Tag: amazon

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.

Omnichannel Isn’t Dead, It’s Evolved

Online purchase

When people say “omnichannel is dead”, they could be referring to its earlier form in which the concept of having a seamless physical and digital shop was still somewhat abstract. Meaning, back then businesses went ahead and bombarded consumers with a variety of engagement and shopping options for ubiquity — a.k.a app creation social media strategy — without substantial consumer insight. 

But as data, which has captured consumer behavior, accumulate and technologies such as AR and AI progress, omnichannel is transforming from a channel-centric into a truly customer-centric activity, where technologies are employed strategically or according to the revealed and expressed consumer behaviors and expectations across channels.

Why filter out the noise and pursue omnichannel maturity? Because as revealed by a study of 46,000 shoppers, today’s as well as tomorrow’s consumers are omnichannel shoppers:

  • 7% Online-only 
  • 20% Store-only
  • 73% Multiple channel or omnichannel 

When consumers are married to their screens

… it’s an invitation for you to treat them to great content and a remarkable shopping experience.

As consumer screen time increases (79% report an increase in the past five years), so do your communication and engagement opportunities. You can even talk to consumers (and vice versa) the moment they wake up, as according to TechTimes, 46% check their phones before getting out of bed.

What’s more, you can communicate with them not just through one device, not just two, but several, because  switching between at least three devices is the daily batting average of 90% of consumers. 

Because of this trend, 84% of marketers believe that having a comprehensive cross-device strategy is now a must in order to successfully convert these consumers into customers.

Here are other notable screen time (particularly smartphone and shopping-related) numbers:

  • 71% of shoppers believe that smartphone usage in-store is an important part of the experience
  • 56% of consumers use their mobile device for product research at home
  • 38% perform inventory availability check on their way to a store  
  • 58% continue their product research in-store

One actionable insight from these numbers for store owners is Wi-Fi provision. Why? For today’s smartphone addicted generation it should be a basic provision, plus with great content, you could actually leverage your visitors’ phones as your savviest sales associate. Also, according to a Displaydata/Planet Retail RNG report, nearly half of consumers (42%) tag lack of in-store Wi-Fi as poor experience. 

When consumers are showing you where the money is

… they’re willing to give it to you in exchange for something.

What’s great about today’s consumers is how proactive they are in letting brands know — and the rest of the world, too — how upset or pleased they are with an experience. 

And it’s usually companies with omnichannel strategies that please consumers. According to V12, these companies enjoy:

  • Retention – 89% of customers are retained by companies with omnichannel customer engagement strategies
  • Loyalty – 51% will be loyal to retailers with consistent service and experience

The survey also asked consumers, 

Do you notice when you get a different experience from the same retailer when you shop with them through different ways, for example, either between online and in-store, between stores or between a call center and store?” 

And 61% said that they do.

So, aside from consistency, what are consumers asking for? As per BRP some of the most common items in the omnichannel shopper wish list include:

  • 62% availability of product reviews and ratings
  • 64% recognition and personalization based on saved purchase history and personal preferences
  • 73% ability to track orders across touch points 
  • 68% automated returns process

Delivery and pickup options are also popular:

  • 50% free delivery 
  • 73% in-store pickup

A preview of the omnichannel of the future with AR and AI-voice

Perhaps it’s more accurate to say that omnichannel is “evolving” rather than it’s “evolved”, because new and innovative ways to shop will be introduced to the market as technology progresses. 

A recent example is Honda’s Dream Drive program, in which drivers are encouraged to use the car’s connected dashboard not just to navigate, get entertained, but also make purchases. To pull this off, Honda is partnering with various retailers and content providers. 

[Source: Honda]

AR

Augmented and virtual reality (AR/VR) is an emerging trillion dollar industry. Leading the way in the furniture industry is IKEA with its Place AR app:

[Source: IKEA]

Never before in history has furniture shopping been this fun, educational and convenient!

Mastercard is also getting in the AR shopping scene with physical trait recognition, instant information, personalized recommendations and secure and seamless payments offerings in-store using ODG’s R-9 smartglasses. 

[Source: Mastercard]

The medical/education industry is also in on the game powered by Microsoft HoloLens. Learning anatomy will never be as engaging, safe, ethical and effective as with interactive holograms.

[Source: Case]

AI-Powered Voice Technology

This year, 2019, the voice recognition market is pegged at $601 million, but by 2022 it’s projected to reach $40 billion. Still in their young days, Amazon Echo, Google Home and Apple HomePod are presently sitting, listening and learning in 32% of American homes. Pretty soon voice assistant technologies such as Amazon Alexa for Business, Microsoft Cortana Skills Kit for Enterprise, Google Assistant and IBM Watson Assistant would be a fixture in call centers, self-service systems and brick-and-mortar stores. 

[Source: Amazon]

[Source: Microsoft]

Omnichannel customer experience is the future of retail and commerce. Perhaps it’s time to kill off the idea that omnichannel will ever die, as evidenced by emerging technologies and their power to bring even the craziest ideas to life, and just focus on providing consumers with consistent A-grade offerings across all channels. 

 

Conversational Commerce, Hyperpersonalization and Deep Product Information for the Win!

Conversational Commerce, Hyperpersonalization and Deep Product Information for the Win!

With new apps and smart speakers being released with even more smart assistants almost every quarter, and with the continuous expansion of ecommerce goliaths, conversational commerce is going to be the next big hurdle for manufacturers and non-market-leading brands.

Let’s take a deeper look into the conversational elements of voice assistants and smart speakers that are quickly making their way into every home.

Big brands are going to increase their advantage in the conversational commerce corner simply because they are market leaders. So, how can you make it to the top as a non-market-leading brand and/or product?

Taking Amazon as the leading example, there are a couple of key elements that you need to arrange, such as having your product prime-authorized, putting up a choice badge (which will help for sure), increasing shipping speed and some other important elements.

Secondly, you need to get the attention of the potential customer, which is not going to be easy as they might not even see your product when searching online. But once they found your product, your product might get ordered over and over again, which will prompt the commerce hubs to push your product harder to your network.

But the question “how do you get that ball rolling?” remains.

They are several ways of doing this, for sure hyperpersonalization will be a big part of this as the fight for the customer will continue. The commerce hubs will have several ways of promoting their own products and your products, mainly through trustworthy channels like email marketing and their own online platforms, next to conversational channels like chat and voice. If you are able to feed those platforms via deep integrations with your product information systems you are enabling them to more easily and oftenly push your product. This also depends on the maturity of the commerce channels used, but for the sake of this blogpost, let’s leave that to a blogpost for another time.

The challenge of hyperpersonalization with customer experience and deep product information is that it can only be as successful as the information available. And getting this deep level of information disclosed to the goliath platforms isn’t always an easy thing – but with connectors, APIs and microservices rapidly evolving, this becomes easier every year.

As a colleague of mine often says, “Amazon and product information can be fascinating!” He showed me this example where if you go to Amazon and you search for “Chocolate”, you get like >50.000 results. But if you then search for “Chocolate that does not contain alcohol” it drops to just shy of 800 (Now if that would be true a lot of evenings would be even more fun and let’s not go into the mornings;).

The difference can simply be found in complete product information (and inheritance rules and smart product experience platforms will go a long way here).

With each touchpoint, the commerce goliath will learn more about the customer and this will be connected to the customer’s profile so that future offers, both non-conversational as well as conversational can be personalized to the person’s profile going forward. Where whoever has their ducks and data in a row the best will get on top of the ever evolving and future challenging channel called “commerce”.