It`s really hard NOT to think about where b2b e-commerce might be going when business research specialists keep coming up with amazing growth figures. Frost and Sullivan recently forecast $6.7 trillion, orabout 11% of the worldwide b2b sales total, by 2020. So where do `portals` fit into this?


Global and local choices are growing

Let`s start with Alibaba, who are now a global phenomenon and who operate in the UK as Ali-express: they are seeing growth of 9% in the 3rd quarter of `17 and are having unbelievable success in b2c.

Then there is Google Supply: they now carry over 100 million business products to choose from. Their ranges cover everything from office supplies to industrial tools and laboratory kits.

And what should we say about Amazon, who have become one of the World`s success stories and are in the news this week for a tactical 9% price reduction on many product categories?

After that you can look at many options, including Quality and MSC Direct for more focussed operations.

What could this mean for you?

The obvious thought is opportunity, but you`ll also have to think about:

a) more, and worldwide, competition appearing in front of your customers

b) more pressure to differentiate your offerings

c) having the capacity to respond rapidly to different opportunities

d) focusing on the skills that will keep you in control.

In this situation, do you embrace the most relevant portal(s) for your products or just concentrate on your own online search presence further, or do both?

If you add `portal` channels then one problem is how to protect and extend your brand awareness and values with a much wider and more diverse audience, possibly with little cultural connection?

If you choose only to develop your own search presence, then that carries the risk that competitors will grow unchallenged in other markets outside of your `reach` and build the strength to enter and overpower your home market.

As always, just do it better

So, if you do choose to add a portal approach, don`t do it because you think it`s going to be an easy ride. Before you make such a move, take a cool look at your branding, making sure it`s encompassing and properly funded. It will need to deliver, as always, product conviction, value perception to protect your pricing, `tap` existing loyalty and encourage recommendation amongst very diverse buyer groups. Easy then!!!

Dudley Masters, Account Director, Acumen Marketing Communications