Has B2B ecommerce come of age? Maybe.

The 2016 Intershop Ecommerce report makes the claim that “B2B E-Commerce Comes of Age”. If you market B2B ecommerce systems and solutions this report is a must read for the following reasons:

  • The report was based on surveying B2B decision makers who, for the most part, have an online channel to sell and support their customers
  • You’ll get some rich insights on how B2B ecommerce buyers are grasping digital commerce channels
  • The benefits they are currently seeing from having an ecommerce channel
  • Who’s involved in the buying decision for ecommerce solutions, services and products

Four hundred ecommerce decision makers contributed to this research report. It’s a great opportunity to learn how buyers think, what they need and where they’re headed when it comes to digital commerce channels and digital transformation as a whole.  You can download: Intershop E-Commerce-Report 2016: Taking the Fast Track into the Digital Future of B2B Commerce (Disclosure: they have and currently are not a client of Mi6 Agency… yet. If you’re from Intershop contact me and we can chat!)

Over 70% of those surveyed have digital commerce channels in production and some are now looking for ways to improve sales, productivity and leverage emerging technologies such as “big data” and the internet of things.

Big data is a marketing buzzword and the Internet of Things could be changed to the the “Internet of Hype and Vapour” according to some (many?). The reality is regardless of how much data you gather it needs to be mined, leveraged and used to deliver more value to your customers and capture value in the form of revenue and profit for your company.

The chart below tells you that ecommerce decision makers consider “big data” highly strategic.

I Know a "Guy" and what does he think about B2B ecommerce coming of age?

Guy PearceI don’t take these reports entirely at face value especially when they are commissioned by a vendor. So, I asked Guy Pearce [LinkedIn], partner at REData Performance Consulting [company website], on his thoughts. REData, based in Oakville in the Greater Toronto Area (GTA), specializes in big data strategy and governance, with particular expertise in helping enterprises develop and leverage their data as an asset.

Here’s what he had to say about the study.

Before commenting, it’s important to note the limitations of the survey, such as:

  • The exclusion of the financial services industry – which contributes to 20%-30% of the GDP of developed countries – where most of its profitability actually arises from B2B ecommerce transactions
  • There is no segregation between small, medium and large businesses
  • If “big data” was not defined for the purpose of the survey, then everyone will have used their own interpretation of it, thus negatively affecting the survey’s reliability.

Strong Case for big data for B2B ecommerce but do they know what it means?

Given these issues, the first four survey findings are reasonable. That 84% say big data will have a positive effect on our business model – deserves more comment. B2B ecommerce presents an especially strong case for big data, especially given the availability of highly usable external data like sector-based economic forecasts and research, which are particularly relevant in B2B.

But, that 42% say their entire organization is entirely effective at using big data – suggests that no authoritative definition for big data was provided for the respondents.

Have the 168 respondents really leveraged the potential of all of the volume, velocity, variety and new technology attributes of big data – by Gartner’s definition as an example – for their entire business?

Have the “real” benefits and competitive advantage of big data been realized?

Are there really 168 case studies of a full implementation of the big data vision in this small sample? Furthermore, this response contradicts many of the other responses. It’s surely an overly optimistic outcome. If some believe that they have already achieved most of the benefits of big data, yet haven’t achieved a step-change in financial performance and competitiveness against their peers, then they may be over-stating their big data achievements.

Further to the article, disciplined Enterprise Data Management (EDM) – a component of data governance – is an imperative for developing data-driven competitiveness. EDM includes data quality, metadata and Master Data Management (MDM), all of which serve to improve the usability of data, whatever its source or type,

Without EDM, the potential of realizing the business benefits of big data will be constrained, and the operating and reputation risk of acting on unvalidated data, or data out of context, could be considerable. A strong, integrated big data operating model needs the right technology, the right skills, and the right policies, procedures, standards and guidelines to make it work consistently, reliably and efficiently.

However, this has no real meaning without business knowledge; big data’s effectiveness is low without a strong understanding of the relationship between data and business value. Without the latter, the big data business case – the foundation for requesting the requisite budget – will be weak.

Yes, B2B should be keen on big data, but it dare not be vague about it. Indeed, its potential is limited only by how well the organization can apply business knowledge to the various data and its analytics. In a world of ever-increasing competition, one has to be confident of big data’s potential, and about how to extract value from it.

Chris HerbertChris Herbert is the founder of Mi6. Mi6 is a B2B (Business to Business) marketing and business development agency dedicated to helping companies build their brands and develop commercial relationships. He is the founder of ProductCamp Toronto and the Hi-tech community Silicon Halton. He tweets under the handle @B2Bspecialist.