Unlocking B2B commerce: Part 4 – Preparing for the future of commerce
The “future” of B2B commerce is actually now. Yes, we can anticipate trends and certain things B2B can look at a few years down the line, but in reality B2B must do the work now. They must put the right technology in place, as well as the right internal systems and workflows, to ensure they are prepared for the present, the future and anything that gets thrown at them along the way.
In the final part of our blog series with our partner Slatwall Commerce, we’re going to explore where B2B should be looking to next in terms of commerce and the architecture they’ll need to both scale and become agile.
The future of B2B commerce, it’s headless
In part 1 of the series we touched on the fact that B2B buyers are becoming more digitally savvy and as a result B2B businesses need to up their digital offerings if wanting to stand out from competitors and make sales. And then in part 3 we looked at how content should play a big part in this also.
So how do we make it all happen and where should B2B businesses be looking next?
Well, to start off with a headless approach should be the foundation for any business. By leveraging a headless architecture, B2B businesses can take advantage of an API-first model whereby they can utilize and configure best-of-breed systems that will work for their specific requirements. This means they can plug in a headless content management system (CMS) alongside their PIM (product information management), ERP (enterprise resource planning) platform and/or a digital asset manager (DAM) to name a few. All this allows for easy management and publishing of content alongside product data, catalog information, pricing etc. It allows B2B to display more personalized and contextual information when a buyer needs it most, and ultimately it allows businesses to start to create more enriched customer experiences across digital channels, meaning they don’t just have to rely on field sales.
One example whereby a headless approach can help B2B is through the introduction of artificial intelligence (AI) for inventory. With this added layer of intelligence configured into the architecture, businesses will have access to more analysis and insight, and in real-time. This can be used to help with the likes of offering automatic re-ordering for buyers, whereby the data is used to anticipate what the buyer needs based on say their order history, and offer a pre-populated cart so the buyer can purchase a lot quicker.
Other examples whereby headless can come into its own for B2B business, not just in the future but now, is through voice recognition, searching for parts through imagery, or integrations with marketplaces and point of sales systems. It’s all about letting the business pick the tools that align with their objectives and that will add value where they need it.
Facilitating D2C and marketplaces
Direct to consumer (D2C) is becoming increasingly popular with B2B businesses as they look to cut out the middlemen and distribute to the end customer directly. With it obviously comes different complexities, not least how you create and publish content, how you market to and facilitate ordering for a completely different audience.
A headless approach makes this a lot simpler. If a B2B business is already headless, essentially the backend systems are near enough ready to go. They can add on and spin up frontends and storefronts to suit the consumer market a lot easier because they are already leveraging the backend data like inventory and product information. It’s just being displayed in a different channel. This also means B2B can change out branding, or add in other consumer-facing tools without affecting their other B2B systems and processes.
D2C won’t be for every business. But another option that allows many, especially smaller businesses, to get to the end customer quicker is marketplaces. Marketplace distribution again is made easier with headless, especially a headless CMS, as businesses can easily leverage the systems they have, and distribute the same content and information to their marketplace listings. This means they are able to present a consistent brand experience across all their channels and remove any duplication of work internally so content production is more efficient.
In essence, through headless B2B businesses can support both B2B and B2C needs, and can easily publish content across different channels, storefronts and to marketplaces. It’s an all-in-one style option but with the flexibility to allow B2B to choose which channels they want to be present in, which tooling they want to configure and how they create customer experiences.
Time to go headless?
Across the series we can see that B2B can learn a lot from B2C both in terms of how to anticipate buyer needs and how new technology can help enrich the purchasing process. If you think headless commerce may be the right option for you, then get in touch with either Amplience or Slatwall Commerce.