The digitization boom catalyzed by the pandemic has not been isolated to just the U.S. Indeed, it has been a global phenomenon that continues to drive adoption of B2B eCommerce as in-person trade shows and sales pitches fall by the wayside — perhaps permanently.
In the Asia Pacific region, the eCommerce explosion has touched the B2B market in a big way, especially for small- and medium-sized buyers and sellers, said Vaibhav Dabhade, founder and CEO of Anchanto. The Singapore-based company, which recently announced a funding round surpassing $12 million, operates an eCommerce Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) solution. In the wake of the pandemic, Dabhade told PYMNTS that small- to medium-sized businesses (SMBs) have accelerated their efforts to scale their online sales strategies across multiple eCommerce channels.
"The pandemic acted as a catalyst and made all actors realize that being offline will never be enough again,” he said.
Pleasing The Buyer Today
For buyers, the online purchasing experience continues to be driven by the consumer commerce world. For sellers, the global pandemic created a race against the clock to not only migrate sales operations online, but to please the end-buyer, whether that customer is a business or a consumer.
It was a challenging moment for many of these firms, considering sales skyrocketed to levels normally seen only during peak periods of the year.
"Due to the past few months of crisis, eCommerce sellers have come to know the importance of having a technological infrastructure in place to handle high order volumes now more than ever," said Dabhade. "Many businesses saw an increase of 10-times, or even 20-times, in volume [during] the crisis, something that they had witnessed only during special sale seasons such as 11/11 [Singles Day] or Christmas."
Ensuring that inventory was in stock and the supply chain was resilient enough to meet this demand became a defining moment for many online sellers. At the same time, buyers expected a holistic, seamless online shopping experience, which goes far beyond online checkout to include access to product catalogues and even third-party service integrations.
Readying For Tomorrow With Data
In the realm of B2B eCommerce, the logistics challenge is even more acute, Dabhade explained, yet business buyers still want the same, high-level experience of online purchasing. Increasingly, that includes access to asset management or financing solutions ingrained within the eCommerce platform itself.
While B2B eCommerce remains in its "early stage" in Southeast Asia, according to Dabhade, this segment, too, is in the midst of an accelerated expansion. Larger unit sizes and delivery constraints are two of the biggest factors that make B2B commerce more friction-filled for sellers and their third-party logistics service providers, and overcoming that friction will be critical for industry growth moving forward.
For Anchanto, with its latest funding, data remains at the center of easing friction. The company is currently developing a data platform for both B2B and B2C online sellers that not only need to meet the needs of buyers today, but future-proof their sales strategies for tomorrow.
"Data is crucial for any business in 2020, and especially for eCommerce and logistics players," noted Dabhade, pointing to valuable insights that data can provide, such as region-based sales data, product performance and more. Data analytics has the power to help businesses forecast into the future or correlate trends to different contexts, allowing for online sellers to more easily scale up, he added.
Whether that seller is a B2B or B2C seller matters less as the eCommerce environment grows more sophisticated. According to Dabhade, these segments, along with others, are morphing together fast.
"Speaking of B2B eCommerce in Singapore, we expect it to follow the same recovery and growth line as B2C commerce," he predicted. "After the pandemic is over, B2B, B2C, F&B [food and beverage], and social commerce — everything will converge in 2021. In a way, digitalization of commerce is the final phase of globalization we all have been talking about for the last 15 years."