A Re-design of Digital B2B Communication and Information Sharing with B2C practices

An integration of B2C marketing strategies to expand supply chain opportunities

Abstract

Aspects of B2B management and B2C strategies improve chances for individual growth within the supply chain. The purpose of this study was to evaluate B2C ideologies through social media platforms and B2B enterprise models within B2B management applications to analyze contrasting communication styles. The examples within the study were evaluated based-on applications within the top 1000 sites in America using Alexa’s site analytics tool to determine thoroughly developed and user-friendly products. Results from the B2B management applications determined the importance of maintaining client security in B2B processes, while social media platforms exemplified significance in integrating social and consumer-based efficiencies to improve the quality of usability. These opposing perspectives of B2B and B2C operations contribute to potential individual growth that expands further than the supply chain, as an integration of these features create opportunity to increase efficiencies in networking and knowledge building.

Introduction

As e-commerce sales continue to rise around the globe, small business owners are finding out that there is a never-ending battle for attention online. By the end of 2019, sales for the global economic market had reached $3.5 trillion and are predicted to reach $4.2 trillion and represent 16% of total retail sales by the end of 2020 (Meyer, 2020).

As more B2B and B2C companies realize the growing demand for online spending, competitive markets need to address issues that come with digital selling such as winning out buyer’s convenience, digital distraction, and information overload from other online sellers. These issues are only going to become more prevalent as current statistics show 46% of small businesses still do not have a website, with 35% feeling that their company is too small to warrant a website (Meyer, 2020). The first course of action would be to evaluate current trends in successful online marketing and selling strategies for B2B and B2C companies.

Digital Marketing

A large part of online marketing today is showing online presence on social media, Facebook continuing to be the largest platform with an average of 2.01 billion monthly active users and 1.32 billion daily users. To put it into perspective, there are nearly 30 million small businesses in the United States with one-to-two-person teams making up the majority (“United States Small Business Profile”, 2017) while Facebook has 180 million active businesses on its website. They alone make up 45% of growth in digital market spending (Cudmore, 2020). Not only is it Facebook, but their partnering platform Instagram expects to bring in $2.81 billion in mobile ad revenues (Newberry, 2019).

Looking at the statistical data shows the impressive amount of online traffic to be a viable way of promoting business, but with so many success stories being promoted, there is incongruity with those that had been lost in the midst of all the information overload on social media sites. Of the small businesses that do have an online presence, only 39% see a return on their social media investment with almost half of social media marketers reported only seeing an impact on their sales after 2 years of consistent uploads (Snow, 2015). If businesses only start to see an increase in sales after 2 years, why is social media such a prominent part of marketing schemes?

A brief breakdown of social media benefits can be listed from most to least prevalent starting with awareness, then moving into creating web traffic, developing loyalty, documenting market insight, improving sales leads, bettering SEO, forming new partnerships, establishing thought leadership, and lastly, to increase sales and reduce costs (Schaefer, 2015). Marketing on social media needs to hold a different perspective from advertisement as social media users have different intentions from customers. The main correlation that social media has to improving sales is through building relationships and establishing the company in name and value.

Taking a look at social media sites dedicated to building professional relations, it has been reported that 80% of all B2B social media leads have come from LinkedIn (Giri, 2017), which could be as simple as writing a quick introductory message to potential partners. The passive content on social media is information that would lead to better awareness of company name and value with 55% of B2B buyers searching for additional product or vendor information through social media (Pick, 2015) and unbeknownst to most, 75% of B2B buyers and 84% of executive-level teams use social media to help make purchasing decisions (“New IDC Study Reveals That the Most Senior and Influential B2B Buyers Use Online Social Networks in Their Purchase Process”, 2014). Within social media marketing that provides potential buyers with information about a business, is content marketing.

Content Marketing

Within B2B and B2C companies, content marketing provides potential buyers with valuable information that could be used as a persuasion tactic. For B2B companies especially, the more informed about a company’s growth history and current structure, the more likely a long-term deal can be arranged.

