Are B2B Digital Marketplaces The Next Buying Revolution?

We welcome this guest post from Matt Royle, marketing director at Probrand.

Marketplaces can be traced back as far as Athens, circa 600BC where they were known as the ‘agora’ or, the literal translation; ‘meeting space.’ Defined as ‘arenas of commercial dealings’, this was a place where buyers and suppliers could come together to access new goods and compare stock, as well as to browse, barter and buy.

Fast forward to today and we’ve lost a lot of that transparency when it comes to our daily commercial dealings. For the IT buying space in particular, buyers face endless cold calls from sales teams, confusing price fluctuations and at times, inflated margins.

A whole new (buying) world

As consumers, if we want to buy flights, accommodation or car insurance we almost instinctively head to a comparison site such as Skyscanner or Kayak. These online portals give us the ability to self-serve, browsing multiple product types and prices in a matter of seconds.

In the business world, IT buyers face the same variety and choice, without the same tools at their disposal to help them make decisions. Moore’s Law says that the speed of technology leads to an abundance of products every two years. This fast-moving market means it is even harder to keep on top of prices, with new stock affecting the price of old.

To combat this, we’re starting to see a consumerisation of B2B procurement, with digital marketplaces like Microsoft Azure Marketplace, Amazon for Business, and Fiverr bridging the gap – offering solutions that gather information, monitor prices, and offer bespoke solutions.

How we buy

The way we shop in our consumer lives is now being demanded in the business world, with 94% of business buyers researching products and services online before they buy.

It doesn’t mean buyers won’t sometimes need to look beyond self-service for additional guidance. But it’s important to consider that 60% of buyers have already decided on a purchase before they have any contact with the supplier, so the quality of online information needs to reflect this. Suppliers need to deliver a smooth customer experience – one which facilitates decision-making and aggregates multiple companies, products and services in one space.

Taking a personalised approach  

Having information that is more structured and bespoke to an individual buyer’s needs is particularly important. IT buyers need a solution with the option to speak to industry professionals or vendors directly, as well as using digital advisors to configure services and help them make more informed decisions.

Depending on the nature of the business, organisations may have specific challenges which only a unique combination of technology will solve. The choice available now means the buyer might need to investigate physical, virtual, two-in-one, Cloud and mobile before they find the right solution.

Trawling through this information is hugely time-consuming and you can’t be sure you’re making the right choices. Personalised marketplaces filter out and present only relevant items based on past searches and purchasing history or previous one-to-one conversations with sector specialists. This leads to a better customer experience – delivering the right product or service at the right time, at the right price.

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