B2B Next 2019 takes ‘choose your own adventure’ approach to educating e-commerce professionals

B2B Next 2019
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Executives from Unilever, Caterpillar, and Johnson Controls will be among the speakers heading to Chicago late next month for the second annual B2B Next, which explores the evolution of e-commerce between corporations, partners, suppliers, customers and other stakeholders.

According to Mary Wagner, editorial director of live content, the event’s agenda is driven by the growing market size for B2B e-commerce as well as the changing expectations among buyers that the process weave in elements of B2C purchasing.

“Putting product information online for research is a first step; making it easy for customers to order  less complex or smaller quantities or to replenish is next,” she says. ” Those two steps  lead the invested B2B buyer to a comfort level  with placing huge or more complex orders, where digital integrates with traditional  channels like phone and face–to-face.”

B2B News Network got more detail on what attendees can expect when they take part Sept. 30-Oct 2 from Andy Hoar, principal of Paradigm B2B and the conference co-founder:

What were some of the tipping points that have helped propel a digital-first B2B economy from something conceptual to something that’s here today and being showcased at B2B Next?

Certainly the rapid rise of digital in B2C is a chief factor.  We call it the “consumerization of B2B.”  The reality is that all B2B buyers are also B2C consumers, and they increasingly expect a B2C-like experience with their B2B buying.  Also, B2B buyers often find that buying online is easier and less friction-filled, which saves them time (and money).

As technologies like AI mature, how do you see organizations successfully transitioning their traditional sales force of human reps to working more collaboratively with automated systems and processes?

The technology is already here.  The biggest challenge is the change management required to re-skill and up-skill employees for this new reality.  In fact, we have a specific session at B2B Next designed to address this very issue.  Brad Budde, VP of Digital at Emerson, will share the story about how his company has grappled with such change.

You have a theme of “Playing to win.” What kind of metrics should organizations use to evaluate their progress with B2B e-commerce and keep in mind as they attend B2B Next?

There are three main qualitative and quantitative metrics we advise B2B companies to use.  Most notably, we recommend that they measure how digital drives incremental revenue, lowers the cost to serve customers, and increases customer engagement (satisfaction, referral, etc.).  There are many other peripheral and internal metrics related to response time, cost of holding inventory, etc., that are also relevant .

Your agenda is organized in a really diverse way, from panels to tracks and small peer gatherings. What would be your advice for first-time B2B Next attendees on creating a personal schedule that will help them get the most of out of the conference?

We designed the show to be “choose-your-own adventure.”  We wanted to offer different content and formats to engage attendees in different ways.  If you’re a listen-but-not-talk kind of person, we have options tailored for you.  If you’re more of an engage-to-learn kind of person, we have options for you as well.  Or if you’re more of a hybrid (like most people), we’ve made it easy to mix and match engagement (e.g., listen in on a panel discussion to dip your toes in the water on one issue, but perhaps join a peer-to-peer discussion to actively dive into another issue with which you’re more familiar).

Based on the feedback from your inaugural event you’ve obviously doubled the scale in terms of speakers, sessions, etc. What kind of experience do you hope attendees to have over the course of B2B Next and are there any over-arching things you hope they’ll take away from it?

B2B has historically played second fiddle to B2C.  But because it’s now become clear that B2B is twice the size of B2C, and B2B is now hitting the sweet spot on the maturity curve, people are paying much more attention to B2B.  Non-digital people are embracing digital, and digital people are seeing the opportunities to re-make costly, legacy business processes.  We’re proud to be the leading B2B ecommerce conference in the world, and we expect to continue growing our great content and networking opportunities.  We hope B2B insiders see the limitless opportunities for growth in the space, and we hope folks from the outside are drawn to the chance to make a difference in the emerging world of digital B2B.  

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Shane Schick
Shane Schick is the Editor-in-Chief of B2B News Network. He is the former Editor-in-Chief of Marketing magazine and has also been Vice-President, Content & Community (Editor-in-Chief), at IT World Canada, a technology columnist with the Globe and Mail and was the founding editor of ITBusiness.ca. Shane has been recognized for journalistic excellence by the Canadian Advanced Technology Alliance and the Canadian Online Publishing Awards.