Tag: ai

Top 5 Global B2B Marketplaces

Top B2B E-Commerce Platforms

The global B2B e-commerce industry was worth US$12.2 trillion in 2019 and according to Statista, that was six times more than the worth of B2C e-commerce1. These numbers suggest that the future of e-commerce, at least the near future, is B2B. But are you familiar with the top five B2B marketplaces? As it stands Amazon Business and Alibaba.com lead the pack, but let’s take a deeper look at the top 5 B2B marketplaces.

Amazon Business

Their tagline says it all, “Everything you love about Amazon. For your business2.” That means businesses simply register and can start using the platform to purchase business supplies. Employers are also allowed to add multiple users to buy on their behalf. “Workflow Approval” allows buyers to create carts to send back for approval and build a list of preferred suppliers and products.  Amazon Business also provides “Spend Visibility” where the account admin has an overview of what is being spent on what.

Key features:

/         Price savings. Offers exclusive price discounts, price breaks or quantity discounts and provides access to millions of products.

/         Shipping. Has four fulfilment options: Business Prime (same day, one-day, two-day shipping depending on eligibility), Amazon Fulfilment (user’s choice), free shipping (on orders of $25 or more of eligible items) and pallet shipping (dock or doorstep delivery).

/         Payment. Offers purchasing via card or line of credit, plus tax exemption for convenience and savings.

/         Sponsored ads. Helps shoppers find brands at every stage of their journey, such as the first page of search results or product detail pages3.

/          Enhanced product content. Helps businesses improve their listings by providing key product information such as CAD files, images and videos, application and user guides, manuals, etc.

Key benefits:

Amazon Business claims that “third-party sellers make up +50% of our $10 billion annualized sales run rate.” Additionally, because it’s a one-stop destination for both on the spot and strategic purchases, it boasts that it helps businesses control their spending4.

Alibaba.Com

What was originally a yellow page directory, Alibaba.com is now an end-to-end trading platform “to make it easy to do business everywhere5.” Its focus may be on Chinese manufacturers, but it serves millions of buyers and suppliers worldwide. Often referred to as the “Amazon of China,” Alibaba acts as a middleman between two parties. Businesses can list their products for free on Alibaba.com or pay for greater exposure on the site much like how Google does it for brands.

Key features6:

/         Product verification. Inspects products for quality and when a product is successful, it gains a “Verified Main Product” designation.

/         Trade assurance. Refunds businesses enough to cover the initial deposit in the event of delayed shipping or if a wrong item is sent.

/         Payment. Offers security and flexibility via Alipay (similar to PayPal), bank transfers, letter of credit, Western Union and Escrow.

/         Customs data. Provides U.S. retailers access to public trading records of the foreign suppliers they’re dealing with on Alibaba.

Key benefits:

Aside from access to countless numbers of suppliers, businesses can buy at extremely low prices and sell at premium retail prices. Equally important is that, unlike Amazon, Alibaba doesn’t compete with its customers and doesn’t require them to invest in warehousing and logistics as their business model is software driven. Their philosophy is to facilitate business between two entities.

Rakuten Marketplace

Dubbed as the “Amazon of Japan,” Rakuten Marketplace was primarily a Japanese marketplace until it acquired Buy.com and started to compete with Amazon and eBay. To strengthen their game in the US, Rakuten acquired Ebates.com allowing customers to earn Super Points or 1% of the product’s price which they can use on the next purchase. Sellers must be approved by Rakuten to sell.7

Key features8:

/         Personalized storefront. Allows brands to mimic their website, enabling them to showcase and control their identity and messaging.

/         Custom product pages. Enables brands to provide rich product content such as detailed product information, images and demo videos.

/         Customer support. Provides sellers with training and guidance, as well as a dedicated e-commerce consultant (ECC).

/         Email marketing. Offers R-mail, a newsletter-like tool, allowing sellers to send existing customers updates and offerings.