The 3 stages that all B2C or B2B companies face when creating informed content for buyers is the initial attraction, the consideration phase, and the final breach of a sale. From the user’s perspective for B2C businesses, content comes in many forms such as something viral, infographics, blog posts, videos, a buyer’s guide, product demos, or other customer reviews. In B2B companies, buyers are more driven by demonstrated expertise and logical incentive seen in industry reports, webinars, case studies, ROI calculators, and testimonials. (Decker, 2020). Though they both add value to their product and name, content marketing for B2B companies provides curiosity and trust in their customers with content marketing making up 88% of their overall strategy (Pulizzi, 2015).

The biggest struggle content marketers face when trying to connect to their audience is the increasing levels of information abundance in consumers and the growing competition that online e-commerce has expanded. Information transparency is one of the main elements that content marketers are moving towards in order to form trust and therefore overcome buyer’s uncertainty (Duffy, 2016). This topic will go into further detail during discussions of B2B collaboration.

Video Content Marketing

For the vast spread and growth of accessible information, content marketers look toward ways of addressing shorter attention spans in viewers and are seeing a resurgence of video content. A new wave of quick, curated information distribution focuses on increasing viewer investment in a business's operation and product.

Video content in 2019 has shown improved sales and engagement rates with a survey of 84% of customers buying a product after watching a brand video. 98% of buyers have reported that they watch information videos to learn more about a product or service with 76% being convinced to buy it after watching the infographic (“5 Reasons eCommerce Product Videos Will Increase the Sales”, 2019). A new focus on video content gets back to the root of user engagement as 1/3 of online activity is spent watching videos. People are interested in interesting and easily digestible engagement and if done well, potential buyers have a better chance of being influenced by a business's product or service.

Compared to other forms of content, videos drive more organic traffic and improve user conversation to a website or e-commerce store, improving the user’s interaction quality and by Google’s definition, a website that has a low bounce rate. Custom content in the form of daily video blogging had also been recorded to be 25% more effective than blogging monthly and has received over 87% more inbound links compared to companies that do not blog (Shapiro, 2020). This form of marketing personal brand and content distribution through video blogging makes bridging the gap between buyers and sellers smoother.

B2B Enterprise

Within digital marketing, B2C and B2B companies are finding similar approaches to creating an online presence, even though they are fundamentally made to perform different structures. As B2C businesses rely on the interaction between business and individual consumers, B2B transactions happen between suppliers and manufacturers. In the case of XaaS (anything-as-a-service) organizations, supply has continuous flow between distributor and buyer where it reduces the cost of ownership by limiting maintenance or providing subscription-based cloud products.

For both B2B options, the basis of pricing has a history of negotiation between the supplier and buyer parties involved to procure a profit, however, this traditional way of operation applies to short-term benefits. This single transaction structure limits the development of loyal business relationships to establish long-term profit between the generated supply and demand structure.

More recently, B2B companies are embracing supply chain management to move away from win-lose zero-sum characteristics of traditional B2B processes and apply a win-win approach with mutual benefits in collaborative work relationships (Formentini & Romano, 2016). When discussing key elements of collaborative supply chains, the IS model informs of base necessities.

The IS Model

Within the foundation of any B2B company, there is the consideration for dimensions of success, which could be outlined using the IS success model (information systems success model). This model consists of 6 major points, information quality, system quality, service quality, system use/usage intentions, user satisfaction, and net system benefits (DeLone & McLean, 1992).

These qualities outline the structure that forms the basis of building strong relationships, forming bonds, and creating long-term trust with buyers, focusing mainly on customer quality regarding attention to user satisfaction, and how it translates into customer’s intention to use a businesses system or product (DeLone & McLean, 1992). It is a guide that requires businesses to follow the user's journey and note if the product is able to yield benefit for the organization, as well as continue to hold value through time in aspects regarding information, system, and service.

A study done on industrial management and data systems had taken the IS success model and proposed 2 additional points that not only considered customer satisfaction and intent but also were regarded to improve customer loyalty (Chen, 2013). Tested on B2B companies with structural equation modeling methodologies, the 2 additional components focus on process quality and collaboration quality. The result of these added components proved the importance of interaction between business and buyer as well as introduced improvement in business deals with prospective supply chain partners, especially in e-commerce platforms (Chen, 2013).

