almost all (99%) organisations participating in the study said their digital B2B channel had delivered one or more benefits, including the ability to sell to new customers (54%), the generation of more sales and sales-per-rep (46%), and the ability to deliver self-service tools that make it fast and easy for customers to access key information during or after the sales process (41%).

But most (91%) said they expected challenges as they grew their digital platform. The integration of IT systems into the B2B commerce landscape is viewed as a primary goal for the next three years, and 94% still need to integrate at least one IT system into their B2B commerce landscape, while they are also looking to incorporate an increasing number of business processes within their B2B e-commerce platform.

Asked to identify which challenges faced those setting up digital B2B channels, 47% cited technical faults, 44% low initial digital sales and 44% issues around integrating digital and offline channels.

Cloud based services (62%), e-commerce platforms (48%) and mobile applications (47%) were top investment priorities.

Some 99% of those surveyed saying that their organisation measures B2B commerce success. Customer satisfaction (65%), revenue growth (64%), average order value (48%) and spend-per-customer (47%) all ranked high.

“While B2B e-commerce offers huge growth opportunities, it is very much a race of the fittest,” said Dr. Jochen Wiechen, chief executive of Intershop. “For many organizations, delivering highly relevant and contextual experiences to their B2B buyers requires a radical rethink of their business structures, and a new dimension of automating processes along supply and demand chain. Those organizations able to re-engineer their offering fast and effectively will successfully deliver against today’s buyer expectations. Those that lag behind, however, risk losing out.”

“It is great to see how many of the organizations we surveyed have embraced digital enablement. This capability is not only driving sales, but also helping them to enhance the good old fashioned face-to-face conversations that take place between key account managers and buyers and influencers,“ said Dr Wiechen. “On the other hand, digitalisation is clearly rewriting the rules of competition. This means organizations are facing ever greater pressure to integrate their ecommerce operations directly into the business infrastructure. If they want to compete successfully, they will need to achieve true digital transformation.”

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