These are exponential times; nowhere is this more obvious than the world of B2B e-commerce. Gone the days when procurement managers entertained with lavish meals and Christmas hampers to keep order books stuffed like roast turkeys. Stacks of faded catalogues and long term telephone conversations with attractively voiced receptionists now make way for swifter, automated on-line transactions turning business markets into a labyrinth of both closed and public networks.
High revenue B2B accounts create a potentially massive market place which has not escaped the notice of e-commerce giants like Amazon and Alibaba whose slick, professional platforms make B2B buying as easy and enjoyable as much-loved B2C on-line shopping. Petrol and pharmaceuticals currently form the bulk of the e-market (20%) but a wide range of different companies are constantly joining the game with the B2B market forecast to become twice as large as B2C by 2020 (Frost and Sullvan).
Well-versed in the finer points of on-line transactions from their B2C experiences, today’s procurement managers expect the same quality from B2B platforms, applying the Martini approach – any time, any place, anywhere. Smartphones and tablets mean the office is both mobile and always open. Furthermore, 41% of companies are now selling directly against their own distributors (Forrester) meaning multi-level companies such as Screwfix carve a new niche. Quick price comparisons, customer reviews and competitive discounts mean B2B e-commerce is definitely here to stay.