Key benefits:

Much like Alibaba, Rakuten doesn’t compete with its customers. On Rakuten, the competition is strictly between merchants. Big on providing great experiences, it encourages merchants to compete on hospitality and customer service, not just on price.

IndiaMart

With the tagline “To make doing business easy,” it sounds very similar to Alibaba. It’s India’s largest B2B marketplace boasting over 98 million buyers, 5.9 million suppliers and 66 million products & services9.

Key features:

/         Two-way discovery. Facilitates buyer-supplier location on its marketplace via email or SMS query or through IndiaMART.

/         Payment protection program. Offers reliable and secure transactions through their free service IndiaMART Payment Protection10.

Key benefits:

IndiaMART believes that its unique selling points against other marketplaces are “reach, brand recognition, breadth and quality of suppliers and product listings, pricing and customer service.11

Global Sources

According to their LinkedIn page, “Global Sources is a leading B2B media company and a primary facilitator of trade between Asia and the world using English-language media such as trade shows (GlobalSources.com/exhibitions), online marketplaces (GlobalSources.com), magazines, and apps 12.” It has the same goal as Alibaba, which is to facilitate global trade. However, Global Sources’ close ties with Hong Kong trade fairs ensures it doesn’t encounter issues with counterfeit products.

Key features13:

/         Verified supplier system. Helps suppliers build a reliable image by running their registration details through independent third parties.

/         Supplier capability assessment. Enables buyers to audit suppliers based on production facilities, capabilities and product quality.

/         UI/UX. Facilitates easy navigation with a user-friendly interface, provides convenience with a flexible search engine. Provides insight via a built-in tool to compare suppliers and their products14.

Key benefits:

Global Sources main highlight is its reliability guarantee. It may only have 15,000 suppliers compared to Alibaba’s one million, but all of those underwent a strict selection process.

In summary, B2B marketplaces are on the rise. They are good testing grounds for businesses who are just starting with e-commerce or are looking for something to support their web shop. It’s worth noting that each of these top B2B marketplaces has their own unique selling points that may work for some but not for others.

How AI is Changing B2B Commerce

how ai is changing b2b commerce

Artificial Intelligence (AI) continues to be on the rise, and it has brought a lot of positive opportunities for businesses. Buyers have started to get better experiences as AI has enabled businesses to approach consumers more creatively. In many cases, by providing personalization or customized messaging. B2B vendors have also been transforming the way they do business. Many have undertaken digital transformation journeys, and they now look towards AI to gain greater benefits. But how is AI driving change in the B2B space?

AI accelerates growth and revenue

A recent survey by Gartner showed that by 2020, 30% of B2B companies will employ AI to augment at least one of their primary sales processes. These companies have implemented an AI strategy to accelerate their growth and revenues by:

/         Using relevant data for insights. AI helps B2B vendors identify and segment buyers based on their needs, location and historical preferences. They can create tailored marketing approaches to target clients with the use of valuable insights about prospects throughout the buying cycle. This approach helps deliver the right products and services to clients, ultimately increasing conversion rates and revenue.

/         Generating quality leads. A study by Harvard Business found that companies that use AI for sales were able to increase their leads by 50%. By leveraging AI, businesses can gain insights from a wide base, increasing their capacity to identify the best B2B buyers. This helps increase the number of leads generated by the sales team while also ensuring its quality.

/         Streamlining internal tasks. A report says that 80% of a sales teams’ time is spent on cold-calling and lead nurturing activities. That leaves them with just enough time and energy to actually work on closing leads. Adopting AI can significantly reduce the time spent by employees on menial tasks by 40%, according to McKinsey. Labor-intensive tasks such as data management can be minimized by embedding AI into different data management and automation solutions. AI can free up employees, thus encouraging collaboration and improving internal work processes.

/         Delivering accurate product content. Buyers are extremely selective when it comes to purchasing products from a website or a store. They require accurate and consistent product content whether they are at a physical store or visiting an e-commerce site. And they want access to rich and up to date product content all the time. AI makes it possible for B2B vendors to deliver the most up to date and accurate content by efficiently delivering the right content to the right channels.

AI enhances buyer experiences

By adopting AI, B2B vendors can also:

/         Predict buyer behavior. Without AI, it is almost impossible to forecast buyer behavior and use it to benefit the business. By relying on buyer data and historical actions, B2B vendors can tailor product offerings that fit the needs of its buyers anytime. AI further helps by creating more relevant messaging and more accurate published product content on every channel.

/         Simplify data analysis. Analyzing product data to gather insight can be error-prone and difficult. Incorrect or inconsistent product data causes confusion within and outside the organization. AI helps solve complex problems over short periods of time, thus enhancing data analyses as well as helping to store and retrieve product information efficiently.

/         Measure product performances. Analyzing and measuring past product performance from a campaign or promotion is necessary for B2B vendors. AI helps businesses gauge how products perform in the market for a period of time and measures it against historical benchmarks to guide the decision-making processes and create recommendations.

/         Improve the buying process. Searching an entire catalog for a single product is taxing and time consuming for B2B buyers, especially if the need is urgent. AI can be used to provide buyers with efficient and easy ways to look for the products they need at any given time. Faceted search, text-to-speech and image recognition are some of the tools that can be utilized to improve on the search functionality of a system. Removing obstacles to the buying process means better experience for the buyers and faster conversion for the business.

B2B businesses that embrace AI has started to become the norm, and it is no longer just for big businesses either. Small and medium-sized companies can take advantage of its benefits thanks to the widespread use of the cloud.

Learn about some more B2B trends by checking out 5 takeaways from the B2B Marketing Expo – California.

Meeting Consumer Expectations – How Prepared Are You?

Meeting Consumer Expectations – How Prepared Are You?

What consumers want [and don’t want] and how prepared are you to meet their demands?

Contrary to reports of retail’s eventual death, the National Retail Federation’s “The State of Retailing Online 2018” study reveals that:

  • More and more stores open than close
  • Investments in omnichannel optimization remains high
  • Mobile retail success continues to climb

In terms of value chain innovation, Deloitte’s “2018 Retail, Wholesale and Distribution Industry Trends Outlook” gives retailers ideas on which technology trends to invest on:

  • Internet of Things (IoT) to provide consumers with online access to their store inventories and reserve orders for purchase or pickup.
  • Digital supply and demand networks for time frame reduction and cost-efficient deliveries.
  • Augmented, virtual, and mixed realities (AR, VR, and MR) for the creation and provision of highly immersive and engaging experiences.

A lot of doors are opening in the retail industry and it could only mean more new products in the market and a much tougher competition ahead for businesses. But no one is complaining; not even the consumers. In fact, with eCommerce sales projected to reach $4 trillion USD by 2020, it’s as if consumers are telling businesses that they’re willing to spend… on one condition: give them what they want.

But before giving them what they want, it’s best to first identify their pain points.

What Consumers Don’t Want

Branding expert, Helen Edwards, shares that there are seven distinct emotions visible in the human face and five of those are negative: anger, fear, sadness, disgust and contempt. And you definitely don’t want any of those to be associated with your brand when they visit your site.

According to Corra, consumers’ biggest pet peeves on ecommerce sites are:

  • 41.2% Poorly designed menu; lack of subcategories for key merchandise
  • 29.8% Too-basic search; no filters for advanced searches
  • 26.4% Products are buried behind too much branding

So, if you can eliminate these pain points, you’re on track to excellent customer experience provision.

What Consumers Want

According to MineWhat, consumers today perform the following online before making a purchase:

  • 81% research
  • 61% read product reviews
  • Check at least three ecommerce sites

What are they looking for? Information, information, information!

But of what sort? A National Retail Federation (NRF) study reveals that consumers don’t just aimlessly browse online; they actually look for something specific to buy and they want to find it quickly. That means before they type anything on the search bar, they already have an item in mind.

The same study also found out that 79% of consumers also factor in overall experience in determining whether or not they’ll buy from a brand or retailer – and how often. Central to that desired or expected experience are painless return policy, free shipping and credit card security.

So, how to cater to today’s consumers? The Nielsen Norman Group recommends to design for 5 types of e-commerce shoppers:

  • Product-focused.This group know what they want and are ready to buy once they locate the product. Speed is this group’s primary focus.
  • Browsers.They have time to kill and they’re spending it on your site. The key to this group is to be presented with what’s hot and what’s new.
  • Researchers. These guys have been to at least two sites before yours or even if you’re their first visit, they will definitely go elsewhere to gather more information. The key to this group is trust.
  • Bargain hunters. Definitely price conscious, this group are on the lookout for sale, promos and best buys. So, if you have such offerings, display them prominently on your site.
  • One-time shoppers. More often holding gift cards, these guys have no intention of coming back to your site after the purchase. Ensure a good experience by not requiring account creation before purchase.

Quiz: How ready are you to give your consumers what they want?

Giving consumers what they want starts from within. The following are some questions you can ask yourself to determine your readiness in providing your consumers with information they need:

  1. Do you struggle with maintaining your products when your product data requirements increase (e.g. rapid and constant product description updates, price and document version edits, etc.)?
  2. Is it difficult to localize your product information for different markets?
  3. Do people in and out of your organization have a tough time sharing or accessing up-to-date product information?
  4. Are you using multiple spreadsheets to manage your product information?

Do you nod at many questions? Then it’s high time for your to consider using a product information management solution (PIM). A PIM is foundational to building great product experiences.

5 Customer Experience Trends to Watch Out For in 2019

People are people. Meaning, they live and breathe emotions, and no matter which environment or age they find themselves in, feelings will be involved in their decision-making. This is an undeniable reality across industries, hence, the dominance of customer experience on trend lists in the past five years. It’s a top trend that doesn’t seem like it’s going away anytime soon, as evidenced by 81% of marketers saying they’re expecting to compete solely on the battlefields of customer experience in the next couple of years.

So, as 2018 draws to a close, what are the customer experience-related trends to watch out for in 2019?

Rise of Insights-Driven Organizations

With all the available technology to capture and process data, only 10% of organizations are insight-driven. But that’s about to change, as insights-driven businesses are posed to steal $1.2 trillion worth of revenue in 2020. According to Forrester, these disruptors of disruptors have a clear set of goals, which are to win, serve and retain customers. Pioneers of which are Google, Baidu and Netflix.

Key capabilities of an insight-driven organization:

  • Democratize insights or the ability to not just make insights available across the enterprise via an insight database, but also disseminate and transmit them fast.  
  • Experiment or continuous and iterative learning mindset. It’s a culture of testing and development that is essential for growing and future-proofing the business.
  • Close the loop or ability to hear and rapidly act on customers’ feedback.

Steady Climb of Automation and AI/ML in Industry Transformation

The groundwork for automation and artificial intelligence/machine (AI/ML) have been set and early adopters are already seeing positive results in terms of revenue and profit. May it be at home or in the workplace, IDC said that 75% of workers have interacted with at least one AI/ML built-in application in 2018 (e.g. Siri, Alexa and Slack/Skype chatbots). In 2019, these AI/ML interactions are expected to level-up to intelligent digital assistants. IDC also predicts that it’s about to move to mainstream industry-wide use to the tune of $77.6 billion worth of spending in 2022.

3 uses of AI/ML across industries:

  • Robots in retail/hospitality. Softbank’s humanoid-robot Pepper has been test-deployed all over the world to see how businesses can use this AI-powered assistant to serve customers. During its test-runs, Pepper had been a concierge for dealership customers, a hotel check-in assistant, and more. A store in Palo Alto tech shop reported a 70% increase in foot traffic in the week that Pepper was there. In 2019, Amazon is launching its own version, “Vesta”, which might be an evolution of Alexa.
  • Predictive analytics in manufacturing/supply chain, medicine/healthcare and fashion/beauty. Google attempted to predict the likelihood of a patient’s death using 200 thousand patients and more than 46 billion data points, and came away with an astonishing 95% accuracy. Top makeup brand, Shiseido, used ML to find out what customers might want next and offer truly personalized recommendations. In manufacturing and supply chain, the potential of predictive analytics is enormous. It’s a landscape projected to be worth $9 billion by 2020, as it opens up opportunities in the areas of demand forecasting, pricing, maintenance and after-sales optimization services.
  • Cognitive intelligence in energy/mining. To ensure seamless autonomous operation and minimize guesswork in port scheduling, transportation, drilling and planning, these industries use cognitive computing. Using an airplane cockpit-like platform, a machine operator gets cues from a system that learns actions and gives real-time feedback.

Not Cloud Overhead, but Everywhere

The projected global public cloud spending for 2019 will reach $200 billion, as enterprises race to upgrade their processes and mine insights out of their piles of accumulated data. According to Forrester, cloud computing will be the foundation of future enterprise applications, as businesses strive to deliver compelling product and customer experiences.

Top cloud trends:

  • Hybrid/multi-cloud solutions. Businesses are learning that the best cloud solution is a blend of public and private, or as 85% of enterprises prefer nowadays, a mix of at least eight clouds.
  • Integrated IaaS and PaaS. The growth of the infrastructure-as-a-service (Iaas), which is expected to reach $39.5 billion in 2019 is a direct result of enterprise digital transformation undertakings. But according to Gartner, the days of Iaas-only are numbered, as 90% of organizations that will be buying Iaas will expect providers to have it integrated with their platform-as-a-service (PaaS) by 2022.
  • Quantum computing. The race is on to come up with the best quantum platform to outdo the world’s fastest supercomputers. Industries such as financial, automotive, pharmaceutical, gaming and even government agencies are very interested in the potentials of this technology. Top players so far are IBM, Google and Microsoft.

Welcome Voice Search/Commerce

By 2020, at least 50% of all searches are going to be through speech, according to Andrew Ng, formerly of Baidu and Google. He also mentioned images, but voice search is fast gaining traction on mobile, especially among the 16-44 year olds. On top of that, the GlobalWebIndex Voice Search Report also revealed that 34% of Internet users are keen on buying a voice-controlled smart assistants.

Implications of voice commerce in marketing:

  • SEO. Google’s 2013 Hummingbird update uses context and intent/semantic and natural language in delivering results. It’s the perfect foundation for the inevitable rise of voice search. It’s, therefore, important for marketers to survey what their target is using voice search for, so they can adapt their voice ad strategy and content accordingly.
  • Hyper-local content. Voice searchers are mostly done on mobile, meaning searchers are on the go and intend to go somewhere close when they search. This is the perfect opening for local businesses to increase visibility according to proximity.
  • Customer experience. Smart speakers are expected to be in nearly 50% of American households by 2019. And as these AI-powered solution learns (it continuously listens), consumers’ experiences with it will be more refined, convenient and enjoyable. For now, 70% of consumers use it mainly to play music, 64% to listen to weather forecast and 53% to get random answers to random questions.

Crown “Video” King of Content

There’s no other content that businesses and consumers, alike, enthusiastically consume more than video, and by 2019, it will comprise 80% of worldwide Internet traffic. This is one of the most controversial trends in the last couple of years, when organizations, mostly publications, made a “pivot to video” influenced by Facebook metrics. But scandal aside, video has proven to be that special vehicle that brings brands closer to consumers through storytelling, evidenced by 93% of marketers using video to boost their campaigns.

Video effectivity by the numbers:

So, there you have it. Just five of the most noteworthy customer experience-related trends worth exploring in 2019. And as it’s a new year, it’s always an open door for your business to turn over a new leaf. With all the opportunities presented by new technology, it’s perhaps time for your business to try out something new. As Albert Einstein famously said, “The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, but expecting different results.

Customer Experience

Source: https://www.thehindubusinessline.com/specials/people-at-work/6m2qd/article24697967.ece