The IS success model additions of process and collaboration quality have proven to give a better theoretical understanding of user behaviours within B2B networks, showcasing dramatic improvement in multi-level supply chain management. It also proved to better customer loyalty as quality in process and collaboration showcased development in user attitude and behaviour, which then resulted in successful e-commerce system performance (Chen, 2013). This meant that with regards to improvement in success levels for B2B companies, net profit was not a major contributing factor, and that process of quality and collaboration was instead better ideologies to refine a business.

Further exploration of applying these qualities in effect with information transparency demonstrates surprising results when addressing buyer uncertainties.

Information Sharing

In the current landscape of online B2B industries, “many are looking in search for a platform that will facilitate information sharing while allowing firms to conduct transactions”, says Zhou in a 2010 study of marketing science. What is in place currently, is B2B electronic markets (e-markets) that provide data on products, prices, bids, quantities, and other transactional details (Zhou, 2010). It is a key place where the degree of visible and accessible information transparency is prominent.

What these e-markets have demonstrated is the beneficial gains suppliers and manufacturers are able to engage in a deeper understanding of the company’s demand and needed supply, which applies to vertical production where all parties are profiting. It also allows for B2B companies to overcome uncertainty about potential unknown factors about another company when finding potential deals.

Looking at the opposing perspective, releasing information on e-markets have complications that affect buyers and sellers differently, depending on if they follow the Bertrand model or the Courtnot model of competition. Based-off the Bertrand model, companies compete on pricing, naturally triggering an incentive to undercut competition by lowering prices while, companies in an oligopoly market usually follow the Courtnot model (Zhou, 2010). This model competes based on volume in sales by predicting the rival quantity and maximizing profit by setting marginal revenue to marginal cost (Zhou, 2010).

The difference suggests that depending on the form of competition, it could cause potential damage to market stabilization. Found within Zhou’s research, information transparency led to a consumer's disadvantage when downstream buyers engaged in Bertrand competition, a surprising result due to the fact that online markets are expected to have substantial value for consumers (Zhou, 2010). From this evaluation, information engagement and transparency provide positive growth in upstream productions that have equal potential profit but contributes to a higher risk of negatively affecting costs for consumers down the line.

Video Application

After analyzing the necessary collaborative systems in any B2B company, video marketing proves to be a strong strategy to educate, entertain, and engage potential buyers and elevate supply chain management. As was discussed previously, video content and marketing has exponential benefits for creating user interaction and building bonds with buyers in online environments.

Current video hosting and streaming platforms such as YouTube demonstrate these advantages with more than 1 billion unique visitors every month, being the second largest search engine in the world after its parent company, Google (Vinsentti, 2016). Regarding costs, Youtube provides free hosting services which allow low-budget businesses to cut on advertisement and fund video production instead, but it is not only small businesses that are taking advantage of the 146 million visitors on Youtube per month (Miller, 2011).

Large corporations such as American Express, Coca Cola, Ford, Home Depot, Starbucks, Disney, and others use Youtube as a part of their marketing strategy for brand awareness, promotion of product and services, supportive demonstrations, employee recruitment and training, and to manage communications (Miller, 2011). It is imperative to understand the fundamental processes of video marketing to explain its surge in popularity with a special focus on creating a purpose, deciding video length, finding a consistent brand style, and distributing it on social media (Vinsentti, 2016).

Firstly, creating purpose forms specific goals for each video to get information across quicker to a directed target audience, resulting in more curated responses from buyers who might be curious about a product or service the business is selling.

After building content related to the intended purpose, it is important to establish the length of the video. The level of time is depicted based on how quickly the information should come across in relation to how detailed the information needs to be, keeping in mind that the attention span of the viewer depends on many factors such as age, culture, and technological advancement.

Curation of a video style can take many forms in animation, time-lapse, live, interview, documentary, or any other style which should link directly to the brand and mood that the company wants to portray. According to Vinsentt’s (2016) research with a video-production company, authenticity was the most effective way to retain intended viewer’s attention, and is particularly true for SMEs (small and medium-sized enterprises) “where the owner is usually the face of the business.”

In the last stage of creating video content, it is vital that the video be easily accessible and widely broadcasted, whether that be on social media platforms or sent directly via email. This process of distributing content maximizes potential viewership, especially within the vast amount of information distraction driving away attention.

