Despite the technology-savvy industry professionals who turn to social platforms for industry news updates or global engagement, the majority of executives and businesses in supply chain have yet to either adopt or find a social media strategy that works for them. And for those business to business (B2B) leaders who do see the benefits and continue their search for the right “social” fit, many come up empty-handed because traditional social media networks—such as Facebook or Twitter—are not built specifically for B2B but rather the business to consumer (B2C) space.
B2B companies will never be able realize the full benefits of social technology until one primary B2B network rises as “the place” for B2B interaction and engagement. For a network to become the destination for communication between buyers and sellers, it must key in on the aspects that bring businesses in supply chain together; provide all players with one network for communication that benefit each of their businesses; and to streamline processes to meet the common goal.
B2B companies come together
Opposite of traditional social media networks, B2B companies instead use a variety of other sites and sometimes even internally-created collaborative tools and platforms in an attempt to keep customers, suppliers and key partners engaged with each other. But the variety in this space equates to inefficiency and low adoption—and let’s face it, measuring return on investment (ROI) for “social” activities can be very difficult.
B2B social networks need to offer more than just the ability to be social—they must give companies a clear reason as to why the company should participate—which is to improve their bottom line. This type of social network must also center on the function that brings businesses together: buying and selling. That’s not to say it should be an e-commerce site with a shopping cart. There are many pre-purchase and post-purchase activities that could benefit both the buyer and the seller.
For example, businesses could largely benefit with the ability to solicit bids right within the network. In the same way that Facebook allows a user to easily find high school classmates, the universal B2B network would easily enable a company to find potential suppliers to fill their exact needs. The network should provide companies with simple tools to request pricing and information; enable suppliers to easily respond to those requests; and enable buyers to effectively evaluate those responses.
Businesses could also streamline the process with automation of references, or ratings and reviews. Why do millions of people purchase from Amazon.com? The ecommerce site allows users to read other consumer reviews, hence, it either further initiates their confidence in a purchase or makes them reconsider. The same need applies to B2B companies. Site references and phone interviews will never go away but not all deals require such rigor. Imagine if you were soliciting bids from three companies and each of those companies had 20 ratings and reviews written about them. The ideal B2B platform should have capabilities that enable buyers and suppliers to rate and review each other. Buyers need to be confident about the suppliers they select and sellers should be able to realize the social benefit by providing good products and services.
Another post-purchase benefit that the network should provide is tools to facilitate effective supplier relationship management (SRM). There is often more value that can be gained for both the buyer and supplier after the purchase is made or the contract is signed. Customer Relationship Management (CRM) software enabled sellers to more effectively manage their customer relationships for years. However, there are limited tools that electronically enable supply chain managers to effectively track and manage their supplier relationships. The B2B network should provide the supply chain tools—like relationship notes tracking and supplier segmentation tools—to more effectively implement their SRM strategies.