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Why B2B companies need marketplaces in their commerce strategy

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This bold statement was the conclusion of a recent webinar by Forrester Research, in which several experts discussed how marketplaces are transforming business-to-business (B2B) commerce.  One day later, SAP agreed with this viewpoint when it announced its plans to acquire Fieldglass, an on-demand workforce management solution that enables businesses to procure temporary workers through an online marketplace.  This comes at a time when many B2Bs are seeing the benefits of their own e-commerce initiatives and shifting budgets away from more traditional means of engaging with suppliers.

There are several things that your company can do to take advantage of these emerging trends:

  1. Evaluate your current commerce strategy and identify areas where marketplaces could play a role

Before jumping into a marketplace initiative, it is important to understand how they can benefit an organization from two perspectives: the demand side and the supply side.  In Forrester’s webinar, Robert Wollman, senior analyst at Forrester Research stated that “marketplaces are still in their infancy” and most companies have yet to discover how to harness their full potential for B2B commerce.  He further described marketplaces as creating “win-wins” through which both buyers and sellers’ benefit.

Demand Side Benefits of Marketplaces:

Marketplaces can help organizations by providing access to suppliers that may not typically be available through non-marketplace channels.  As a result, organizations that implement marketplaces can expand their supplier base to include niche and emerging suppliers which may not have been feasible before.

Marketplaces also give B2Bs the opportunity to stop spending resources on running e-commerce initiatives themselves, thereby saving time and money.  Mr. Wollman shared an example of how Cisco recently shifted its resources to focus on best-in-class solutions for managing supply chains instead of spending resources building out its own platform for sourcing products.  By outsourcing this aspect of commerce to a marketplace provider, Cisco’s senior manager was able to better utilize his team’s talents by directing them towards solving more complex problems organically rather than maintaining an aging online solution.

Supply Side Benefits of Marketplaces:

Marketplaces give B2B sellers access to a large online audience.  According to Forrester, marketplaces are the fastest growing business-to-business commerce channel and continue to see exponential growth.   This is largely due to the fact that marketplaces allow bullion gold bars buyers small suppliers with limited resources to take advantage of technology that previously was only available for larger players in the industry.  By giving them an opportunity to participate in online commerce without having to invest in expensive software or hire full time developers, smaller players are able to compete against larger businesses on more equal footing.

Additionally, marketplaces can benefit companies by providing insights into buyer behavior which can help inform strategies across the entire organization.  For example, by tracking which products are being viewed or purchased on a marketplace, B2B organizations can have better visibility into what features are most important to their buyers rather than having to guess.

  1.  Identify the right partner for your organization

There are several factors that go into selecting the right marketplace provider including: data security compliance, contact center integration, customer base and overall market presence.  We recommend speaking with potential providers to make sure they offer solutions that meet your organization’s unique needs. They should be able to provide you with examples of how their services have worked for other customers in similar industries as well as who some of their key customers are.  Their website should also include case studies highlighting specific success stories from similar clients.

  1.  Define go-to-market strategy

Before launching a marketplace, it is important to have thought through the overall objectives as well as the benefits that your organization is looking to gain from the initiative.  The marketplace should help reinforce and enhance your brand promise by providing access to an expanded supplier base or additional insights into buyer behavior.  Markets also provide a unique opportunity for organizations to connect with buyers they might not be able to reach otherwise which can lead to new business opportunities if that relationship is cultivated properly.

  1.  Tie “go-to-market” strategies into your overall commerce strategy

In order to realize the maximum return investment from marketplaces, they need to be integrated into the overall commerce strategy.  There are several areas where marketplaces can fit in including: operational excellence, customer experience and new revenue strategies.

Operational excellence is an area of focus for many B2B companies who are interested in marketplaces because they provide opportunities to save time and money by outsourcing certain aspects of ecommerce.  For example, by using a marketplace solution providers will be able to offer buyers access to a more robust supplier base which can streamline their purchasing process – ultimately saving them money in comparison shopping expenses.  Additionally, when utilizing services like online payments or shipping integrations, sellers will have an opportunity to reduce costs associated with managing these “backend” processes on their own platforms.  Finally, by outsourcing portions of your ecommerce strategy to a marketplace you will be able to move faster and stay leaner than if you were trying to do it all by yourself.

When considering marketplaces as part of an overall customer experience strategy it is important to consider the impact that these new channels will have on the message and brand that you are communicating.  For example, your organization’s marketing team may want to develop targeted messaging designed for buyers using markets.  This includes things like landing pages, email outreach or perhaps even sending representatives from various departments to participate in webinars hosted by the marketplace provider.

Markets also provide opportunities for organizations looking for ways to generate new revenue. Many marketplaces offer developers a platform for monetizing their products and services.  For example, if you have a software solution that helps B2B organizations looking to streamline corporate travel booking processes, adding a eWorldTrade marketplace can help you reach more companies in your target market – many of whom may not have been aware of your product or service otherwise.

In order to ensure success with any marketplace initiative it is important that “go-to-market” strategies are tied back to the overall commerce strategy.  By setting clear goals and aligning them with organizational capabilities you will be better positioned for growth through marketplaces.

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