Elements of video-production allow small businesses to curate personal and engaging content that specifically targets intended audiences. Not only do videos personalize the company, but statistics have also shown that 90% of online marketing professionals use video in their campaigns which boosts open rates by 19%, click-through rates by 65%, and shows a reduction in un-subscription by 26% (Evers, 2020).

Supply Chains

In the research by Formentini & Romano (2016), traditional B2B processes follow a dyadic approach known as a direct one-to-one supply chain relationship from buyer to supplier. The more recent ideology of collaborative supply chains follows an extra-dyadic approach to supply chains that involve more than 2 entities simultaneously. A further look into the extra-dyadic approach showcases that it directs supply chain management by “adopting contracts, cost information sharing, and joint decision making on pricing mechanisms” (Formentini & Romano, 2016). Overcoming dyadic ideologies include systems in place such as using a ‘spanning’ revenue-sharing contract which applies one contract to a single supply chain that is signed by all entities. Revenue sharing and wholesale prices must achieve a coordinated agreement and produce a win-win outcome (Formentini & Romano, 2016).

In the perspective of suppliers and intermediaries in the supply chain, they maintain and manage pricing collaboration, to which some use an extra-dyadic approach called ‘values-based’ supply chains. This pricing process involves price setting across the entire supply chain to ensure that during the assigned duration period, all partners are receiving appropriate profit margins, living wages, and equal business agreements (Formentini & Romano, 2016). This allows all parties to gain mutual financial benefit based on two set principles: supply management for stable pricing, and cost-of-production-based pricing (Formentini & Romano, 2016).

The first principle separates economic sustainability which refers to “practices that support long-term economic growth without negatively impacting social, environmental, and cultural aspects of community” (Courtnell, 2019) from fluctuating pricing systems. The second principle seeks to cover production and transportation costs with profit and a return on investment without affecting margins (Formentini & Romano, 2016).

Though these systems are the most effective strategies, it takes detailed and organized management. Increasing numbers within a supply chain also cause an imbalance in decision power and win-win pricing sharing for equal benefits. With any collaborative approach to supply networks, directional integrity between all parties must be present in aspects of cooperative decision making.

Supply Chains on Cloud Platforms

Online culture has an increasing prospect beyond the spectrum of marketing and networking outlets. For B2B companies, in particular, cloud computing continues to evolve the growing landscape of Start-Ups and SMEs, utilizing and profiting off the concept of “Anything as a Service” (XaaS).

Within the spectrum of B2B industries, large firms are taking advantage and subcontracting these growing SME suppliers in order to build cross-country collaboration and build upon their competitive supply chains (Mladenow et al., 2012). As SMEs often lack large technical infrastructure, cloud computing platforms also act as globally accessible solutions that can be supplied virtually and interconnect across supply chain members. These cloud platforms create value drivers that improve business operations for SMEs that enhance novelty, efficiency, complementaries, and lock-ins (Mladenow et al., 2012). In turn, suppliers are able to better function within the supply chain and therefore, increase the value for buyers and sellers within the link as well.

A focus on understanding the full scope of these cloud computing value drivers showcase immense benefit within the B2B market. The first pain point that these drivers address is efficiency in transaction processing. Through cloud platforms, product and service information within the field can be distributed and shared at a faster rate between supply chain members, allowing Start-Ups to communicate solutions and deploy at a faster rate. The shared IT cost and connection between supply chain companies also allow for “adequately dealing with quick-changing demands due to instant scalability” (Mladenow et al., 2012). To exemplify this advantage in the perspective of a fast-growing SME, a sudden need for increased server capacities is a common occurrence. On-demand cloud providers allow for scalability options that were previously exclusive only to large corporations (Mladenow et al., 2012). This in turn allows SMEs to lower cost per transaction as it avoids SMEs from investing in high-cost IT expertise.

Complementaries as a value driver are goods or services that work in conjecture with another product and are usually combined to add to the overall value of the offering (Banton, 2020). Within the industry, it is best to capitalize on supply chain complementaries as businesses are within a common database cloud. The benefit of open communication and collected intelligence shows improvement in good practices such as sharing resources and strategic assets over the cloud platform that in turn, provide innovative solutions. In particular, to Start-Ups and SMEs, this provides networking opportunities to share and contribute to a pool of complementary assets (Mladenow et al., 2012).

