At conference presentations and in interviews where industry luminaries share their take on what next will disrupt business, a couple of common themes repeatedly pop up of late: incremental and transformative digital innovation, and the Internet of Things. No longer far-fetched ideas, they’re close to hitting home for many companies involved in B2B e-commerce.
Digital innovation—including e-commerce, mobile commerce and new ways for companies to produce and exchange data internally and with trading partners—is not just for businesses on the cutting edge. “Incremental innovation is table stakes and expected in the market,” R. “Ray” Wang, founder of technology consultants Constellation Research, said at a recent conference put on by e-commerce and web content management company Episerver.
More disruptive, he added, is transformational innovation, where a company like Amazon.com comes along and uses digital technology and related business processes to disrupt an industry—and put the fear of falling behind and losing out into the minds and hearts of manufacturers and distributors as well as retailers that must compete with it.
One opportunity to participate in transformational innovation is through the emerging Internet of Things, or IoT. Take a business like B2B field service management. As field service reps make their rounds of clients’ installed technology systems to see what may need to be updated, their duties will get altered as well as enhanced by IoT systems that place Internet-connected sensors on various components of a machine or system, alerting clients as well as service and sales reps when a component needs to be replaced. The service person wouldn’t have to first take apart the machine to see what needed to be replaced. If configured to connect with an e-commerce system, that alert could trigger an online order to replenish the component and send a message to the service team to schedule the repair work.
Suppliers who don’t take advantage of such a digital transformation will likely fall behind. Companies like Coresystems, a provider of cloud-based technology for managing field service teams, are already working with some companies making inroads along these lines.
Many readers of B2BeCommerceWorld.com, of course, are surely more concerned about nearer-term developments. For them more practical steps are simply to learn how digital technology—improved site search for particular types of products, for instance—as well as overall customer service can help their customers more easily carry out their B2B buying duties. As Wang says, “If you don’t help me do my job and save me time, you don’t really help me.”
There are many things B2B companies of any size and type can do today to shore up their business and be stronger to take on bigger transformations tomorrow.
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