With more people becoming comfortable with the idea of making purchases online, the global e-commerce industry has benefited from rapidly growing interest. The B2B sector in particular is expected to see promising results this year, with total sales set to reach $559 billion - twice that of the B2C market. It is not surprising that many companies are expecting more investment in selling online, with only 5 percent of respondents in an Oracle survey claiming they would not see online business growth in 2013.
B2B e-commece: Key investment areas
The growth of e-commerce has allowed for convenience for customers, but it has also shifted some power away from the companies providing products and services. Simply due to the fact that there is a lot more information available, customers are increasingly tech savvy and able to make more informed choices about which organizations they do business with. This has shifted the focus for many B2B e-commerce initiatives to the customer. According to Oracle, main investment areas include:
- Customer experience initiatives (62 percent of respondents)
- Cross-channel integration (35 percent)
- Mobile technology (31 percent)
However, these ambitions could be hampered by the complexities associated with managing multiple sales and marketing campaigns. For instance, Oracle researches identified conflict between direct sales and online channels as a potential pain point.
Main challenges in e-commerce
Recent research commissioned by master data management firm Stibo Systems and e-commerce agency Salmon explored some of these complexities on a deeper level within the United Kingdom. A prominent concern is the difficulty in selecting e-commerce technology to support their initiatives. Sixty-two percent of respondents said they struggled to identify and implement the appropriate e-commerce solutions. Additionally, 55 percent cited frustrations with gathering enough expertise to manage their online activities.
Researchers identified several key area of interest that could be supported through more robust B2B integration and supply chain management software. For instance, organizations are now focusing on enhancing distribution while also working on customer-facing areas like the website to better meet the needs of an international audience.
"Developing a B2B eCommerce offering is already a priority for B2B organizations in the UK," the report stated. "Third parties will be called upon by B2B organizations to help address the barriers in e-commerce adoption, logistics, management and implementation."
IT consultants may become more important due to perceptions regarding the difficulty of e-commerce compared to traditional sales channels. For instance, many organizations are facing significant pressure to develop customer segments and target their campaigns at a local level while also orchestrating services internationally. This allows businesses to develop better targeted campaigns based on where customers are located. However, it also creates new challenges in the form of competition from local suppliers and a potentially higher cost of service.
Analysts highlighted several areas that are likely contenders for third-party support, including supply chain management, search engine optimization, customer relationship management and enterprise resources planning. Because initiatives in these areas could impact operations on a large-scale, there is significant risk involved in making changes. At the same time, it has become necessary to make those adaptations in order to remain competitive.
"It is as though organizations are waking up to the fact that the race is on, to make an impact in and fully exploit the digital sphere, with high rewards if managed correctly," the report stated. "Going digital and adopting an eCommerce model (local or international) is now the norm, and considered to be a competitive disadvantage if not implemented soon."How can you integrate better with trading partners to increase the efficiency of your supply chain? Learn how to make a business case for B2Bi with a complimentary research brief below: