Digital is the way to go
Commerce between two businesses has for a long time been based on human interaction. Even though it is fun and convenient to call or email your old friend in a local store, it might not be the most beneficial process from a business point of view. Everything is manual and there is no data available to control actions, until it is too late and the invoice is waiting to be paid. Companies have a hard time to steer this kind of process and get qualified data to base decisions on. In this blog post, I try to explain the benefits of digitising your B2B channels.
Inhouse point-to-point solutions belong to the past
The global playground is getting smaller and smaller every day for businesses. I mean that it has never been easier to find new potential business partners anywhere in the world to work with. Via internet you can find anyone and anything. It doesn’t matter if you are looking for something to buy or if you try to sell goods for your (potential) customers, you should do it with digital tools.
I feel that old fashioned, point-to-point, Edifact services are too cumbersome for today’s fast moving business environment. There are more agile solutions out there. Edifact and EDI are not going to disappear; but companies’ own in-house EDI departments are going to be extinct soon. There are already service providers to whom you can outsource your in-house EDI services and these have digitised the connections to be user-friendlier and more cost efficient than if you maintained them by yourself.
“I want you to get rid of your in-house EDI department and connect your business system with a network or service that is suitable for your needs.”
Make use of existing networks
There are a lot of industry specific e-commerce solutions and services for you to take advantage of. You can find specialist for logistics, fashion or even healthcare. Use their knowledge base and experience to help your branch of the business to digitise your own processes. They have already connected suppliers and customers together in a network or ecosystems that you can easily utilise. But word of warning, make sure that the networks are not closed environments. In the end, these industry specific networks need to connect to other networks or to open their network to serve businesses with multiple needs.
Take inspiration from the consumer world
Single crusaders have an uphill struggle ahead of them. But when business partners, companies or service providers work together, the possibility of success increases tenfold. Ask your piers for references and find success stories, not only in your industry but outside of your comfort zone as well. Have a look in to the world of consumers to find out what e-commerce solutions they use and I bet those services could be turned into new B2B solutions.
This is how innovations are born. Utilise already existing services or resources to new use. This has already been proven to work with examples like Uber and AirBnb in the consumer world. In the B2B world, this has already done example by Alibaba or Amazon. They have adapted consumer web shops for B2B use. But it is still just a small step in the large digital channel picture.
Digital tools for control in real time
I want you to get rid of your in-house EDI department and connect your business system with a network or service that is suitable for your needs. Tap into their knowledge base. Utilise proven systems and services others have found working well and digitise your channels more effectively.
With digital channels, you can streamline your sales department and get rid of manually keying in orders and potential errors, automate your warehouse with stock level alarms and have direct connection to your supplier, digitise your logistics surveillance to secure your deliveries or even speed up your patient care and quality with better data. With digitised tools, you can follow and steer your company’s behaviour easier and even in real time.
“Have a look in to the world of consumers to find out what e-commerce solutions they use and I bet those services could be turned into new B2B solutions.”
Digital tools open new horizons
For the future, you need to prepare your business for the following questions; What if you could sell without buying? A straight channel from the source to the end user, without unnecessary logistics and extra costs in between. With real time connections between business partners and customers, you could deliver information directly from the source to the buyer.
Even traditional B2B companies could start consumer business directly with this kind of ecosystem. Empower your customers to become your resellers. With new digital channels, you could be creating new business for your customers and at the same time increase your own sales and customer base.
This is what digitising your channels could do and this is reality today!