Want to know where B2B is going? Look at the consumer market.
As marketers and entrepreneurs, we’re constantly told that B2B and B2C are different — the buying patterns are different, businesses care about logic, consumers care about emotion. Even when it comes to the general direction of technology and product design, we incorporate this bias. We all remember that business conferencing app our bosses told us to use, or *god forbid* having to deal with Oracle or Salesforce.
However, take off the those glasses full of pessimism, and you begin to a world of B2B application and platforms that aren’t just nicer and fancier — they’re designed with the exact same types of rationale that B2C software is being designed with. The reasoning for this shift is actually pretty simple.
A Simple Analogy
Here’s a simple analogy to explain why the expectations of B2B software are changing. Remember the days of work handing you a Blackberry and brick of a Thinkpad on your first day? That might have made do in 2006, but when people started getting used to their iPhones and Ultrabooks, it became pretty hard to go back to the days of plodding away on that little Blackberry Bold screen. Thats how BYOD became so commonplace that its the expectation today — first the C level brought their iPhones, then the rest of management started do it, and now everyone at the company brings their own devices. The same thing is happening through B2B practices.
This isn’t just limited to software UI design, although it has been one of the major beneficiaries of this change in thinking. It applies to all the innovation we’ve seen in the consumer space from technology giants like Apple, Google, Facebook, and especially Amazon. Not only do we expect our devices, services, and social networking to function the same at work and at home, we expect the speed at which it happens to be the same too.
In that way, Amazon has really warped our ideas of how transportation timelines are supposed to move — even logistics managers with decades of experience are now expecting their online purchase fulfillment timelines to be measured in hours instead of days and weeks. Not only does Amazon provide speed though — it provides phenomenal, accurate customer service and a tracking portal so you can monitor the status of your order as its fulfilled.
How am I supposed to meet these expectations as a B2B logistics provider?
That’s the key question right? Look at a Thinkpad today — look at how changed the product has become to become more aligned with the consumer side ultrabooks we’re all familiar with.
The same process is going to be expected of your logistics offerings. You’ve got to start offering the same quality of order fulfillment experience as Amazon — with the same degree of speed, efficiency, accuracy, customer friendliness, and tracking. This process took Amazon billions of dollars to perfect, and a scale that no other physical retailer, distributor, or logistics provider has ever reached before. How can you provide this to your customers?
The answer is shockingly simple — invest in the same technology platforms that allowed Amazon to perfect order fulfillment for B2C. The difference is, in the last five years, this technology has become easier to use, more powerful, and more affordable, to where any logistics provider from the smallest 3PLs to the CH Robinsons of the world can leverage it to provide exceptional order fulfillment experiences to their end customers.
Just take a look at FreightPath — not only are you getting a full TMS at an affordable price, you’re getting powerful analytics and BI tools combined with inventory and warehouse management features that help you deliver on orders from the moment inventory enters your control to final delivery to the end customer. Solutions like this and many others aren’t just saving you money over traditional B2B TMS software — its helping you build the competitive edge to truly develop sticky business with your customers.
When you want to see where B2B is going to go next, just remember to look at B2C. Don’t just wait for the change to disrupt your business — be a pioneer and disrupt the industry instead.