As supply chain systems operate on these collaborative networks, the knowledge being passed around creates value in building social communities within these B2B cloud platforms. Using cloud collaboration, SMEs achieve better production and resource scheduling (Mladenow et al., 2012) which in turn increases the likeliness that long-term relationships form between companies. In the perspective of contractors, these long-term returns provide predictable and consistent profit to the supply chain, so contractors award repeated transactions with suppliers which encourage other businesses in the supply chain to do the same (Mladenow et al., 2012). The result is a lock-in of these long-term deals within the supply chain that continues to drive revenue for contractors.

Novelty as a value driver comes from many forms of changing environments such as supply chain communication and other transactions within e-business. As was exemplified previously, the result of using cloud computing to provide IT services for the sudden demand for increased server capacity showcases a “use what you need and pay for what you use cost model” (Mladenow et al., 2012). The effectiveness of this business model demonstrates novelty for B2B companies in that they allow flexibility by providing cloud-based or shared resources, which gives room for SMEs to place financial investment in growth platforms instead.

The breakdown of each value driver showcases how Start-Ups and SMEs achieve value creation in cloud-centric XaaS environments, which involves the process of giving something that holds a certain value in order to receive a benefit that is more valuable to the individual (Mladenow et al., 2012). Within the discussion, it is outlined that active exchange of knowledge within supply chain networks allows these small businesses to outsource financial or managerial resources to better their business and in turn, better the supply chain’s financial gain. For B2B companies, in particular, the benefits derived from collaborating with partners are demonstrated in new business opportunities, capitalized from services connected through the cloud (Mladenow et al., 2012). These beneficial qualities include efficiencies in information distribution, social communities through cloud platforms, measure-based service models, and on-demand availability (Mladenow et al., 2012). Cloud computing in supply chain organizations creates vast opportunities for SMEs, allowing for growth in cloud-based platforms in the B2B sector.

Concluding Thoughts

In search of understanding digital B2B processes, social media marketing was the leading direction in order to distinguish features that aligned with B2C business structures. It was prevalent that social media platforms established brand awareness and increased web traffic while presented limitations in sale growth. This lead to exploration in content marketing for digital platforms, showcasing key differences in how B2C and B2B companies market to their specific target audience. A recurring issue appearing in both business operations would be information abundance in online environments, which led to the investigation of video application and its significance in improving accessible distribution and presentation of information.

After differentiating B2B with B2C enterprise and evaluating current online landscapes, I focused on establishing key elements that were unique to B2B workflows by using the IS success model, confirming that by accommodating the steps within the model, long-term relationships will form. I stemmed my research from Chen’s proposed additions to the IS model (2013) stating that success comes when process quality and collaboration quality were adapted into the system. This led to discovering the benefits of supply chain management in B2B companies in building mutually beneficial relationships. One of the major characteristics of successful supply chains is information transparency. Incorporating examples of B2B e-market environments, information distribution proved to build growth in upstream production. These discoveries correspond to an earlier conversation of video application for B2B companies to easily convey information. Especially for SMEs, video marketing contributes to better networking prospects and engagement with potential partners. Within the history of supply chain systems, it was traditionally a direct one-to-one relationship from buyer to the supplier which evolved into the extra-dyadic supply chain approach. This leveled the benefit between all contributing members. With the appearance of digital e-markets and cloud platforms, supply chains were able to evolve processing quality and communication to provide efficient digital services. The digitization of supply chain functions allowed for B2B companies to evolve into new ways of communicating demands and opportunities. The next step would be to re-evaluate the current digital landscape for B2B processes and improve supply chain communications.

Research Questions

Successful practices have been established within digital B2B supply chains, but there are limitations to information sharing outside of that scope. I would like to explore options that push information distribution outside of supply chain structures to improve networking opportunities and gain individualistic growth for the supply chain as a whole. To start, I would like to establish what elements within online supply chain communication are currently working. In order to expand the resources of the supply chain, knowledge of information becomes a convincing power to partner strong relationships. As networking becomes increasingly important for B2B companies, the discussion leads to the question, how can we showcase data across a wider scale of clients and present it in easily digestible methods?

