This week we’re joined by Guy Courtin, Vice President of Industry and Solutions at Infor. We originally met Guy and interviewed him briefly at MODEX back in April, and now he gets an episode all to himself in the Optimum Productions studio – post-airplane set.
As well as running his own supply chain podcast, Guy has worked in the world of supply chain solutions and go-to market strategies for over twenty years.
To Guy, the rise of present-day eCommerce mirrors the rise of Dot-Com companies in the late 90s. Half-fad…half-foundational.
That movement was one of the first times that the barriers between B2B and B2C started to crumble. That’s one of the reasons that eCommerce has shifted from B2C into B2B at all. So why is it becoming less and less like a passing trend?
1. WHAT INFOR LEARNED ABOUT DIGITAL DIFFERENTIATION
Infor was one of the first companies in supply chain and logistics to really embrace digital transformation early, and so they’ve been dubbed one of the “unicorn” companies in that space.
But aside from embracing the cloud early, Guy insists that it was only half of the formula.
The majority of Infor’s success comes simply from focusing on relationships with their customers.
And at the risk of repeating the importance of personal interactions, that’s what separates colleagues from friends; and vendors from partners.
“There’s no point where you say, ‘Alright! I’m a partner! I’m out!’ Once you get to that level, there’s even more work to do.”
While some B2B-ers fear that monopolies will arise based on who embraces new tech the fastest, Guy points out that there’s still plenty of variety and small companies popping up every day…and if someone is paying them for their services, then they’re all doing something right.
The key is to stay humble, and focus on serving your customers wherever they are.
2. HOW B2C HAS TRANSFORMED B2B COMMERCE
One of the key reasons that B2B is shifting is because buyers are shifting their buying process, and the companies who adapt are going to benefit.
Consumer habits have always been changing, but the age of the internet has kicked everything up a notch.
Back in the late 90s, many companies provided personal pagers or Blackberry devices to their staff…until Apple rolled out the iPhone. Suddenly, people didn’t want to switch phones when they came to work every day.
“If I’m in Procurement…but on Sunday when my kid asks for a G.I. Joe…I’m going on my phone, I’m going to an app…I have customer reviews, I see price transparency, I see options… If I go to the office on Monday, and now I’m asked to buy…through an old [method], do I accept that? Of course not.
“We as consumers, when we go to the office, our expectations don’t stop and stay at home.”
Some industrial companies fear that eCommerce will do away with sales and distributors completely…but that’s not what’s happening in B2C.
Companies like Blockbuster and Toys-R-Us have closed all of their brick-and-mortar stores because they didn’t adapt digitally…
…but entirely digital companies like Amazon are suddenly opening brick-and-mortar stores, too.
“[E-Commerce] technology is not a replacement. It is complementary.”
When Guy was recently wandering a Kroger, he spotted an entire freezer section devoted to mochi ice cream. “I love mochi,” he explained. “But would never think of buying it…but going through a grocery store, that piqued my interest.”
Is Kroger ignoring the digital world? Not at all! They’re also adapting for online orders, mobile delivery, and other new grocery fads. But they also have traditional stores because they include a personal touch that online shopping just doesn’t have. Not to mention that impulse buys are a bit more common in-person than online.
3. IF YOU’RE CONSIDERING E-COMMERCE…
eCommerce isn’t the only way to do business out there, but it’s still growing exponentially as a central method to doing business.
“If you’re still [only] thinking about [E-commerce]… you’re already behind.”
If you’re not in eCommerce now, you’re losing revenue to companies who are.
Whatever your field, you always need to be considering how you can reduce the friction leading up to a transaction.
“Companies need to think… ‘What is the path I need to allow my consumer to get to the conversion?’ ”
In B2B, customers are always changing. We buyers and consumers are fickle and easily-distracted. Our habits are hard to anticipate. That’s both bad news…and good news.
“The scary part and the beauty of what we’re about today in digital is…just because you’re ahead doesn’t mean you’re going to stay there, and just because you’re behind doesn’t mean you can’t leap-frog someone.”
Whatever your business, keeping an eye on digital and consumer trends is the only way to achieve longevity…and right now, eCommerce is revealing itself to be one key technology that’s here to stay.
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