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E-commerce grew 10.2 percent from 2010 to 2011, and predictions estimate that business-to-business (B2B) sales resulting from e-commerce will make up the majority of sales by 2020, reports Four51. A recent survey, conducted by Handshake, found more than 79 percent of companies providing B2B sales already have customers clamoring for online ordering. Ultimately, B2B entities are experiencing dramatic impacts on distribution and manufacturing for several key reasons.

B2B Partners Demand Self-Service.

B2B partners’ sales representatives’ jobs are defined by working with your company to obtain the products and services you possess. According to ECOMM2, these people may need to place orders from any location, at any time. Since you cannot realistically be available constantly, more companies are demanding self-service solutions to order products or services on-demand.

For example, the Cerasis Rater enables B2B sales by allowing other B2B partners to request automatically reorders, retrieve freight rates and offer e-commerce fulfillment and shipment. Ultimately, your voice must become one with B2B e-commerce technology if you want to retain a working relationship with B2B companies.

E-Commerce Will Dominate B2B Sales by 2020.

B2B sales through e-commerce will make up 12.1 percent of all B2B sales by 2020, explains Ranga Bodla of Netsuite Blog. Meanwhile, the majority of purchasers research potential products online before making a decision to buy. In other words, up to 74 percent of all possible B2B sales could be lost if your customers cannot access information about your products online. Mostly, this goes back to finding the best product possible at the lowest possible price.  

Businesses Want Platforms, Not Individual Systems.

In the past, software-as-a-service (SaaS) grew to dominate the manufacturing and warehousing industries. Companies could invest in software packages that enabled better tracking and management of the product flow. However, the age of SaaS systems is on its way out. In its place, platform-as-a-service (PaaS) is replacing on-premise SaaS.

PaaS is similar to SaaS; however, it focuses on bridging gaps between different locations and companies, creating a more cohesive, collaborative effort to achieve higher profit margins and capabilities. Meanwhile, increased security improvements to PaaS technology is making it more lucrative for companies to work with PaaS systems, such as the Cerasis transportation management system (TMS), than to continue investing resources in managing in-house closed SaaS systems.

Customer Bases Are Evolving.

As more information has become available online, customer bases are fluctuating almost daily. Today’s demand forecasts may change suddenly, and the cause of changes can range from political opinions to social media reports. Unfortunately, meeting this ever-changing demand means companies must have a way of generating and analyzing real-time data reflecting what customers want now.

This is essential to maintaining B2B relationships as well. Ultimately, customers work with your B2B partners, who then request orders or freight quotes based on their data. As a result, you need to be ready to provide this information 24/7, and an integrated e-commerce-centered TMS is the only way to achieve this need.

Pricing Models Are Subject to the “Amazon Standard.”

Pricing models are changing as well. Amazon has created an environment where customers expect record-breaking delivery schedules and near-zero shipping costs. As explained by Abbe Miller of NetSphere Strategies, today’s customers discover new products online every microsecond, and these products must be available immediately and at the right price. Failure to do so could result in the deterioration of B2B relationships, which may lead to irreparable harm for your organization.

B2B E-Commerce Reduces Conflicts Between B2B and B2C Distribution.

Disputes between B2B and business-to-consumer distribution have always been present. There has simply not been an efficient way of separating all processes without dividing warehouses and distribution centers. Since e-commerce is built on every order, every time and every possibility, it provides for separation of order types, allowing your organization to continue operating seamlessly and serving the needs of B2B and B2C customers.

Big Data Is Needed to Identify Real-Time Demands on the Supply Chain.

Big data is another issue entirely. More data is being collected every day than the whole span of human history, but using this data is complicated. Companies must assess risk, costs, changes in demand and more instantly, and legacy systems cannot process this much information. Thus, an outsourced solution, such as a self-service PaaS can meet the analytical demand.

Customer Service Relationships Are Becoming More Involved at Earlier Stages in Product Lifecycles.

The final impact of B2B e-commerce on distribution and warehouses in B2B relationships is how it relates back to overall customer service. Customer service used, to begin with check out, but with e-commerce solutions in place, service starts before the sale. This helps customers select the right products, reducing costs incurred in the reverse logistics supply chain as well.

For example, a customer that can “chat” with a company representative online will benefit from that representative’s instant access to freight costs. Meanwhile, the whole process can be further tailored to meet the specific demands of the end user. This creates more certainty in customer service relationships and reduces costs for B2B partners alike.

The Big Picture: The Future of B2B E-Commerce

E-commerce is here to stay, and companies engaging in B2B sales that do not implement integrated, reputable systems will fall behind their competitors. If nothing else, Amazon is on track to eliminate companies that cannot maintain a B2B e-commerce platform. Fortunately, the Cerasis Rater is one of the solutions manufacturers and distributors can use to meet the demands of an increasingly e-commerce driven society, and success practically manages itself.

Look at some of the other impacts e-commerce is having on B2B relationships, as identified by the following infographic, created by Handshake.

B2B e-commerce