Our fridge tells us when food is close to its expiry date, we buy washing powder by pressing a ‘magic’ button in an app, and when we enter a shop we receive a customised product offer directly to our phone….
Does this sound like science-fiction to you?
It could be just a few years away. Nowadays, the way we shop is looking more and more like this.
The fact that we have internet, mobile devices, and social media everywhere has changed the way we shop.
Has it also had an effect on B2B relationships?
Buyers, who are used to new technology and the internet, are now looking for simplicity, convenience, and sometimes pleasure when shopping – even with B2B purchasing.
The boundary between online and offline purchasing, which was the reason for this distinction to exist in the early days of the internet, is slowly fading, …
Nowadays, we all have the internet with us all the time thanks to smartphones, and we hardly leave the house without them. New technology is getting better at balancing out the lack of physical contact with the product (for example thanks to live chats with sales personnel, 360° pictures or virtual changing rooms).
The wealth of knowledge provided to us by the digital media means that buyers already have specific knowledge before they actually go shopping, they are aware of the prices and features of products, giving them a real advantage over sellers.
The time of SMAC (social, mobile analytics and cloud) has come. We are in constant contact with specialists from diverse sectors, we create social networks, work online and make use of complex surveys and statistics which provide us with information about the product or target group.
New technology allows cheaper, greater and faster sales. And in addition, we can trade whenever, wherever and whatever we want.
The establishment of sales platforms like Amazon for Business had led to the elimination of restrictions on hours or problems with delivery.
Thanks to technology from the frontline of the internet of things, companies can optimise their chains of supply, streamline production and offer their customers completely new experiences.
Let’s have a look at the most interesting cases from the domestic market, which are changing B2B relationships before our very eyes.
The internet of things?
The fridge we mentioned at the beginning, the one that communicates with users, is a mere indication of the direction in which the latest projects associated with the internet of things are going. Today, companies are looking for solutions which will not just improve the functioning of one device, but rather whole factories, offices, architectural complexes or even cities.
How can we control the unnecessary consumption of energy in individual sections of buildings?
How can we synchronise the functioning of fire-prevention systems with security and monitoring systems?
How can we improve the efficient usage of individual rooms based on their availability and reservations?
How well can we control the working hours of employees?
These are specific problems faced by companies, which can be solved by this type of technology.
An example here is the APA Group, who deal with intelligent industrial machinery and building management systems.
Using their own project solutions in the form of the Vision BMS and Nazca systems, APA supports other companies with the optimisation of industrial and building management processes, whereby the savings achieved by connecting the latest technology can even amount to tens of thousands of Zloty.
An excellent example of B2B activities can also be a new company location.
APA Black House is a two-story building which functions as an intelligent solutions showroom, which can be controlled using a mobile application from anywhere in the world. APA uses the building to display the products of its business partners, which gain a completely new dimension in connection with the latest technology, which can later be used in its own activities.
In these times of the ever-present internet, the phrase ‘information is power’ is more applicable than ever before.
The huge amount of information which every one of us generates online in the form of videos on YouTube, posts on social media or comments on articles, means that a specific brand is referenced hundreds of time online, every day.
Tools like Brand24 are able to sift through this and find useful data to provide brands with specific and practical information about themselves. Based on this data, companies can plan specific advertising campaigns, launch new products or react quickly to any references made to them. There’s no need to explain that the ‘purchase’ of this information can provide real sales benefits.
VR, AR, and gamification
Can virtual and augmented reality technology, known mainly for computer games and the entertainment sector, change the B2B sector?
Examples from various parts of the world – including our domestic market – show that it definitely can.
For companies that are struggling with expensive or complicated production and training process, or processes which are unsafe for employees, virtual reality allows them to obtain real benefits, testing new solutions and products.
For example, the company i3D provides this kind of technology. Its portfolio includes projects for the steel giant ArcelorMittal (a virtual walk allowed employees to see the area of a large steel furnace), Boeing (a virtual CAVE system allowed airlines purchasing Boeing planes to see the features before buying) or for a producer of mining machinery – Becker-Warkop (a simulator for these machines minimised the risk and training costs on real equipment).
Buying products which sometimes cost thousands of Zloty are much more practical thanks to VR since companies can try them out before buying.
Implementation of IT purchasing solutions
The automation of production and the latest computer programs means that processes which, to date, were repetitive and had to be done on paper, can be simplified and generate much lower costs.
An example of this is the self-invoicing platform created by Marketplanet for Orange. The project’s goal was to reduce process costs for the service and accounting of purchasing documents concerning cyclical, on-going costs (e.g. rent of commercial and technical premises).
The proposed IT solutions allow paper documents to be eliminated, manual actions to be kept to a minimum, the implementation time in the P2P process (order – sale – invoicing – payment) to be shortened, as well as the risk of errors when generating and registering documents to be eliminated.
Thanks to automation and IT solutions, companies can also streamline processes such as mailings, the generation of leads or the creation and publication of marketing information.
Do you know any other examples of technology being used in B2B purchasing?