Artificial intelligence, virtual reality, and the internet of things (IoT) are more than buzzwords. These are technologies shaping B2B brands, distributors, and manufacturers. They drive efficiencies, cost savings, and opportunities to accelerate growth.
The Internet of Things
The Internet of Things (IoT) is more than refrigerators that remind us to buy more milk. The implications in B2B are massive. Smart manufacturing components can alert you when they need maintenance and reduce downtime. Medical devices can inform manufacturers how hospitals are using their products. This creates opportunities for proactive outreach, upsell, and new product lines while also improving the customer experience.
Machine Learning (ML) and Artificial Intelligence (AI) surface most often as product recommendations on retail sites. They enable merchandise offers at the right time, through the right channel, and to the right buyer.
That same impact is coming to B2B, where product catalogs may have millions of product variations and attributions based on different applications. There is an urgency to implement because buyers now expect these types of experiences, but there’s also an opportunity to reveal product offerings your customers aren't even aware of.
This type of work had previously required a team of web producers, but with AI the predictions will be better, faster, and come with a far lower maintenance cost.
When you think of virtual reality (VR), you may imagine video games that your kids play. However, there are promising applications for manufacturers. Augmented reality (AR) and 3-D visualization can help customers see (and experience) solutions to complex problems.
In B2C, home goods retailer Wayfair enables buyers to upload photos of their patios and insert 3D tables and chairs from a virtual catalog to see how they will look. Sephora does something similar with a virtual makeup artist and facial scans.
For B2B companies, this can be taken to industrial scale to help customers evaluate elaborate options involving machinery, equipment, and parts. Imagine creating a virtual manufacturing plant layout. The visualization process can help buyers ensure proper application, parts ordering and reduce the risk of making unnecessary purchasing decisions which can result in costly returns and buybacks. Those that adopt and explore this technology today will have a significant advantage over their competitors.
These advanced and somewhat futuristic technologies are becoming necessary to effectively compete in today’s market. Most certainly, it would not be wise to ignore them. Strategically, it does not make sense to adopt everything at once. We encourage our B2B clients and partners to work with an experienced commerce provider to create a plan and uncover where your most significant opportunities lie.