Avensia's CEO on the B2B e-commerce trends 2016

Which e-commerce trends can we look forward to in the coming year? We let Robin Gustafsson, CEO of Avensia, give his views on a few trends.

Many describe 2016 as a crossroad where the choice is between being visible on a market place like Alibaba.com and having your own e-commerce store. Which way is the best?

– Most indicators suggest that the trend is toward a combination of market places and own e-commerce shops. The benefit of a market place is that it provides volume. You will have an extra channel to sell through. But your margin will be lower. Your own e-commerce solution provides the possibility of increased sales. It also provides the opportunity to expand your offers with a selection of services in addition to the product. Market places still have not achieved the same impact in Europe as in the rest of the world, but it is clearly important to consider them when planning future strategies. Trading companies will be more affected than manufacturers, because it will contribute to increased competition, while increasing opportunities at the same time.

B2C e-commerce via mobile phones increased significantly in 2015. Will we see a similar development within B2B?

– Yes, everything indicates that the mobile phone will become an important platform even in B2B. B2B customers often have a buying process which is interwoven with their own business. For example, they can make a purchase decision and complete the purchase via their mobile phone while taking inventory and ordering goods for stock. This type of service and possibility for buying will be essential, especially for small businesses. A worker who is more or less on the go all the time can, for example, make shopping lists via his mobile phone during the day and then make the decision to buy in peace and quiet at home. It also creates the possibility for the seller to be present and support the buying process with advice and offers.

Is there any other trend that has the potential to make a big impression in 2016?

– I see an interesting development for inside sales. Sales people in physical stores and B2B e-commerce will grow together thanks to the possibility of chat and video contact. In B2B you often have fewer, but larger customers. Then there is often a need for personal contact. That the customer puts a shopping list in the shopping basket and hesitates before the order is completed can be an important signal that the inside sales person ought to reach out and offer advice. This will also create personal contact with the buyer.

– Otherwise, I would like to stress that many of the trend reports that are showing up now are based on B2C e-commerce. It is more homogeneous than B2B e-commerce, and that is why it is more difficult to talk about B2B in similar generalized terms. B2B companies with retail-like activities, such as construction companies, have much in common with B2C. But the e-commerce trends for a company that sells hydrochloric acid by the cube naturally stands out compared with the trends for someone who sells locally-produce meat online.

Do you have any tips for how B2B e-shops achieve success in 2016?

– What will have a major impact on the success of e-shops is how well they manage to handle the information they receive from their customers. Customer behavior is changing, and shopping should be a simple process. By getting to know their customers and presenting the right products, companies can increase their sales and customer loyalty at the same time. We can look forward to a year with increased competition in several sectors, and it is important to find other added value in one's sales if price is not to be the decisive factor.

– One of the best tips I can give is to create a good plan for how the company works with product information. The selection of channels is also increasing for the B2B merchants. A fundamental success factor is that companies need to collect and handle product information to be able to control more sales channels. When consulting e-commerce companies, regardless of whether it is within retail or B2B, we always stress the importance of managing the product information. It is essential for supporting internal processes and for the customer.