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B2B Next Podcast: Build a B2B Ecommerce Strategy Before Technology

Posted by Ian McCue, Content Manager

It’s easy to overlook the fact that technology alone will not turn your business into a successful company. Your business must first develop a thoughtful strategy that differentiates it and keeps customers happy. Technology is what can help solve the problems that pop up during that transformation.

That was one of the key points made by B2B ecommerce expert Andy Hoar and Oracle NetSuite VP of Commerce Product Management Allison Auclair in a podcast for the B2B Next Podcast Series. Hoar and Auclair discussed the challenges B2B ecommerce presents for businesses of all sizes.

The rising popularity of B2B ecommerce opens up countless industries to the changes and challenges of digital commerce. The central challenge – and goal – is to create an exceptional customer experience that keeps buyers coming back. Rather than looking at the opportunities software solutions can present, executives should build a plan that aligns with the needs of today’s B2B buyers. Then they can find software that supports the business model.

“I think what’s really happening with a lot of companies is yes, technology enabled this stuff, but fundamentally if you don’t have a new business model, if you don’t have a way to monetize it, the technology will just fall by the wayside,” Hoar said.

“It’s important that every company, on an ongoing basis, reviews where they are as a business. Do we have something that is sustainable, do we have something that is defensible, do we have something that creates loyalty? And oh by the way, what technologies and platforms can we use to enable that?”

The two also discussed the advantages and disadvantages of a best-of-breed approach to technology (integrating different solutions for each job from various vendors) compared to a suite approach (all solutions are from one provider and natively integrated). A best-of-breed approach is not realistic for most small-to-midsize companies thanks to the financial and labor resources required.

But Auclair noted that even large enterprises who try to make best-of-breed work end up with situations that hurt the customer experience. The risk of failure climbs when integrating a host of channel-specific, disparate systems and it is those integrations that make it possible to provide B2B customers with the information they want.

“From a B2B ecommerce perspective, it’s so important that your inventory is tied into your ecommerce experience,” Auclair said. “Whether you’re fulfilling out of your existing stock or you’re promising based on future inventory, a critical part of the customer experience is knowing that you can deliver what they want when they want. When you create a separate experience for that and have to try to synchronize that information between two different systems, those fracture points appear and that’s where customer disappointment happens.”

NetSuite follows the latter approach, bringing together financials, ecommerce, customer relationship management, order and inventory management and more on a single business platform.

“I always say, ‘Don’t ever let the perfect be the enemy of the better,’” Hoar said. “And for companies in the midmarket space, it’s hard to argue that you should be doing massive customization and going for best-of-breed.”

It was a preview of the type of content that will be featured at B2B Next, a new event focused on helping B2B companies excel in the digital-first economy. B2B Next takes place Sept. 24-26 at the Sheraton Grand Chicago and will draw ecommerce professionals from leading distributors and manufacturers.

Even if you can’t make it to Chicago, tune into the B2B Next podcast to learn more about the strategies, practices and technologies that will help you capitalize on the immense opportunity presented by B2B ecommerce.

And if you can make it to Chicago next month, register today for this one-of-a-kind conference. To find out more about NetSuite, a founding sponsor of B2B Next, and how it can help your business, visit Booth #103 in the Sheraton ballroom.

Join us to start building your business for the future!