A further investigation of B2B interaction drove curiosity into ways that could inspire improvement in B2B processes. I established benefits with entertainment-based marketing that is prevalent in B2C companies, such as social media engagement to increase consumer interest. B2B companies do participate in building brand identity using social media in order to easily establish who they are to potential buyers, but in exploring further case scenarios, I wanted to explore how B2B processes could benefit from B2C structural ways of marketing data.

Methodology

In my primary research, I will be analyzing applications that address the investigation of B2B communication, wide-scale information distribution, and the integration of B2C strategies in B2B processes. Starting with the initial baseline analysis, I formed a list of 20 applications that were well-spoken in popular forums regarding 2 main themes, B2B management, and social media platforms. I then compared each chosen application using Alexa’s site analytics tool that compares data within the last 90 days of visitation, under the condition of if it is within the top 1000 sites used in America, with one exception to this case. This methodology was to determine applications that targeted a larger audience, indicating well-designed usability, and thoroughly considered user-friendly features.

At this stage, I chose to focus on 4 applications that addressed the problem points I wanted to research and showcased a unique point of view from their competitors, chosen from the perspective of a design student researcher. In order to portray the perspective of the individualistic role within the greater supply chain, I chose to first analyze ‘Asana’, a project management application that was ranked in America at 477 from October 24, 2020, for internet traffic and user engagement. Asana has a 102% increase of organic search referrals over its competitors ‘wrike.com’, ‘asanatraining.com’, ‘slack.com’, and ‘basecamp.com’ which suggests appealing visual engagement (“Asana.com Competitive Analysis, Marketing Mix and Traffic”, 2020). I also chose to evaluate Asana because it presented modern features in its product design that improved on the current company's in-house information distribution. In the same vein of thought, I decided to include an evaluation of ‘E2open’ even though it did not rank within the top 1000 sites used in America due to the fact that all recommended applications that targeted individual roles within the supply chain did not meet these criteria. Instead, I evaluated E2open on the ranking system on ‘Predictive Analytics Today’ regarding their breakdown of the top 15 supply chain management software in 2020. E2open was the most highly advocated in editor ratings with a 9.5/10 result.

In regard to wide-scale information distribution and integration of B2C strategies, I wanted to assess ‘LinkedIn’ and ‘TikTok’. Based on Alexa’s site analytics, LinkedIn ranked 29 while TikTok positioned at 160 in all of America for internet traffic and engagement from October 24, 2020. With reports to 80% of all B2B social media leads coming from LinkedIn (Giri, 2017), I chose to analyze this social media platform as a leading example of efficient networking, B2B communication opportunity, and a means to maintain engagement with social entertainment. To analyze B2C marketing strategies in social media, I also decided to evaluate TikTok as a rising platform in video-based entertainment. In Alexa’s site analytics, TikTok ranks at 106 on October 24, 2020. Though not one of the most highly ranked social media platforms, it addresses the topic of video application that was discussed in the initial research and applies a unique environment for marketing B2C SMEs.

Asana

Asana is a project management application targeted at helping B2B SME’s plan and manage team collaboration. It allows for organized information layering that caters to specific use case scenarios. Usually, for the case of developers, Asana integrates agile scrum frameworks that follow the basis of continuous adjustment due to adaptive learning through project development. It is integrated especially in short workflow cycles that allow for flexible changes in re-prioritized goals (Drumond, 2020). In Asana, they designed layouts that fit the required user flow, so for scrum frameworks, the board design in Figure 1 demonstrates their solution for leading agile and pipeline workflows.

A new feature unique to Asana is the implementation of project templates. They outline specific use-cases for marketing, product, design, operations, sales, customer success, HR, IT, engineering, and cross-functional roles (see Figure 2). Each user role has a list of general templates that act as guidelines to specific workflow scenarios, using Asana’s available organizational features to provide project solutions. Users are also able to manage existing projects by importing datasets. This feature allows companies to transition smoothly into using

Figure 1: This system design addresses scrum and pipeline frameworks that allow for flexible changes.
Figure 2: Project templates in Asana to efficiently communicate current tasks and future goals.

