The 2020 Mid-Year Economic Update_long

Demand for Unified Experience Disrupts Commerce

Line between B2B and B2C continues to blur.

Disruption is often viewed as a bad thing, but through disruption we get innovation, according to Evan Goldberg, co-founder and chief technology officer for NetSuite. "You have a choice in this world: You can disrupt or you can be disrupted."

Customers and employees want a more unified business experience and to access complete data in the most efficient way possible. Customers want to buy a product when and how they choose; employees want to be able to fulfill requests in a way that limits order exceptions and errors, regardless of order source. All this means that information needs to be available outside of the traditional silos in which business units used to operate.

Technology today allows for every touch point with a customer to be the same across platforms – if they come into a brick-and-mortar location, the employee can look up the same profile and preferences that the online platform uses.  Given current tech capabilities and customer expectations, this further blurs the line between B2C and B2B.

For example, Maclaren, a manufacturer of strollers, is implementing a new online platform that will serve both its B2B and B2C customers in all of the countries it operates. By the end of May, Maclaren estimates that 80 percent of B2B ordering will be done through the B2C site.

Sure there's pushback, according to Jim Ramsey, global head of technology for Maclaren. "Some even try to claim that they don't have computers," he said during a session at NetSuite's SuiteWorld 2015 in San Jose, CA, earlier this month. But the new platform allows the company to respond to requests far more efficiently – and it allows customers to find what they want in fewer steps.

Orders will be automatically routed to the appropriate fulfillment center, without the customer having to select the region and country to be routed to a unique website. There's no longer a reason to build unique sites when the unique account attributes can be applied in a single platform.

Unified systems also allow for more efficient fulfillment of orders, without the old process of creating spreadsheets and manually mapping where inventory is located, Goldberg said. Old ERP systems operate in silos; there's no cross-channel interaction. By unifying the inventory information into an omnichannel platform, the system will automatically return results for where an item can be found if it is out of stock at the closest location, which allows for more accurate delivery estimates more quickly.

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