B2B E-Retail (Evolution & Progress)

By Brijesh Agrawal , Founder & CEO, Tolexo

Evolution
Back in 1990s, when Communication kicked in with the advent of emails and mobiles, nobody ever knew what it could snowball into. At the turn of the millennium, Content hit the ground with simple articles, press releases and content on static websites. Gradually, from scrolling blogs, to scrolling through Facebook feeds and vivid product descriptions; the content has transformed remarkably to becoming the biggest marketing asset when it comes to B2B e-retailing. Eventually, it got integrated seamlessly into our new content consumption device of choice, the mobile.

Half a decade into the new millennium, Commercial trade gathered momentum in the markets around the world. As of now, we have reached the level of Collaboration. This is the collaboration between buyers and sellers. In short, that is how B2B e-commerce came around or evolved over a period of two and a half decades, into what it is at the present.

E-Commerce as it is now:

- Product Catalogue
- Inventory
- Transaction Processing
- Integrated delivery experience
- Standardized customer service experience
The B2B way of doing business hasn’t been much talked about and analyzed. As a matter of fact, B2B e-retail sector has been nonexistent in India, until lately, for both online and 
offline trade.

Technology is the key when it comes to B2B e-retail platforms becoming organized. From product information to inventory and availability, to logistics tracking and links to the last minute postal alert message, all has added up to the seamless online B2B shopping experience. From supplier to the end user, there are multiple channels, and everyone can be improved in terms of efficiency, time lag, etc. leveraging technology.

Matters at hand
Big e-commerce players seem to have equally big problems at hand sans Technology intervention. These entail seller side stock management to buyer related problems like price, analyzing buying behavior, last mile delivery hassles etc. to name a few. With an ever growing inventory / stock list, Inventory Management Systems have to be managed in the best possible way.

Consumer demand patterns = Supply chain logistics integrated with Tech innovations
Order batching is another logistical hurdle which makes the order delivering very cumbersome, if there are a number of items to be shipped to a single address. Inventory management and last mile delivery is improving leaps and bounds, thanks to delivery tracking and status and splitting orders into parts. One can track the status of their delivery from the warehouse up to his door. Also, platforms are now better managing product stocks in the warehouses and know details about in-stock & out of stock products, avoiding any inconvenience to the buyers ordering online. 
Another talking point is evaluating and gauging what the customer actually needs.What time a customer is likely to buy, where should the product be marketed more, etc. are some examples of how big B2B platforms are hunting and converting leads into customers for making E-retailing a success.

Forecasting Models & Analytic tools are in demand for gaining deeper insights into buying and selling needs. Lead Time maintenance, as one moves up the supply chain, becomes complex with complex demand patterns. For this, data scientists are proving themselves useful in digging even the minutest of details relating to customer behavior and buying patterns. Also, social behavior is being tapped to understand different touch points and their efficacy in bringing more traction online. 

As an example, Tolexo, a B2B marketplace, has been working on best ways to decentralize warehouse facilities to reach out to high demand markets in the minimum time. Demand analysis and trends are used to zero in on places with higher affinity to certain products / categories and warehouses being located in such areas. Sellers also stand to gain as they get a birds eye view of market demands. 
For industry giant, Grainger, technology is not a mere indulgence or a nice to have. It is at the very heart of business and helps drive multi-channel strategy. They have successfully adapted to technologies such as smartphones, social media and cloud computing that are changing how its employees and customers do business. 

Moreover, search technologies (simple, quick and contextual) & personalized technologies (past buying information or alerts for shopping carts) are being utilized, in best interest of customers. Consequently, customer attention and trust has turned towards such platforms from the traditional ways of doing business, before. Hence, technology intervention has gradually disrupted how buyers and sellers are interacting and trading over the internet.

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