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€58.5 billion in revenue was generated in digital B2C commerce in 2017. For 2018, the German E-Commerce and Mail Order Association (Bundesverband E-Commerce und Versandhandel e.V.) forecasts an increase of of 9.3% to € 63.9 billion. They also identify a huge, but mostly unused potential in the B2B business, whereby the change of customer segment should also force a change within the providers.

Marketplaces: a general solution?

The digitalization of customer contact often presents companies with challenges, but most of them can be anticipated, planned and overcome with good management. Moreover, with the right approach, the many new business opportunities resulting from B2B e-commerce can be tapped. Established B2B marketplaces have understood the potential of fast B2B business growth. But do they cater the individual needs of highly specialized business requirements?

Matthias Müller, Director Product Marketing at Intershop is sure: “The customer needs to be the focus of attention!” If B2B customers are able to receive personalized information via all touchpoints, it helps to facilitate their own decision and thus creates trust in the company. “To transform these strategies from ideas to revenue calls for the implementation of a personalized customer portal. A generic marketplace is not suited to many business scenarios.”

The new generation of B2B customers expects an extensive range of online contact points from their business partners and is also in a position to use them professionally. The decisive factor is that customers not only obtain information online, but are more and more getting used to obtaining it in this way.

Know your customer

The handling of business via a customer portal triggers challenges and benefits for the entire sales chain. Companies often question the established processes in their transformation. “We need to support companies in a way that they understand how digital commerce chains are beneficial to them. The digitalization of a company can’t be done without a thorough analysis of the company itself and prior planning of which processes need to change and which will become even more important than they already are.”, Matthias Müller adds. “That is why personalization is key.”

Although not all products seem to be suitable for online trading, it is important to be aware of the impact digitalization has on a business model. Marketplaces can quickly change the access of different providers to their customers and thus become a risk for established ways of customer contact. Own customer portals as well as interfaces to established marketplaces can contribute to a future growth of a B2B company.

Read more about digital customer portals being a B2B contact hub on: