Far from being standalone solutions, B2B e-commerce platforms are deeply integrated with a wide range of internal and external systems. The ability to integrate these systems as seamlessly as possible is one of the most important factors in the successful implementation of digitalization projects. Small wonder, then, that in a recent study of digitalization in the wholesale industry Roland Berger noted that the greatest challenge is to combine the various internal and external systems to form an integrated solution and establish end-to-end processes across multiple system boundaries.
Digitalization is a global economic trend, which means it also impacts the diverse range of networks typically used by a wholesaler’s partners. These external networks are rarely static and new markets, new sales channels, and new product lines mean new suppliers, new customers, and new partners. To compete and succeed, wholesalers must be able to integrate every new partner quickly and easily into their existing B2B e-commerce solution.
While many of these partners have the EDI interfaces required for exchanging data, the sheer variety of data formats and divergent processes often makes it extremely difficult to communicate with external parties. Wholesalers should therefore consider precisely which interface technologies and data formats they would like to make available, and which standards are relevant for their segment and customers. They should also clarify whether it is necessary to support customer-specific interfaces and formats. This issue in particular can result in a considerable increase in workload if the wholesaler has to handle a wide variety of interfaces used by external partners during day-to-day operations. It may thus be preferable to outsource these services.
The main advantage of digital B2B integration is that by automating what were previously manual processes, companies can improve efficiency and data consistency while also bringing down costs. However, it is only possible to achieve significant cost benefits if all processes and data flows are implemented coherently across system and company boundaries.
Through automation of the order process, for example, all incoming orders can be received and processed with greater speed and accuracy. Faster processing boosts customer satisfaction and also internal efficiency. In addition, digital integration of suppliers allows wholesalers to achieve even greater transparency in their delivery processes, greater automation in their warehousing and distribution centers, and tighter control of their inventories—which ultimately increases working capital and reduces costs.
B2B e-commerce solutions can make a significant contribution to B2B integration, enabling easier harmonization of processes and integration with existing infrastructures, internal processes, and data formats. Using omni-channel order management or EDI B2B integration platforms, these solutions provide the technical foundation for integrated end-to-end processes. These processes include sell-side e-procurement via OCI or EDI, the orchestration and consolidation of orders and inventories across distributed locations and suppliers, and the integration of processes and data across system boundaries. As a result, B2B e-commerce solutions are becoming a decisive factor in opening up new digital spaces for the wholesale industry.