Most B2B ecommerce companies tend to undervalue the role technology can play
Artificial Intelligence (AI) is beginning to make an impact on all aspects of the business
IoT, Blockchain and AR/VR are further transforming the industry
Over the last few years, the B2B ecommerce industry has witnessed unprecedented growth. While B2C platforms in India have leveraged technology to a large extent to scale their businesses and improving customer experience, most B2B ecommerce companies tend to undervalue the role technology can play in giving them a sustainable advantage.
Let’s look at some of the disruptive technologies that will gain momentum in the B2B space in the near future.
Artificial Intelligence And Machine Learning
Artificial Intelligence (AI) is beginning to make an impact on all aspects of the business. AI can be leveraged to mimic human interactions and decision making. There are various applications of AI – chatbots, personalised search, price optimization, tackling fake reviews, combating counterfeit products, improving logistics by finding the optimal route map and even automating deliveries using drones.
Chatbots, for instance, can transform businesses by mitigating the cost of customer support, bringing in automation and improving responsiveness at the same time. They also enable triaging of customer related tickets, before routing them to the respective sales or support teams.
AI coupled with Machine Learning (ML) can be used very effectively to better understand customers, generate new leads and improve sales revenue. Recommendation systems using ML can provide significantly better and more relevant recommendations. ML can also be employed along with speech recognition and computer vision technologies to develop richer search engines such as voice search and visual search respectively.
According to Gartner, “AI is the technology that will have the most profound impact on all aspects of commerce and by 2022 at least 5% of digital commerce orders will be predicted and initiated by AI”. B2B ecommerce platforms leveraging AI will undoubtedly gain a significant advantage over their competitors.
The supply chain ecosystem in the B2B ecommerce is often fraught with friction, obscurity and the stakeholders in the chain do not necessarily trust each other completely.
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Blockchain, as a disruptive and distributed ledger technology, can enthuse trust in the system, reduce transactions costs and prove provenance by tracing the movement of goods across the value chain.
Blockchain-based smart contracts can ensure efficient warranty claim management by weeding out of fake and duplicate warranty claims from the supply chain. Blockchain technology can also be used as the basis for robust, unbiased and trustworthy user-generated review systems.
In e-procurement systems, stakeholders also stand to gain through immutable decentralized ledgers that bring in parity to the entire bidding process which is heavily skewed to favour biggies in the game.
Internet Of Things (IoT)
Simply put, the Internet of Things (IoT) is a network of connected devices that collect and exchange data. As more and more devices capture a vast amount of data, IoT technology is opening up new opportunities for B2B ecommerce organizations to drive innovation and tap into new revenue streams by growing beyond their traditional markets.
B2B ecommerce businesses utilising IoT can improve their entire sales workflow by gathering more information about their end users, thus improving customer relationships. Manufacturers can predict when a piece of equipment will require service and products can be better designed, produced and serviced based on real-time usage data that is relayed to the network.
The vast amount of data collected using IoT can also be used to launch pay-as-you-use and subscription-based services, creating an opportunity to transform potential one-time buyers into repeat customers. IoT can also help in optimizing inventory levels at warehouses by reducing shortage and eliminating over-stock of items.
As per one of the McKinsey reports, “efficient use of IoT can reduce maintenance costs alone by over 40%!”
Immersive Commerce: Augmented Reality And Virtual Reality
Due to the very nature of the transaction, B2B ecommerce is a much more involved process as compared to B2C. B2B ecommerce platforms need to strive harder to persuade their customers to make a payment. By integrating immersive technologies like Augmented Reality (AR) and Virtual Reality (VR) into existing ecommerce stores, B2B platforms have the potential to enhance the shopping experience, making it more friendly and intuitive.
With AR and VR, businesses can create innovative marketing campaigns to capture customer attention and build awareness about their brand and products. Virtual showrooms make it possible for potential customers to explore and experience all the features of the product first-hand. Similarly, VR staging of projects in real estate can bring down marketing costs by giving customers a realistic 3D tour of the property.
A McKinsey report estimates that the total combined impact of applications using these disruptive technologies could amount to $240 – $500 Bn a year by 2025 in India alone. With an impact of such magnitude, B2B ecommerce platforms have a lot to gain by utilising even a few of the above technologies.