Asana’s workspaces, especially when collaborating with external companies who want to integrate third-party data. If projects have unique scenarios, project templates can be created and saved into the represented role.

When I tested out Asana’s features, I had a user-friendly experience that effectively showcased use-case scenarios that would improve communication between roles, designed to simplify and categorize complex data for easier comprehension. What Asana does well, is allow members to be well informed about individual tasks, easily detect and flag errors, participate in creating efficiencies in the workplace. This demonstrated an application that encourages collaborative efforts and improves information sharing within the supply chain.

E2open

E2open is a management application like Asana, but it is also inclusive to all roles within the supply chain. In large-scale platforms such as E2open, communication between executives, management, suppliers, and customers must be considered. A breakdown of their management users have roles such as demand planners who forecast demand for product or service, supply planners managing global inventories, and procurement managers responsible for approving product or service quality. They also work with suppliers who carry sale components, contract manufacturers who are outsourced suppliers, 3rd or 4th party logistics (PL) that manage inventory, logistics professionals making sure products or services arrive on time, or quality officers who manage recalls. Executives using their product balance these management and supplier roles with financial goals, using reporting solutions provided by the app.

Similar to other supply chain management tools, E2open does not support a trial of their product, only supplying access after contact with the team. Much of the content on their website, however, showcases extensive information regarding product purpose, data integrations, and other extended media sources in order to sell their application as a B2B corporation.

LinkedIn

In the spectrum of B2B communication, networking is a large aspect of forming relationships and finding prospective business partners. As a wide-scale social media platform, LinkedIn is oriented around building professional networking between people and companies, as well as connecting recruiters with people seeking employment. In many ways, LinkedIn is a large online service to improve wide-scale information distribution. One way LinkedIn addresses connectivity in a professional setting is by incorporating an automated response feature. Users are able to easily start conversations with pre-made responses without having to think. When conducting the test, I was presented with scenarios that would improve the ease of the conversation but removed any sense of personality. By improving the efficiency of mass communication, meaningful business relationships for a long-term benefit are difficult to create.

Another use-case for LinkedIn’s large social platform is their value to company recruiters looking for specific skill talents and experience, and for the distribution of relevant job availabilities to people. LinkedIn has become a source to more efficiently find jobs that are within your field based on their ‘How You Match’ feature which matches experience listed on your profile to the criteria on the job posting. This allows LinkedIn to match users with more relevant jobs to your qualification, factoring in aspects such as education level, skills, years of experience, and current job title (Chandra, 2018). Features include a filtering system, job qualification listings, user’s personal connections that relate to the company, and user feedback for alterations in LinkedIn’s job search experience. These features allow users to better sort through LinkedIn’s large database and pinpoint opportunities that match their requirements, a straight-forward communicative style for large B2B operations.

Another form of LinkedIn’s unique quality for information distribution is their LinkedIn Learning application which is a content tool for users to access educational videos through. One of their design systems is to allow users to add courses they had finished to their LinkedIn profiles, procuring skills that recruiters look for when finding potential employees. It creates the notion that by engaging in these video courses, users can actively improve their abilities and add to their skillsets. Added elements to this feature include exercise files, learning groups, chapter quizzes, and certificates for passing course exams, applying intuitive habits that were previously learned in classroom environments.

What LinkedIn Learning does well is to provide inclusive features for accessibility that improve user experience and take advantage of virtual learning. As seen in figure 4, the leading content source is through audiovisual learning methods, so for users who are unable to accurately receive the audible experience, LinkedIn includes captioning and written transcriptions for every video. For users who learn through writing, they also implemented a note-taking feature that will stay linked to the video if users wanted to return to the video notes at later times. The video content for each course is broken down into chapters that are further separated into 2–5 minute section topics. When doing self-analysis of this feature, I felt a sense of accomplishment after completing each topic which encouraged me to continue watching, naturally starting a rhythmic workflow that motivated me to complete the lesson.

