While in the throes of recent research on B2B commerce, I couldn’t help but notice an escalating undercurrent of mentions of AmazonSupply.com, the B2B arm of the world’s largest internet retailer. This all amid rumors that the division might soon be restructured into the Amazon for Business line.
We’ve all seen what Amazon’s influence did in the B2C world – and I’d argue that nearly all our shopping experiences are better because of innovations they’ve spearheaded and others have adopted. With the convergence of B2C and B2B marketing strategies, it’s going to be an exciting time to see how their influence plays out in B2B, because if you are a wholesaler or a services company, I am willing to bet there is something you can still learn from The Everything Store.
So, regardless of what they brand it or how they organize their foray into B2B commodity sales – there are three reasons B2B marketers should keep Amazon in their sights as both a competitive threat and a benchmark for inspiration:
- Amazon is on a mission to own your business: The stated mission on AmazonSupply’s website is ‘to become the definitive source for supplying businesses with what they need’. That’s big, hairy and audacious. But who better to try it? Amazon has the ability to apply their vast knowledge of B2C buying preferences and behavior to improve the B2B buying experience – and we all know that customer experience is the current battlefield – B2B is not excluded. Now is the time for marketers to audit their own buyers’ journey and proactively improve the experience to keep building loyalty with existing customers.
- Amazon is looking to hire your best talent: In the last several weeks, AmazonSupply has increased already strong hiring plans with 50+ openings geared specifically at B2B. Given that B2B merchandising is not part of their core DNA, it stands to reason that Amazon will use their substantially deep pockets to find the best and brightest talent with experience doing B2B at scale. This will enable them to move fast, blending their in house customer experience smarts with fresh talent that knows B2B – but it also means that your most talented team members might be lured to Seattle before you know it. Today more than ever, savvy marketing leaders should invest in talent in ways that both build useful skills but also communicate that your business values their contribution to the team.
- Amazon has no fear of failure: Pets.com. ZShops. Fire Phone. Each failure was a stepping stone or small bet on the path to commerce domination that includes successes like: Amazon.com, Prime & Marketplace, Kindle, Amazon Web Services and countless other businesses that many don’t even realize Amazon runs. When discussing a $170M write-down on the Fire Phone, Jeff Bezos said ‘Companies that don’t continue to experiment and don’t embrace failure … eventually get in the desperate position where the only thing they can do is make a Hail Mary bet at the end of their corporate existence.’ What hypotheses can you be testing to advance your B2B commerce experience?
The debate continues on whether AmazonSupply.com in its current iteration is about to take off or whether a change in go-to-market strategy is imminent. Either way, there’s a lot to of work to be done. B2B marketers, it’s time to plan for something other than a Hail Mary pass – if nothing else, today, take a first step on your path to an improved B2B customer experience.