It’s a simple fact that given a choice, B2B buyers will choose the path of least resistance. Like all of us, buyers are very busy and will always seek efficiency and simplicity. I have heard this referred to as the “lazy buyer syndrome”. That may be a bit harsh, but there is no question that you need to make things as easy as possible for buyers. You can significantly enhance Buyer Empowerment by automating order placement.
“What technologies can we deploy to make the order placement process as easy (and accurate) as possible and advance Buyer Empowerment?”
For the Ecommerce executive, this “enabling technology” mandate presents both a challenge as well as an opportunity. The challenge is that your competitors are probably working right now to make things easier – and better for buyers. The opportunity arises when your Ecommerce experience is the best in class. If you can accomplish this, you are well-positioned to win most “jump ball” situations and maybe even some where you are at a slight competitive disadvantage.
How do you become best in class? You do it by being able to capitalize on the buyers’ technical capabilities and the ordering environment. In short, you want to minimize (and perhaps even eliminate) input from the actual buyer in the transaction.
Listed below are three levels of technology deployment to advance order management experiences for buyers. These are highly dependent on technology capabilities of both the seller and the buyer.
Advanced: No Buyer Input to Order Placement
The “dream scenario” is to have the order placed with no human intervention. Examples include:
- IoT (Internet of Things) used to trigger automatic replenishment when buyer’s on hand inventory falls below a specific reorder level. For example, an injection molding manufacturer’s plastic resin is reordered when the IoT sensor in the resin silo triggers replenishment.
- Sellers can make necessary connections to the buyers’ ERP system to capture ordering information that has been generated on their end. When a production order is placed, systems generate all necessary raw materials and orders are placed automatically. Sometimes this integration is facilitated by EDI, Punchout, and of course API integration.
Intermediate: Minimal Buyer Input to Order Placement
There are many possible scenarios to shortcut the process for the buyer. Here are some examples:
- Use AI (Artificial Intelligence)to assess buyers needs, and recommend items and purchase quantities, which shortcuts the ordering process for the buyer. Buyer can approve/edit recommended line items.
- Leverage technology that can assist the buyer in order placement such as voice ordering, bar code scanning, etc.
Basic: Significant Buyer Input to Order Placement
For a variety of reasons, many situations will still require significant buyer input to initiate the transaction. There are still opportunities to streamline this process for the buyer, such as:
- Analyzing customer historical purchases to develop “shopping lists” of top items to shortcut ordering process
- Anticipating common reorder items and recommend replenishment based on timing of previous purchases. Examples include belts and filters for manufacturing equipment, seasonal fertilizer needs for golf courses, etc.
- Assess the technology capabilities of your largest customers to ensure that you are accommodating their capabilities to streamline ordering. If you are unaware of their capacity, make this a high priority.
- Evaluate the order management processes enabled by your competitors. If competitors exceed your capabilities, this is a significant risk to your existing book of business.
To enhance Buyer Empowerment and also Customer Experience, Ecommerce executives must continually enhance their order management functions to leverage buyers’ growing capabilities. B2B Buyers will be frustrated when their expectations/capabilities are not leveraged by an ill-equipped seller. At a minimum, this will likely result in a poor customer experience. Far worse is the buyer switching suppliers as they seek a more sophisticated Ecommerce experience that provides convenient, efficient ordering.