Archive for category Business Technology
E-Commerce is the name for any kind of commercial transaction that takes place through the internet. It gives customers the ability to buy from you without having any limitations imposed by time or distance. Its not restricted to a B2C business using a “shopping cart” and credit card.
The question is – are B2B customers ready for this?
This was the topic discussed by members of the Business Exposure Group at a recent meeting and some interesting observations were put forward by members, many of whom had implemented E-Commerce functionality into their businesses.
B2B suppliers know far more about their customers than B2C, so there is no excuse not to deliver relevant experiences to your customer.- a website should no longer be general but nowadays it needs to be specific to the customer browsing your site.
41% of manufacturers are now selling directly to your business customers, so your business needs to be prepared to sell against the same companies you consider as valuable supply chain partners.
Entering into the world of E-Commerce is a major decision and setting up your website is challenging. Consider the following points raised by our members during the meeting:
- Website needs to be user friendly with as few clicks as necessary to enable your customer to order as easily as possible. It should load within 5 seconds.
- Do you require multiple “shop fronts”, different languages, to only provide relevant products and services to the specific visitor?
- Does your website need a reminder email facility to remind your customer to re-order?
- Does your website need an email facility to notify your customer about new products or when products are back in stock?
- When logged into the website, does it recognise your customer and automatically bring up their previous order history? – It is important to segment customers and give them a different experience based on their industry requirements.
- If you have a complex catalogue, direct customers to the relevant products in as few clicks as possible?
- Should you put all your goods or services for sale on the website or leave the high end items for your sales team to sell?
- FAQ’s section is extremely important as it reduces the need to have an extensive customer relations team.
- With one click specific industry users can fill their ‘carts’ with everything they need for their particular requirements.
- It engenders customer loyalties. An order can be authenticated with a click of a button, instead of the process taking several days to be confirmed.
- It streamlines your ordering system. It reduces the bottle necks of tedious work.
Consider who is your real competition, your competitors or your customer expectations?
The buying experience is now more important than ever.
It was felt by the Group that B2B E-Commerce was certainly another route forward for most businesses and a great way to find a new customer base.
New developments have made the creation of complex applications and online tools easy to purchase. But what is included in the software? Does it really work as advertised, will the provider still be around in 12 months and if not what happens to our data?
A worrying scenario for businesses.
There is a lot at stake when deciding whether or not to invest in the latest technology. Research shows that a business should spend 6% of revenue on IT every year. So how do you decide? A technology partner can make or break your business. Does your company have a lack of IT skills, are you over dependent on outsourcing?
Choosing the right IT support company is vital. Are they enthusiastic about what they can do/do they understand your problems and needs/how flexible is their support/what services will the support contract include/are they local?
Integrating applications is another challenge. You may have all the features you like in one application, but how does it talk to another application? There is a rapid rate of change, so how can you vet appropriate systems? Has software and the Cloud made things more dangerous for small businesses? Do your providers have a data-destruction policy?
At a recent meeting, members of The Business Exposure Group discussed some of the challenges they faced on a day-to-day basis and came up with the following points
- Don’t scrimp on technology but shop around for the most appropriate system for your business
- How much do you lose in downtime from your old system, make sure your IT support is available 24/7
- Make sure your back up system saves all documents including drafts. How often do you test your back up to see what you retrieve?
- Know what your website is for and make sure it engages your customers
- Use analytics to harness on-line traffic
- Make sure you are mobile, customers won’t wait until you are back in the office
- Have a strong password policy to protect your system
- Take advantage of teleconferencing
- Choose a UK company for hosting, it will help with your SEO
- Have reliable equipment to help stay ahead and innovative. 40% of PC’s in small businesses are more than 3 years old and operating on old windows systems with a whole host of problems
- Accounting software – ask yourself, does it free up a lot of time?
Technology is constantly improving and it is vital that businesses keep up to date, to stay ahead of their competitors.
Many of you will have started to hear of ‘The Internet of Things’. But what does it mean for SME businesses?
20 years ago IT experts urged businesses to get on the World Wide Web or go out of business. Now the call is to get ready for the ‘Internet of Things’.
So far, those of you who are wondering, The Internet of Things is a combination of sensors, networking and analytics that can be combined to create greater production efficiency, better quality of life, and a higher level of automation.
Wearable devices such as fit-bit wrist bands are the consumer face of the Internet of Things. But the real opportunity is in the B2B world. It’s already started at home, allowing your phone to switch on your heating or lights when you leave the office.
Big business is already embracing this – they are going to be a lot more responsive and many small businesses will struggle to compete. For example, large companies can now remotely adjust equipment settings for better performance or send an engineer to replace a failing part before the operator even notices there is a problem.
Some of the members of the Business Exposure Group have some interesting examples of how they are now beginning to use the Internet of Things. One member with a vending machine business has outsourced the development of certain printed electronics. So that each vending machine now informs the man with a van full of replacement supplies when stocks are running low, thus negating the need for an office base support team – How much does that save his business?
Another member sells, amongst other things, mouse traps. He has applied a very basic sensor which tells if a mouse needs removing. Instead of selling mousetraps to hotels and restaurants, he has changed his business model to a monthly subscription service. It turns out that low monthly fees are better than fines and damaged reputations. The value is not in the device that traps the mouse, but in the service of removing them once caught.
Some law firms are having tiny circuits placed in their document headers, allowing their authenticity to be checked using a smart phone.
High tech is becoming very affordable and lowering the barrier to entry for many SME businesses. The reality for all of us is that by creating a connected product using the Internet of Things, technologies will create a locked in relationship between you, the company and your customer, making it less attractive to leave and go to the competition.
By 2020, 80 billion devices will be connected to the internet. My challenge and question to you is: Are you ready to take advantage of the ‘Internet of Things’ and its massive growth potential?