Until recently, most business-to-business (B2B) commerce systems were neither mobile friendly nor particularly flexible. Labor-intensive transactions, which typically happened behind desks, were often time consuming and paper intensive.
With the rise of commuter commerce, defined as commerce on-the-go, a number of B2B and business-to-consumer (B2C) companies are beginning to transition to mobile technologies to expedite processes. Adding fuel to this trend is increased reliance on mobile connectedness not only for personal use but also as a viable work force tool. "We're starting to see smart companies in the B2B space take B2C tactics and deploy them to their business model," said Ray Grady, Executive Vice President of CloudCraze Software LLC, a Chicago-based software company whose enterprise-class e-commerce platform was built natively on the SalesForce Platform.
Even in the B2C space, some tactical elements are still far from being perfected. "Whether you're a niche retailer, a small to medium business, or a large enterprise like Kohl's or Macy's, you're trying to figure out how to best connect with the customer, how to not be intrusive but ask for the right to communicate with them in a mobile setting, a geo-setting specifically," Grady said.
In B2B commerce, supply chain dynamics and pricing rules can vary broadly. "Our product is architected to support those B2B complexities, but we are also mindful to allow B2C tactics to be deployed," Grady said. "When you do that intelligently and reduce friction from the buying process, you reduce costs from a self-service standpoint, but you have the other benefits of an average order value increase and order frequency increase."
Mountain View, Calif.-based Wrike Inc., a work management platform for high-performance teams, in its first Mobile Productivity Survey polled 850 professionals to understand the effects of mobile phones on worker habits and productivity. Sixty-four percent of respondents felt the biggest benefit of mobile devices was to stay abreast of work related tasks; 44 percent checked in on mobile devices at least 20 times per day.
"It's clear that mobile devices have transitioned from occasional work use into an essential tool for today's workers," said Andrew Filev, founder and Chief Executive Officer at Wrike. "It's important that mobile apps respond to this reality and create experiences that assist workers rather than contributing to more noise on their mobile."
Mobilizing the workforce is not without its challenges. Wrike found in its survey that while 76 percent of mobile workers said they used more than three apps for business purposes; 34 percent found it difficult to use multiple apps simultaneously, an area developers building enterprise systems need to address, Wrike noted.
According to an Accenture study, Channel Shift: Measuring B2B Efforts to Shift Customers Online, 50 percent of B2B organizations surveyed have already implemented mobile strategies as part of their business model; 36 percent have a mobile plan under way, which leaves 14 percent of organizations without a mobile plan over the next year.
While B2B organizations are making strides toward mobile optimization, there is still plenty of room for growth. Accenture found that only a handful of companies had developed specialized mobile offerings, including mobile apps (15 percent), mobile-optimized websites (13 percent) and mobile catalogs (10 percent).
Other barriers to B2B e-commerce identified in the Accenture study include:
Digital innovation is happening at such a rapid pace that some companies are entering new lines of business strictly through digital channels. "If you're a software company that wants to take its core software product and break it up into micro products, you can do that via technology," Grady said.
B2B e-commerce customers employ mobile technology in unique ways. "Let's say you're a distributor of beverages, how do you empower your customers to take a mobile device, maybe go back into the stockroom, understand inventory, start the order process, and review it at the end of the business day at home from their tablet?" Grady said. It is at these points of potential contact B2B workers can engage more effectively with partners. "Whether you're an industrial manufacturer who wants to have an Internet of things approach in the industrial kitchen, or even the consumer kitchen, to do things like reorder and to give intelligence if a part is broken, and do that and conduct the transaction there, that's where the market is headed," Grady said.
Multiple channels in the B2B world can entail both direct selling and third-party selling, whether through distributors, wholesalers or online, for instance. "Multichannel to them is that much more complex," Grady said. "The ability to orchestrate all of that so you have one view of the customer is hard, and we feel like we have a platform that can do that." Having one view of the customer is essential in the decision process, especially for companies with multilayered distribution channels, he added.
Adding value for B2B clients by delivering single view customer intelligence, mobile connectivity channel wide and the ability to upgrade interconnected systems seamlessly are critical components, members of the development community noted, adding that they have already struck a chord with clients who are discovering the competitive advantages of end-to-end deployment of commerce building technologies in the digital and physical realms.
For ISOs and merchant level salespeople, these tactical changes are creating opportunities to overhaul legacy systems in a variety of B2B niche markets. By offering value propositions that integrate some of these core options, sales teams can help organizations stay ahead of the game.
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