The predicted convergence between B2B and B2C is set to continue in 2024, which puts even greater pressure on product information management. However, as Kristin Naragon, Chief Strategy and Marketing Officer at Akeneo explains, there are rich benefits for both sellers and buyers.

Ask anyone today responsible for buying online for a business what kind of experience they expect and they will give answers based on their role as a corporate employee and one as a consumer. They will use words like professional, reliable, efficient, accurate, but they will also use words like enjoyable, immersive, personalised, rewarding. What happened here is the once separate worlds of B2B and B2C have collided to create the ultimate buying experience, in what has been termed B2B consumerisation, or as IDC calls it ‘Transcendent Commerce’.

However, in order for this convergence to work, both types owe each other a favour; B2B needs to get more B2C. And this has to happen because the corporate buyer carries both personal and corporate responsibilities on their shoulders to procure correctly and efficiently and in a timely fashion given that other people are depending on them.

We are therefore certain to see in 2024 a continuation of the observed convergence of B2B and B2C and companies building solutions for buyers will need to shift their focus to everything that supports the sale. This will see a growth in the deployment of immersive technologies including augmented Reality (AR), virtual showrooms and visual product configurations.

And when we say buyers, more and more companies are observing that, as Millennials and Gen Z move into procurement roles vacated by retiring Boomers, their expectations are far more B2C-oriented. As Supply Chain Brain reports, “They have digital devices in hand and are ready to use them. Phones, faxes and emails are viewed as relics of the 20th century.” This means that buyers ideally want to use a single web site to do the whole order.

This trend will see further development in the tools that make the journey more reliable and efficient, notably using the right Product Information Management (PIM) and Product Experience Management (PXM) tools, which in turn will see developers increase automation and centralise their tech stack to achieve this, as well as keep pace with regulation and data privacy.

This approach has enabled building fastener and component specialist retailer and manufacturer, Fixfast to improve data accuracy and consistency across its sales channels. For example, it has been able to accelerate its product record capabilities to fast-track and quickly update new Brexit safety certification across its entire product catalogue ahead of key accreditation deadlines.

The impact on its SEO has been dramatic. Richer complete product data helps discoverability and searchability of the product. As a result, a 57% increase in organic traffic placed them ahead of some of their much larger B2C competitors. Load speeds went up and products got ranked on the first page of Google, something they had never seen before.  More accurate product information also led to a fall in product returns.

Importantly, this approach has benefits for both B2B buyers and B2B companies. Fixfast for instance was able to get a single source of truth for product data across all its sales channels, and to unify its product data onto one platform to give it greater speed-to-market, enhanced product information consistency and accuracy, as well as a richer product record. As Emma Watkins, Head of Marketing & Customer Service at Fixfast, commented: “We have seen vast improvements across speed of updating our product catalogue, which sets us in good stead moving forwards, but being able to react quickly when new safety protocols or standards come into play means we’re now future-proofed against further changes.”

A further huge advantage of this approach is that, in addition to benefits being delivered early, companies with a single source of truth can start to do other things more easily and quickly. Fixfast for instance was able to reduce the time to produce and print a product directory with prices down from 6-8 months to just a matter of weeks. There have also been labour savings; data on sheets is now 100% correct meaning no manual interventions are required.

In addition, with product information management and product experience management under full control at the centre, companies can work more successfully with third party aggregators, not least with Amazon. The tools that work so well in B2C are now delivering value for B2B, and helping to blur the lines between the two to the point where we will soon no longer be able to see the join.

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