In the mad rush to the world of business-to-business e-commerce, marketing professionals will soon discover–if they haven’t already–that their interests in corporate Web sites are getting less attention. That’s a dangerous state of affairs.
Why is this an emerging trend? Because companies tend to have a herd instinct when it comes to the Web.
A few years ago, when the Web burst on to the scene, everyone rushed to ensure they had a Web site, even if they didn’t quite have an effective online strategy. Then online shopping became all the rage, and companies soon jumped on board. Now, B2B is the big thing. B2B is a cute term for a trend in which the transactions that occur between companies will take place electronically, and companies are once again rushing about, trying to create “vertical industry portals” and other initiatives with fancy-sounding names.
Of course, you simply need to look around to realize that the hype about B2B is reaching fantastic proportions. Read the press, and you will soon be drowning in a flood of predictions, statistics, promises and numbers.
Is this B2B trend real? Yes, and there’s no doubt it’s going to be big. A study by the Duke University School of Business in Durham, N.C. indicates that already this year, almost 25% of all B2B transactions have occurred online. And recent numbers from Jupiter Research in New York indicate that B2B e-commerce transactions in the U.S. are expected to rise from US$336 billion (C$504 billion) this year to a gigantic US$6.3 trillion (C$9.5 trillion) by 2005.
But what do all these numbers really mean? If such predictions come true, they mean that within five years, some 42% of all inter-company business in the U.S. will occur through the Internet, up from 3% today. We’ll see a similar transition occur in Canada.
And indeed, some industries will see more than half their transactions go online, among them the computer, aerospace and defence, chemical, electronics, and motor vehicle and parts industries. All companies will see even more massive change as they become more tightly linked to the Net.
What does this mean to the marketing professional? Quite a bit. Business models are changing and new competitors are appearing as B2B takes hold. But perhaps more important, it also means that companies will be spending significant time on B2B e-commerce. After all, successfully implementing a B2B strategy is going to require a massive investment in time, effort and technology. We’re talking of a scope of effort that simply has no parallel with any other information-technology projects of the past. This is big, folks. Huge. You need to appreciate that.
B2B is so big, in fact, that many companies and their executives will forget about the idea of the Web site as a marketing tool, or at least pay it far less attention. Indeed, there’ll be such a concentrated effort on B2B that many companies may forget that they’ve finally learned how to effectively use the Internet as a marketing tool. That means less focus, less effort, less money.