Figure 4: Video media is an easily digestible audiovisual learning tool for wide-scale audiences

TikTok

Since August of 2018, TikTok became a worldwide video-sharing social media platform from its origin in China. Its rising popularity that currently surpasses 2 billion mobile downloads globally creates a unique platform for marketing SMEs. Content on TikTok is displayed as short video loops ranging from 3–60 seconds, shot, edited, and posted directly from a phone. This increases accessibility for a larger creator audience as videos do not require expensive equipment or video editing skills. Youtube, another large video-sharing platform, tends to focus on longer watch times to increase mid-roll advertisements (Peterson, 2018). The benefit of TikTok’s limited watch time is similar to the logistics of the topic sectioning found in LinkedIn Learning’s education videos as shortened video lengths increase user engagement. In terms of advertisement on TikTok, they released news of a partnership with an e-commerce company, Shopify, in order to increase product advertisement for SMEs. This will be demonstrated in the form of “shoppable video ads, where TikTok users can click on an ad to buy the product” (Reuters, 2020).

Looking into B2C marketing strategies, I began research into popular tags such as ‘small-business’ with just under 9 billion views for associated videos. After evaluating SME content under this tag, business owners marketed their products by showcasing transparency in their production, being personal and open to their audience, and supporting other SME owners. These tactics allowed these B2C businesses to build trust with their audience and leverage profit by creating easily accessible links to their personal sites on their profile. Social engagement is uniquely utilized in TikTok through features such as ‘Stitch’ and ‘Duet’. Stitch allows content creators to cut clips from other videos and use them as their own, while Duet plays the videos alongside each other. While being effective tools for creating social engagement, these features are hidden within a sharing tool and are not commonly used within video applications.

B2C strategies continue past video creation as TikTok combines elements of live streaming within their scrollable format. Users are easily able to use the main gesture by flicking up to scroll through content, flicking left for profile details and right for content created by people you follow. These gestures keep to similar scrolling conventions in social media platforms but also improve engagement by showcasing only a single video at a time. Live streams are actively shown in the feed which demonstrates a blend of curated and active broadcasting. Though live streaming is not new to the medium, TikTok integrates creator advertisement for recurring live streams, developing a system for episodic viewing. By creating anticipation for these sequential episodes, viewers are able to form routine habits for engaging in creators that resonate with them. This mirrors episodic marketing strategies for producing entertainment-first B2B content to build brand awareness (Craft, 2020).

Discussion

As information becomes a growing commodity in society, I wanted to discover effective ways that information could be distributed outside of supply chain limitations. Before examining these possibilities, I wanted to explore effective communications within current B2B operations. This began research into Asana, a management application that breaks down the elements of communication into specific roles within the company and creating efficient tools for workflow productivity. In attempts to examine the properties of communication within the supply chain through E2open’s management app, I was denied access to their product. Through their website, however, I was able to see how B2B companies sold products through resourcing information and outlining application purpose and case studies to potential buyers.

In addressing wide-scale data operations and benefits of B2C ideologies, I examined social media platforms LinkedIn and TikTok. As a subdivision to the main application, LinkedIn Learning showcased unique features for data synthesis by sectioning video length into digestible components. Effective marketing tactics were demonstrated in B2C companies by companies utilizing TikTok’s short, curated content and ‘live’ features to personalize interactions with customers.

During the research process, I was unable to access any supply chain management products which limited the ability to understand how information moved within the infrastructure. This in turn addresses issues regarding information privacy within the B2B supply chain which could be investigated in further research. In addition, I found there to be limitations in the research itself as it was based-off unique features within applications that were made only by personal speculation and evaluation. For further investigation of information distribution within B2B supply chains, I would want to examine possible security measures that allow information to be efficiently communicated without compromising company protection.

Summary & Concluding Remarks

I evaluated 2 management application for B2B processes and 2 social media platforms for their unique characteristics in data distribution, resulting in 2 major findings. I was able to unfold structures that realize barriers within B2B operations, as well as features in social applications that improve interaction. In terms of creating solutions for effective information distribution outside the supply chain, this research resulted in understanding the importance of securing information to provide structural order and privacy, as well as integrating user-friendly interactions to improve social connectivity and efficiencies in information consumption. These aspects allow individuals within the supply chain to further productivity, allowing individuals to efficiently gain knowledge within the network and build lasting relationships that result in long-term mutual gains.

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A product designer from Toronto dedicated to user experience. katng.io

A product designer from Toronto dedicated to user experience. katng.io