How cloud solutions are transforming ecommerce
COVID-19 has forced B2B business to shift to digital, writes Geoff Webb, Vice President of Strategy at PROS, as he discusses the key benefits of cloud for a successful ecommerce strategy
B2B organisations have always faced digital selling challenges, from setting a brand apart to managing the ever-changing customer journey. In the past, these challenges were manageable, with highly mobile sales teams being able to jump on a plane to visit a customer at the drop of a hat. But with the sudden onset of a global pandemic and subsequent lockdowns in many countries, this level of mobility simply hasn’t been possible for the best part of a year. The recent global crisis has forced many B2B businesses to shift to digital, conducting their selling operations entirely online. In fact, our research has found that, since March, 37% of businesses have been primarily purchasing through digital channels, in comparison with 29% prior to the outbreak. We expect this number to rise to 40% post-pandemic. The shift to digital selling has introduced a whole new level of online competition. Brands need to reassess their selling strategies and the technologies that support them in order to keep customers and prospects engaged. But, what is the most effective way to beat the competition?
The key is the ability to determine a buyer’s needs and demands fast. Cloud lets businesses leverage technologies such as AI and big data capabilities far more easily in order to do so ahead of their competition. Adoption of cloud has increased rapidly in recent years, and for those that wish to adopt digital selling strategies, cloud has become critical. It significantly speeds up time-to-value, enables companies to better predict demand and compete much more effectively in their respective markets. If utilised effectively, cloud is the perfect solution for a successful ecommerce strategy. How are cloud solutions benefiting ecommerce? Flexibility and scalability Cloud solutions are allowing businesses to assemble ecommerce channels from multiple different vendors and suppliers and to match the specific needs of the business, resulting in much more flexibility. Cloud delivery is also enabling organisations to rapidly scale and fine-tune their consumption of capabilities and services. As businesses look to build ecosystems of solutions, cloud is making it much easier for them to combine these capabilities with others – something that is more difficult or even impossible with on-premise solutions.
Geoff Webb, Vice President of Strategy, PROS
Compatibility with AI models Cloud is also enabling companies to utilise the benefits of AI and machine learning, no matter the size of the business. It’s democratising AI. By utilising customer data and applying AI algorithms to it, companies can better predict customer needs and project future demand. When this is carried out in the cloud, data analytics is much faster and can build on far larger data stores, allowing businesses to tune AI models more quickly and streamline spending. Customer connectivity By being able to access and analyse data within the cloud, B2B companies can easily connect to their customers, making their selling processes more efficient. For example, if businesses are using the same cloud infrastructure, it is much easier for them to offer customers the products and solutions that are complementary to their own offering. The evolution of common B2B marketplaces will only drive even more adoption of this approach. Ultimately, the integration that occurs in the cloud will enable companies to provide buyers with a much more seamless shopping experience. Cloud solutions for the airline industry Cloud solutions are benefitting B2B sellers across all industries, but one sector that deserves particular attention in 2020 is travel. The aviation industry is paying a heavy price after the pandemic grounded flights across the globe. In fact, the International Air Transport Association (IATA), a global trade group representing most of the world's major airlines and cargo carriers, stated that it doesn’t expect the air travel industry to recover from the pandemic before 2024. With many airlines struggling to get back on their feet, now is the perfect time to harness the power of cloud. By applying cloud-based analytics to vast amounts of historical data, airline companies are able to tune revenue-management models based on consumer predictions and changing behaviours very quickly, something that wasn’t as easy with traditional solutions. Most importantly for airlines, cloud platforms enable them to aggregate and process very large volumes of customer preference and behaviour data to offer up a far better overall travel experience. This would include a range of additional services and offers that will help drive a speedier recovery once travel begins to pick up again. This is, in essence, the same approach that B2B companies must take as well – to use the combination of large data lakes and AI-powered analytics to better understand rapidly changing customer expectations and to spot emerging new opportunities ahead of competitors. It’s a race to be smarter, more agile, and more scalable in the digital selling world. Getting online selling right isn’t as simple as putting an ecommerce channel in front of customers, especially at a time when online competition is higher than ever. For B2B companies to truly excel and beat the competition, they need to adopt cloud-based solutions that will enable greater flexibility and scalability, creating a much more engaging and efficient channel for customer interaction.