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).

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).

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.

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.

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.

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).

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.

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.

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).

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).

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.

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?

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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).

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.

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.

Resources

Asana.com Competitive Analysis, Marketing Mix and Traffic. (2020). Retrieved 25 October 2020, from https://www.alexa.com/siteinfo/asana.com

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

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