Culture Catches Up With E-Commerce, Now B-to-B is Catching Up With Culture
Anyone with at least a decade of experience in B-to-B retail — listen up millennials — will tell you that e-commerce doesn't qualify as a new trend. It was the next big thing back when new episodes of "Seinfeld" regularly aired on NBC, when people used AOL, and even when NSYNC was on tour. So for me to say e-commerce is changing the face of business feels a lot like a Twitter feed riddled with Kim Kardashian's name — a little exhausted.
Yet, the numbers don't lie. Current statistics confirm that e-commerce is growing at an explosive rate. Online shopping is expected to reach $1.4 trillion this year, a 20 percent year-over-year growth, with a consumer base of over a billion people worldwide and counting. Retail powerhouse Amazon.com did an estimated $95 billion in gross sales last year, while its Chinese counterpart, Alibaba Group, did more business than Amazon and eBay combined!
So the question is: What finally clicked?
Two key driving forces have reshaped both the potential of e-commerce and the landscape of retail: increased consumer power and cloud capabilities.
Let's start with the ubiquity of the internet and consumers' presence on it. Every hour, the human race generates enough data from internet traffic to fill 7 billion DVDs. We consume more information in a day than our ancestors did in a lifetime. More people on this planet own mobile devices than toothbrushes. This may seem obvious — of course we have a greater online presence than ever before.
The result, however, has changed the relationship between buyers and sellers. With the proliferation of interaction and information, we're seeing a massive reversal of transaction leverage. Say goodbye to the adage "buyers beware"; it's now a buyer's market. Sellers beware. Consider the following:
- 92 percent of consumers trust other buyers' opinions over advertisements;
- 82 percent of all consumers research brands online before anywhere else; and
- buyers complete 70 percent of their purchase process before coming into contact with a sales rep.
Buyers have options, and if they aren't getting what they want they now, they have the capacity to go elsewhere. Customer centricity and convenience are paramount — two things Amazon and Alibaba are very good at providing.