Previously, when CIOs and enterprise architecture professionals talked about “business-to-business” (B2B) commerce in China, most people thought of third-party B2B marketplaces like Alibaba.com or HC360.com. Very few companies use professional B2B solutions internally, instead relying on a combination of order management systems, customer relationship management, and third-party B2B marketplaces to trade with their business partners.
This is going to change. We have observed a few trends in the Chinese market that will become major drivers for the adoption of enterprise B2B solutions. These trends were further validated during the SAP summit last week in Shenzhen.
- The legacy application architecture on the market won’t address the challenges of the age of the customer. Most of the companies currently doing business in China’s B2B market are small and medium-size companies with low IT systems maturity — many of them still exchange business information by emailing Excel files. These firms must rely on third-party marketplaces for business collaboration.
China’s B2B companies have grown up in a much more complex technology landscape, and it’s getting harder for them to connect marketplaces with mature back-end systems such as enterprise resource planning and enterprise asset management. Empowered customers demand faster response times, better enablement of social and mobile channels, and more end-to-end insights across the whole ecosystem.
- More commercial enterprise B2B solutions are available. It’s hard to digitize and enable enterprises for B2B commerce without mature commercial enterprise B2B solutions. SAP’s acquisition of hybris and its business expansion in the Chinese market will definitely further drive the adoption of B2B solutions, as will other global and local players such as Oracle and ShopEx, one of the major B2C and B2B solution providers in China.
hybris not only provides integrated platform solutions for customer experience management via comprehensive B2B features like customer and marketing data management, it also launched the “Accelerator for China” initiative and built a sophisticated omnichannel commerce solution specifically geared to the Chinese market. This solution integrates with Tencent’s WeChat, one of the most popular social platforms in China, enhances customer loyalty management, and addresses customer engagement requirements — which are much more complex in China than in other countries.
- Early adopters of B2B solutions are getting benefits. At the SAP summit, I saw that visionary companies have started to embrace B2B solutions and achieved benefits from both the business and technology management perspectives. Large state-owned enterprises like State Grid and China Unicom have leveraged favorable government policy and built their own B2B eCommerce platforms. And Haier, one of the largest consumer electronics manufacturers in China, used hybris to build its own B2B marketplace to build its own ecosystem.
It’s time for technology management decision-makers to evaluate their capability to support their B2B business strategy in the near term. The enterprise B2B platform will become a key component of application architecture. Do you agree? Let me know what you think and you can check my report on Agile O2O architecture framework for my suggestion from retail perspective.