Article by Sam Cinquegrani, CEO and Founder
In its second year, B2B Next proved to be a great networking event and a place to learn from your peers. As a sponsor, we were allowed to participate in a series of workshops, 4 to be exact, and were able to gain insight into the issues that many companies are experiencing with their online commerce.
In the workshops I participated in, 3 out of 4 were centered around Amazon. In particular, how to best leverage Amazon to grow your online business consistent with your brand. This required looking at Amazon as a partner or as a member of an ecosystem that assisted you in selling your goods. But like all ‘big’ partners, dealing with how they dictate their terms is always a challenge.
So what is Amazon? Are they a search engine, a partner, a competitor or a distributor? It was suggested that the power of Amazon is how they influence commerce regardless of whether it was online or offline. For example, did you know that Amazon influences 1 out of 7 offline purchases? Or, Amazon controls 40% of all online commerce in the United States and that they limit their resellers in terms of how they can interact with their site? As a marketplace, they do very little to protect a seller’s brand, trademark or products. And often sellers are frustrated with how to deal with Amazon. But inevitably, how you deal with Amazon as a channel can benefit you if you have the skills and knowledge to deal with them.
There are 600 million products on amazon with 300 million customers. These were amazing numbers to me, but given they attract 2.5 billion visitors per month, it makes sense. And finally, Amazon Business is doing $10 billion annually and it is their fastest growing business. Alarming statistics if you perceive Amazon as a competitor, but very different if you look at them as a partner.
I attended a session, by James Thomson, very knowledgeable on Amazon on how to deal with them. His presentation dealt with the legalities of Minimum Advertised Price (MAP) violations and protecting your brand. I found it to be very practical in terms of making certain that you have proper governance in place and enforcing it before you are faced with issues. And to use tools like brand registry that Amazon has in place and becoming a reseller so you can control the product descriptions. All great information on how to deal with a marketplace like Amazon and relatively simple steps to ensure those problems don’t occur to your organization. Understanding Amazon, their practices and how you should alter your own practices will go a long way in dealing with them as a marketplace and growing your online business.
There was a great discussion around Change Management as well as a panel discussing the challenges of finding, acquiring and retaining digital talent. Meeta Kratz was part of those panels and had some great insight into both topics. The Change Management Track emphasised how to best identify the what, the how and the who of digital transformation. Only then can you start to impact the leadership talk track, build a culture that embraces chance, involve teams at all levels across the organization. Digital change is not just about technology platforms or marketing automation, it is a shift in business thinking that impacts all areas of a given organization, from finance to manufacturing to sales and marketing. In other words you need a business strategy that embraces the digital world.
Planning models, frameworks and implementation ideas were presented and gave the attendees some ideas on how to take their business into the digital transformation journey.
On the exhibit floor the usual suspects were there, including ourselves, ObjectWave. There was a great deal of interest around headless implementations of ecommerce platforms, which makes sense to B2B companies, which usually have rich content but lack the transactional component of digital commerce. Headless commerce allows for the reuse of the content coupled with the functionality of a commerce platform, like Magento, SAP Commerce or Salesforce B2B Commerce. I was also impressed with Mirakl and the demo around Mirakl. I had seen the demo before and as a partner we were pleased to see the interest around the product. Definitely a trend to monitor as large enterprises develop strategies around their large customer base.
The other trend that I identified, was the increase in search technologies, like Coveo and Elastic Search. Both have solutions for search that go beyond the mechanical search engines. Coveo is truly impressive integrating machine learning and AI to provide a rich search capability. And of course, this plays well into a headless implementation as does rich CMS, PIMS and DAM environments like Adobe Experience Manager and Salsify.