What’s Next in Online B2B Purchasing

What’s Next in Online B2B Purchasing

There is no denying the popularity and convenience of buying online. Retail consumers enjoy the time and money savings; however, an interesting new development is that businesses are starting to accept this modern method of purchasing as well. According to the article “B2B Ecommerce Growing; Becoming More Like B2C,” posted on Practical Ecommerce, the trend could not be clearer:

“Online business-to-business (B2B) sellers now recognize that the customer experience in a B2B environment is just as important as the customer experience for business to consumer (B2C). Consequently, expectations have grown, and more B2B buyers require a simple ecommerce experience that mimics the consumer purchase model.” And the newest development is that this trend has reached the personal cleaning industry.

B2B Seeks B2C Solutions

According to the market research firm eMarketer, B2C e-commerce sales worldwide were more than US$1.7 trillion in 2015. By 2019, the firm predicts this number will top $3.5 trillion, with the bulk of the growth coming from Asia-Pacific markets, which it says are growing at a rate of about 35 percent annually. In North America alone, eMarketer reports e-commerce sales totaled nearly $3.5 billion in 2015, up a healthy 14 percent over 2014 sales, with most of those sales and growth in the United States. Monica Peart, forecasting director for eMarketer, explains that the frequency of purchases and higher value transactions are really growing online. “We’re seeing sales continue to grow because…people are more willing to buy big-ticket items online,” she told Internet Retailer (July 29, 2015). The driving forces behind e-commerce sales in the B2C market are convenience, competitive pricing, and trust, according to the report.

If, however, you think it’s just the B2C online sales world that is booming, think again. B2B e-commerce sales in the United States will top $1 trillion by 2020, up from approximately $780 billion in 2014, according to the report by Forrester Research, “U.S. B2B eCommerce Sales to Top $1 Trillion by 2020” (April 2, 2014).

Perhaps more important, the report also found that 74 percent of B2B buyers research at least half of their work-related purchases online before making a purchase. And similar to B2C e-commerce, the driving forces behind B2B online sales are cost savings and the “self-serve” e-commerce environment, referring to the ease and convenience of buying online.

What is increasingly clear is that online sales are growing in both the consumer and trade sectors, and they will continue to grow for years to come. But it is not the only change occurring in e-commerce. As it grows, new technologies are being introduced—and quickly patented—that are designed to make it even easier to make purchases anytime and anywhere. While some are still in the early stages, many of these advancements are already here. Essentially their goal is to make online purchasing as easy as breathing…and requiring about as much thought.

New Technologies

When it comes to e-commerce technologies, as soon as a promising new technology is developed, the next call is to the patent attorney. A U.S. patent grants a property right to an inventor for 20 years, prohibiting others from using the invention in the United States. With all the billions of dollars involved and the potential to make billions more, these new technologies and their developments are closely guarded whether created by a student at a university or by a major online retailer, such as Amazon or eBay. One of the best ways to learn about coming innovations is to look at some of the new e-commerce-related patents, such as:

“On the fly” purchasing. Ever see something online that you’re interested in or would like to purchase but don’t know where you can buy it? With “on the fly” purchasing, you simply click on the picture and an app takes you to a site where the item is described and can be purchased. The product may require a QR or bar code for the app to identify it, but this still eliminates having to search different websites looking for the product (Patent application 20150287021 filed by Mark Itwaru, a Canadian tech entrepreneur).

The translator. Patented by eBay, the translator, allows for a product to instantly be described in different languages on an e-commerce site. While this can certainly help the purchaser, it is actually manufacturers and retailers that are most enthusiastic about this invention. When purchases are made in a language not thoroughly understood by the purchaser, mistakes often surface. The translator is designed to help eliminate these mistakes, and with them, product returns that can occur in such situations (eBay’s patent application 20150248457).

3D images. Amazon has patented a system to create 3D web pages on smartphones. The buyer will be able to tilt the screen to clearly see the product in a variety of ways, just as if they were at the sales counter (Amazon’s patent applications 20150082145 and 20150082180).

Television transactions. A system is being introduced allowing purchasers to make a secure purchase of an item while they are viewing it on television. An account must be created first, but from there on, purchasers can buy products while they are being displayed or discussed on the TV screen (eBay patent application 20150208132).

iBeacon. Introduced by Apple, this technology works with the computer giant’s fingerprint identification system already available on many Apple products, but adds a number of security enhancements for both the purchaser and the retailer. Some observers see it as the beginning of a totally new global payment system. (At press time, Apple has filed 41 patents concerning this technology).

iWallet Chip. Patented by Apple in personal devices, iWallet not only helps consumers obtain relevant data about items they are interested in purchasing and helps them to make transactions, but also allows retailers, restaurants, and other marketers to send targeted advertising, thus helping them to enhance their services.

Bitcoin exchanger. eBay has filed U.S. patents for two cryptocurrency systems. The goal of these new technologies is to provide customers and sellers more efficient ways of interaction and to help process transactions

What This Means for Jansan

These changes are likely to address all sectors of the professional cleaning industry. For example, building service contractors are already turning to the Internet for sales. If adopted, some of these and other technologies will help them buy smarter and faster, but also allow them to efficiently market their own services. Similarly, in-house cleaning professionals and facility managers can turn to these new technologies to help them make more effective purchasing decisions.

Meanwhile, manufacturers will find they have new ways to showcase and describe the features and benefits of their products. And for jansan distributors, who might view the evolution of e-commerce as just one more nail in the coffin, some of these new e-commerce technologies could actually offer them superior ways to market their products and increase sales by broadening their audience and making buying from them faster and easier with fewer mistakes and returns.

Reprinted with permission from ISSA Today (June 2016) (www.issa.com/magazine)

Radhika DeLaire

Radhika DeLaire is vice president of technology for Afflink, a sales and marketing buying group with more than 300 independent distributor members. She can be reached through her company website at www.afflink.com.

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