Why B2B Commerce Is Into Gear

Bjørn Hascher •  10 September 2019

For the last twelve months ecManager experienced an increased demand for digital commerce solutions from b2b companies. Although we serve b2b customers for over a decade, the increased demand is an interesting observation. I am generalizing now but when it comes to doing business in a digital way, it’s no secret that the b2b sector is way behind b2c and retail. But why is b2b speeding up right now?

The bottom line reason for business to business being behind, is pain. Actually the lack of it. In b2c retail there’s much more competition. Demanding customers can easily switch brand or online shop. Margins are low. If you do it wrong, if you have no competitive advantage or when you fall behind, you feel pain. Lots of pain. Today’s b2c commerce market, has become a replacement market. It is now about cheaper commerce platforms, increased flexibility, replacing old monolithic technology or finding an alternative for Magento that will slowly disappear from the market.

This pain is not felt in many b2b and wholesale companies. There’s less competition and margins are often great. Keeping the status quo is satisfying enough. Why bother a huge organization change? Some are fine with an ERP-centric approach creating a digital shell on top of its internal processes. And those who invest, buy a way too expensive b2b commerce platform. But hey, there’s no pain.

Having no pain doesn’t mean that b2b customers are satisfied or would love another experience. In fact it’s far from that. They want personal, convenience, easy, fast, pro-active, binding and authentic. They don’t want to deal with fax orders, old fashioned and (costly) slow sales teams. Or they don’t like an online ERP portal that’s really hard to use.

So there’s no pain. Until a manufacturer decides to sell direct or create its own label. Until a competitor with ambition finds out that digital can increase market share significantly. This is exactly what’s happening now. B2b companies are starting to feel they can’t keep the status quo anymore. They have to act now before they are really losing business.

Last week a prospect asked me not to show b2b examples but b2c ones. “We need to learn from b2c. Their customers are no different than ours”. It’s these kind of customer-centric remarks that makes me feel b2b is starting to take digital seriously.