B2B e-commerce expert Andy Hoar discusses with B2BecNews how the B2B Next conference and exhibition debuting in Chicago this fall will help manufacturers and distributors address the challenges and opportunities of selling online. (This is an update of a prior Q&A report featuring Any Hoar.)

Andy Hoar, CEO, Paradigm B2B

Andy Hoar, a leading B2B e-commerce expert and CEO of consulting firm Paradigm B2B, warns that manufacturers and distributors have no choice but to get on board with digital commerce. And in a recent interview with B2BecNews, he discusses how the inaugural B2B Next conference and exhibition will provide a roadmap for digital transformation.

B2B Next will launch as a three-day event starting on Sept. 24 at the Sheraton Grand Chicago, a conference hotel in the city’s downtown area near Lake Michigan. It is being produced by a partnership formed by Hoar and Vertical Web Media LLC, the publisher of B2BecNews and Internet Retailer and the creator of IRCE, the world’s largest e-commerce conference and exhibition. (IRCE is now owned by Emerald Expositions LLC.)

In the interview, Hoar notes that business executives today face pressure to meet the demands of customers who increasingly go online to research products, and expect to quickly find and purchase what they need. He elaborates on how B2B Next will provide through workshops and in-depth sessions, practical advice that business executives will be able to use to develop and carry out successful B2B e-commerce strategies.

Q: B2B e-commerce already dwarfs retail e-commerce, with about $900 billion in sales in the U.S. alone and expected to soon surpass $1 trillion. Why is it so big and growing?

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AH: Customers are increasingly demanding online self-service to complement full-service. Younger, digitally native customers are now making buying decisions in many B2B organizations and they think online first. B2B sellers must respond by creating flexible and frictionless customer journeys.

In addition, B2B companies stand to gain from migrating customers into an omnichannel environment, where customers can interact with sellers and receive consistent service across selling channels, including mobile commerce, desktop websites and sales reps.

Moreover, companies realize that they can reduce the cost to serve customers, drive incremental revenue and improve customer loyalty. It’s not often that you get a “three-fer” like that.

Q: Why B2B Next?

AH: Even with all the growth in B2B e-commerce, e-commerce still accounts for a small percentage of overall B2B sales. That leaves plenty of room for companies to grow via e-commerce. We created B2B Next to help companies build strategies, network with peers and review the latest B2B e-commerce technology applications as they plan online growth.

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What also makes this joint venture different is that we expect to maintain an ongoing dialogue with B2B e-commerce professionals, not just host a once-a-year event.

Q: What will B2B Next offer attendees?

AH: For years B2B e-commerce professionals and software and services companies have been asking for a show that offers high-quality, actionable content. B2B Next will not only tell attendees why they need to excel in B2B e-commerce, but show them how, with future-focused, immediately applicable content and hands-on workshops that will turn insights into concrete plans.

B2B companies know they have to vastly expand their digital business, but many don’t know where to start or how to move to the next level. Our goal is to enable large and medium-sized B2B companies to acquire the highest quality insights from peers and industry experts and to meet partners with demonstrated expertise producing differentiated customer experiences.

Q: Why is it urgent for companies to get into B2B e-commerce now?

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AH:  You can’t opt out of digital. Every B2B company on the planet must change, in many cases fundamentally, to accommodate new forms of machine-to-human interaction and machine-to-machine interaction.  In addition, competitors in complementary spaces today can easily add new lines of business, new product categories, and new SKUs—and make a run at someone else’s core business.  Amazon.com is also a looming threat—both from a selling and fulfillment perspective.

In addition, the customer experience bar keeps rising, and customer defection is much easier than it used to be—it’s now often just one click away.

Q: You routinely meet with many businesses. What are you hearing from companies that underscores the need for B2B Next?

AH: They’re saying they need high-quality content that they can apply immediately to their business, and we know that stats and stories alone fall short. This is why we’re putting heavy emphasis at the event on case studies and workshop-based learning, so that attendees can walk away with the “how” in addition to the “why.”  

Sign up for a complimentary subscription to B2BecNews, a twice-weekly newsletter that covers technology and business trends in the growing B2B e-commerce industry. B2BecNews is published by Vertical Web Media LLC, which also publishes DigitalCommerce360.comInternet Retailer and Internet Health Management. Follow B2BecNews editor Paul Demery on Twitter @pdemery.

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