In July 2008 there were just 800 apps available in the Apple App Store. By June of 2015 the number had eclipsed 1.5 million (Statista, 2016) and over a 100 billion apps have been downloaded cumulatively in that time. The stats for the Google Play Store are smaller, but also impressive. It’s safe to say if you’re reading this, you have downloaded an app – in fact you’ve likely downloaded several and the idea of living without your smartphone is downright scary.
What Apple achieved with the iPhone is by any measure impressive. Yet, it is the iOS platform that enabled this success, and allowed hundreds of thousands of companies to produce applications that solve discrete, and important needs (mostly) in all of our lives. Most of us use just a few apps a day, but any way you look at it your modern smartphone is nothing like the brick phone of old. For starters, it does much more than make phone calls. It creates limitless possibilities for you and your productivity. Need the weather to plan your afternoon? There’s an app for that. Need a level for your construction project? There’s an app for that. Need deposit a check in your bank account? There’s an app for that too.
Behold the power of platform.
Most businesses, however, still run their B2B eCommerce on something resembling that old brick phone from the 80’s. For an example, in Modern Distribution Management’s 2016 “State of E-Commerce in Distribution Survey” (MDM.com), they found that nearly 30% of distributors use an in-house system for eCommerce. Many old systems are not ready for scale, and do not manage mobile experiences well, leaving their users frustrated. Legacy systems are also often managed on-premises at a significant cost, and don’t provide the integration capabilities necessary. In a recent study* titled “Build Cloud B2B eCommerce Applications on Your Terms,” the technical respondents had several concerns about on-premises eCommerce solutions. 61% of respondents said cost of maintenance was a major or moderate issue.
No doubt that B2B is complex, and the demands of B2B buyers have evolved. They expect a personalized experience that meets their needs, no matter where they are in the channel. Only flexible platforms can provide for the personalized experience modern channel buyers need. Often suite-based software will be a trade-off — meaning you don’t get exactly what you need to solve your unique problems, or integrate your unique systems. You just get good enough. But, is that really how you want to run your business?
In the same Forrester study cited above, 88% of respondents said that customization of the user interface was critically important or important for B2B eCommerce solutions. Also, 85% said integration with commercial applications was critically important or important. The top inhibitors of successful development B2B eCommerce systems? The study says, “Lack of necessary integrations with other technologies/capabilities” was in the top 5 reasons cited by nearly half of the respondents.The message here is business expectations have evolved too – so platforms must be more flexible in both ability to deliver customized experiences, as well as integrate with other systems easily.
“Consider the flexibility that PaaS eCommerce platforms deliver,” reports the study. In fact, more and more organizations are turning toward Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS) for their eCommerce needs. Top reasons cited include “More modern development environment, frameworks, or APIS”. APIs are the secret sauce for integration capabilities. Gartner reports that “by 2018 more than 50% of commerce sites will integrate technologies from more than 15 vendors to deliver a digital customer experience” (Gartner Group, Magic Quadrant, March 2016). The only way to get there is to build your B2B eCommerce solutions on a cloud-based platform that is fast, custom and comprehensive.
* Source: Build Cloud B2B eCommerce Applications on Your Terms. PaaS Combines Speed and Agility with the Customization and Integration Businesses Need. A commissioned study conducted by Forrester Consulting on behalf of Four51, March 2016