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Rahul Garg

Rahul Garg is Founder & CEO at Moglix, a B2B e-commerce marketplace.

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B2B Vision 2018: Prepare for the Era of the eCommerce Customer

Automation will increasingly be within reach for supply chain organizations of all sizes thanks to cloud and related technologies.

After playing second cousin to the B2C world, B2B is ready to claim the spotlight in 2018. An report projects a 2.5 times growth in the Indian B2B segment by 2020 – touching Rs. 45 lakh crore. Homing in on e-commerce, a Forrester forecast reportoutlines that B2B e-commerce is expected to surge to $6.7 trillion by 2020. With Indian companies like ours leading from the front, B2B e-commerce is ready to reap the benefits. But first, the stage needs to be set right. Here are some trends that will define the blueprint for B2B e-commerce in 2018.

Customer acquisition and engagement that replicates B2C:

As B2B e-commerce is headed towards disruptive transformation, customers will be a critical force to shape the industry. New behaviours, business models, and fast-paced technology will change the landscape in radical ways, and companies will have to dive in to win, serve and retain customers.

Demanding customers seek off-the-shelf products and customized solutions— with sales support. Across the customer life cycle, B2B companies will now be pushed to use tools borrowed from B2C companies and create relevant engagement strategies. By yoking it to brand values, they will generate brand advocacy. Customers will recommend B2B businesses and demonstrate benefits: in the form of references, testimonials, and customer-contributed content. Social media will also feature specialized B2B content, messaging, and programs to capture influencers. But customer retention will be key driver for the growth of any B2B ecommerce organization.

Integrated and disruptive supply chains that re-imagine businesses:

Cloud computing has leveraged real time data to enhance the efficiency and accuracy of product flow through the supply chain. Now it will empower companies to outperform competition. As traditional SCM applications move to the cloud, B2B e-commerce organisations will rely on SaaS applications. It will enable supply chain and logistics professionals to access critical data and applications on-the-go from a connected device. The cloud has streamlined integration, making it simpler for companies to have fully integrated software stacks for managing every aspect of the organization in 2018. It will facilitate the sharing of data, enhancing an organization's data, enabling them to glean more actionable insights, thanks to a comprehensive view of metrics that matter. Affordability and security will rise as added advantages.

Automation will increasingly be within reach for supply chain organizations of all sizes thanks to cloud and related technologies. While processes can be completely automated requiring little to no human intervention, the key will be to do so while maintaining process integrity.

Paradigm shift in technology-led inventory management and transactions:

Buyers these days seek simple, fast and inexpensive transactions every time, posing new challenges on the resources of B2B business. Low cost channels like online and telesales are no longer enough and face-to-face sales are heavy on costs.  B2B organisations have to look at urgently building flexible multichannel models to handle transactions cost-effectively. While online store integrations will help streamline customer interaction, by providing an automated replenishment and custom purchasing workflows.

Technology will slash inventory tracking and monitoring efforts in a big way for B2B businesses. From a single location within a warehouse to multiple locations, it can help monitor stock and replenishment levels real-time from one place. Tiny tags and embedded chips bolted into inventory racks, Radio Frequency Identification for locating products, components and their monitoring will pick up steam.

Moving inventory management process to cloud-based systems has offered flexible scalability at incredibly affordable pricing. Consequently, 74% of B2B buyers research half or more of their work purchases online before buying (says a recent Forrester study). With cloud connectivity, deploying mobile and tablet devices for inventory management will become the order of the day, and apps and wearable technology will be built specifically for warehouse and Supply Chain Management. In fact, in the presently disorganised market, SMEs will start automating their supply chain on scale. The ability to integrate technology with domain expertise in manufacturing and supply chain management will be critical, as B2B companies will build digital technology into the sales channel and procurement functions of manufacturing units.

The ecosystem built around a B2B ecommerce marketplace will largely help organize the supply market dominated with SMEs while consolidate digitized procurement process in both SME buyers and large enterprises. The online behavior will not only remain restricted to mere product and price discovery or comparison but will definitely include transaction using the digital payment gateways in a significant growth rate. With the wide adoption of various online payment options, reinforced with Govt support and encouragement, the business customers are increasingly becoming used to seamless online payment processes even with large payment amount. At the same time, easy credit options floated by various 3rd party credit lending industry players are further breaking the barrier of working capital constraints in B2B commerce and hence unlocking the huge untapped potential of B2B ecommerce in India.

While 2017 witnessed unfolding of the potential of B2B Ecommerce in India, 2018 will see the further development and strong establishment of this industry as a significant value driver and game changer for both B2B & Ecommerce industry.

Disclaimer: The views expressed in the article above are those of the authors' and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of this publishing house

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