Innovations and technical developments follow each other in rapid succession and marketplaces such as Amazon or Alibaba have become essential. As a B2B player, it is important to keep a close eye on these developments and to respond to them. How? This question will be addressed by the experts in episode 6 of our series.
The B2B digital commerce expert group during this session discusses the influence of marketplaces and disruptors on the B2B market. The chairmen of the B2B digital commerce group Herbert Pesch (director of B2B digital agency Evident) and Roelof Swiers (Intershop) are guests of Mediq in Bleiswijk, Netherlands. As a supplier of medical devices and care solutions, Mediq is an important international player in care.
The customer changes
The very first question: Why was the space for marketplaces created? Was addressed to Martijn Spoelstra (B&S HTG): "The customer has not been listened to enough in recent years. The consumer is accustomed to the company coming to him instead of the other way around. The world has become more transparent and the distances smaller. You have to create added value, otherwise you become a commodity and your only argument that is important to your customers is the price. That's something you've seen for some time at B2C, but now it's also trickling through to B2B, too, so you have to do more to reach out to your customers and prospects.
New business models
Mediq certainly is aware of the threat that marketplaces pose for their role in the care sector. Adri Kraa (Mediq): "The new technologies make new business models possible, including marketplaces. Mediq's current business model consists primarily of wholesale activities, and a marketplace such as Amazon or a more specialized marketplace can also cover this.” Mediq's customer groups include general practitioners/prescribers, physiotherapists, hospitals, care homes and patients in Europe. They now mainly focus on prescribing meds and their delivery to the patient. Pieter Both (Mediq): "’Who pays, decides’ isn’t the main principal anymore. Previously the health insurers determined which materials were reimbursed from which suppliers. You can now see developments that may be disruptive to the industry, such as Amazon setting up a health insurance company together with Berkshire Hathaway and JP Morgan for their employees. There is a risk that these types of parties will then also offer the medication and care themselves.” Mediq's answer to this threat is to focus more on services and thus to be distinctive. “You are your worst enemy!” says Kraa, “so go outside and talk to your customers and find out what their needs really are. This applies to all sectors, but certainly to the more traditional ones.”
Wholesale vs manufacturers changing value chain
"Wholesalers want to take on a lot of roles," says Spoelstra. "They want to do both purchasing and keeping stock and doing customer transactions and being the customer service. I believe that you have to choose one of these roles or you have to take control of the chain and see how you can add value to all those specific parts.” Manufacturers have a different perspective. Dennis van den Hoek (Akzo Nobel): "The scale, the number of visitors and the distribution of marketplaces are the three components that are very interesting for manufacturers and offer them opportunities - also to build their own brand".
The Ultimate customer journey
INDI believes that marketplaces do have an impact on the business, but it’s limited. “We don’t experience much inconvenience from the impact of marketplaces, at the moment.” Says Sybrand Brouwer. This doesn’t mean that INDI isn’t developing. They distinguish themselves by offering the ultimate customer journey. INDI pays a lot of attention to distinguishing market segments in order to personalize them as much as possible. A best practice is to offer the ideal product information and specific knowledge to the customer, which is an important part of the personalization. The first article in this series dealt with this issue as well. Mediq also focuses on the ultimate customer journey. Kraa: "Due to the ageing of the population, more and more people are confronted with (chronic) diseases. We offer added value by taking on new roles, such as deploying care programs at home. By introducing more care service into the chain, we will facilitate more of the customer journey. There will also be new players in the value chain. We continue as we have always done, but we also sell through partners and our own disruptive portal.”
Threats and opportunities
The experts answer the questions as to why marketplaces can be a threat to the business, how you can prepare yourself for them and what opportunities marketplaces offer.
- You lose control and knowledge of the customer.
- Marketplaces ensure price transparency, which has an impact on margins. In addition, the newcomers have a low cost pattern, which in any case puts pressure on the margins of traditional businesses.
- The old rules no longer apply; everything is open.
- Another scale: marketplaces operate more internationally with a distribution system tailored to their needs.
- Customer loyalty is decreasing.
- Marketplaces focus on longtails.
- Marketplaces have a long-term vision and therefore considerable stamina.
What you can do:
- Distinguish yourself with your service.
- Start your own marketplace and you'll also be able to keep a grip on your price.
- Profile yourself as an expert in one field. Specialize!
- Take on the role of chain director and work together with partners within the chain.
- Benefit from economies of scale, distribution network and reach.
- Manufacturers need little marketing knowledge to offer products on marketplaces.
- Use a marketplace or set one up yourself.
- Take a different role than you had: the market is changing.
- Use the marketplaces to focus on the longtail market.
This is the sixth article of the B2B Digital Commerce Expert Group. Also read the first (product information), the second (organizational challenges), the third (relevant KPIs), the fourth (forming an e-commerce team) and the fifth (sales alignment).
Want to stay informed?
The expert group will meet again on 5 July. After each meeting of the B2B digital commerce expert group, you will get the most important findings, learnings, tips and tricks on our LinkedIn page.
Are you active in B2B and responsible for digital commerce/ebusiness of e-commerce? Sign up as a member of this B2B digital commerce LinkedIn group. There are already almost 300 participants or contact Roelof Swiers (email@example.com).