All types of commerce move faster these days, but business-to-business (B2B) companies in particular have a reputation for being slow to adopt new processes and innovate on existing technologies.
Perhaps it’s that B2B interactions have traditionally developed through more personal means. Or that substantially larger volumes per order meant the marketing ecosystem moved slower.
Trends in B2B Technologies & Processes
Whatever the case, B2B’s once accurate reputation is now a stereotype. Let’s discuss five trends changing B2B technologies and processes.
B2B Operations to Invest in Automation & AI to Streamline their Supply Chains
Increased effort in B2C to deliver great customer experiences has revolutionized what we expect in shipping. B2B companies don’t need to replicate the shipping experience offered in B2C, but those consumers work for businesses as well.
Faster expectation has led B2B organizations to tap into automation and AI to modernize various aspects of their supply chain. For instance, AI can anticipate when a part is about to run out and have more ordered before any manufacturing downtime occurs.
On the fulfillment end, smart order tracking software can analyze order patterns against current inventory levels to improve demand forecasting.
Data Democratization Revolutionizing Business Intelligence
Business intelligence is experiencing a revival in terms of usage and discussion. A big reason for this is because business intelligence is finally becoming relatable!
For decades B2B companies have invested significant sums into their data and insight-generation methods.
A major flaw with this type of intelligence, however, is that the cogs of the company (a.k.a. the employees) couldn’t access data, and therefore knowledge. The only insights they received were on an incremental basis.
Now, with the advent of the cloud and tech-agnostic tools, data is getting more accessible and able to be leveraged by employees across the business.
The short- and long-term benefits of this can be massive, as access to knowledge can improve employee retention rates and engagement levels. Free-flowing insights also enhance collaboration and tear down long-standing data silos within companies.
Voice Search Changing B2B Workflows (After Consumer Lives)
Given the popularity of voice-search devices and all signs pointing toward that fandom increasing, it only makes sense to implement the technology in the workplace.
The challenge isn’t so much getting employees to adopt voice technology (many employees in a B2B company probably have a voice assistant at home). Instead, business leaders lack clarity on the efficiency and monetization potential of voice search.
These sentiments have deprioritized an important initiative. That should change this year as consumer voice search habits continue increasing and company executives realize the long-term value of aiding workflows with voice-search capabilities.
Artificial Intelligence Automating Data Mining
Artificial intelligence (AI) is a regular topic of discussion in just about every industry that exists. It’s no different in the data analytics space.
As companies look to broaden data access in their organizations, AI and machine learning (ML) are central roles in making sure actionable insights are generated for all.
While many things surrounding AI are unclear, it’s effect on analytics will be one of accessibility and helping non-technical users drill into data and find sharper insights.
For instance, a feature called SpotIQ, created by analytics company ThoughtSpot, runs dozens of insight-detection algorithms on every query users search to provide the most accurate answer possible.
The tool also alerts users of any hidden insights lurking in the data. SpotIQ also uses machine learning to personalize the analytics it delivers to end users, increasing user adoption and daily data interactions.
Demand for Quality Content Shifting B2B from Outbound to Inbound Marketing
Outbound marketing has been the bread and butter of B2B companies for some time. However, similar to Amazon’s reshaping of order fulfillment, our digital society has changed the protocol for customer messaging. This is why email marketing, blogging, white-papers and other types of inbound marketing are so effective in every stage of the customer journey.
The reason why inbound marketing wins at every level of the funnel is that digital commerce doesn’t always recognize or imitate traditional funnels.
There is an ongoing interplay between various stages of the customer journey. The best way for B2B organizations to position themselves for success is to offer quality content wherever their customers and leads congregate.
Community forums and question sites like Reddit and Quora are seeing a lot of activity from B2B companies through the medium of quality contributions and subtle brand plugging.
Depending on the business, other quality-driven content mediums could include podcasts, a Slack channel, or even creating an internal online community or forum that discusses topics related to your industry. For example, the SEO company Moz runs a Q&A forum on their site which is effective at generating search traffic, building brand awareness, and moving new users along the funnel.
The B2B space may not move at the pace that the B2C industry does, but it’s not as far behind as its reputation would have us believe. Look for these five trends to gradually influence more B2B workflows in 2019.
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