As we begin to wrap up a very important year for B2B e-commerce, I’d like to suggest five concepts that are important for B2B marketers to consider as we enter 2001.
Customer Analytics and Business Intelligence
Understanding your customers and how their behavior drives revenue or costs is the holy grail of customer analytics and business intelligence. These tools are beginning to mature and will become very relevant next year. To date, customer intelligence tools have been viewed as luxury items by many enterprises. This trend is changing, and soon business intelligence will become a prerequisite for companies looking to remain competitive. There are a number of aspects to customer intelligence and business intelligence, ranging from online tracking tools to enterprise data warehouses that are integrated with sophisticated online analytical processing tools. Expect analytical tools to become more strategic as competition for profitable customer segments increases.
As the proliferation of Internet-based devices continues, it will become more important for the e-marketing profession to understand how to communicate with customers outside of the context of a traditional web site. PDAs, phones, kiosks, game platforms, and pagers represent only a small set of distributed, Internet-based contact points. The challenge for marketing professionals will be to tailor and optimize messages and services for each interface and user experience. In addition, advanced marketers will consider the interplay and relationship contact points have with one another.
Catalog aggregators are important to B2B marketing professionals because they will be the predominant model to distribute product information to public marketplaces and private exchanges. As syndicated providers of product information to e-markets and e-procurement systems, these channels are very strategic to product marketing. Need a metaphor? Think how important it is to pick the right distributor in the physical world. The same rules apply in the e-business context, and catalog aggregators serve as the gatekeepers to many online marketplaces.
Product Life-Cycle Management
The use of the Internet to facilitate product planning will continue to have a profound impact on marketers. Product life-cycle management platforms represent a subset of collaborative commerce solutions that help companies determine when to launch, distribute, and retire products. Here is a simple example: A consumer electronics retailer can signal to Nintendo when production should be curtailed or terminated due to shifts in consumer behavior or the impact a competing product, such as PlayStation 2, has on sales.
Collaborative Product Design
The flipside to product life-cycle management is collaborative product design. My expectation is that as companies realize the value of short, iterative product cycles, their reliance on immediate customer feedback will fuel the demand for collaborative design platforms. These e-business tools could be very valuable to marketers who want to read customer behavior and react quickly with product improvements. In a B2B context, collaborative product-design platforms can shorten development cycles, improve inventory management, and lower the cost of manufacturing. The year 2001 should be a big one for c-commerce models that impact product design and launch.
Our field of e-business is just starting to get off the ground. I view Y2K as a year of transition and a return to reality. This reality, in my estimation, is just as exciting, and, as a marketing professional, I look forward to some great advances in 2001.
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