Whitepaper B2B Marketplaces Webhelp Payment Services

Whitepaper: The sun rises - The role and opportunities of B2B marketplaces in a post-Covid world

Whitepaper-B2B-Marketplace

Following our last studies “The spring of B2B marketplaces” (2017), “B2B marketplaces are blossoming” (2018), and “The summer of B2B marketplaces” (2020), we once again joined forces with the strategy consulting firm Roland Berger and Mirakl to take stock of this new year of development for B2B marketplaces.

This new edition, entitled “The sun rises – The role and opportunities of B2B marketplaces in a post-Covid world”, goes further into the new development and opportunities for B2B marketplaces which played a key role in helping businesses continue their activities during the pandemic.

While the growth of B2B marketplaces has thus accelerated, they also face added pressure from B2C marketplaces, as customers’ expectations have also risen. Increasingly threatened by leading generalist marketplaces, B2B players have turned to diversifying their products and developing vertical services on highly controlled and specialized markets to protect themselves. This specialist approach shows clear success potential today and in the post-Covid era, as B2B marketplaces are expected to continue to grow at a strong rate.

We invite you to download this study, which addresses the following topics in detail:

  • The relevance of B2B marketplaces in a post Covid-world
  • Two distinct strategies for B2B marketplaces: digital generalist natives and incumbent B2B players


Fashion: sales agents role

[Fashion] "Sales agents play a key role in brand development!"

Fashion: sales agents role

Jérôme Tordjmann runs the Talk sales agency, specialising in urban fashion and streetwear, in both physical and digital environments. He answers 4 questions put to him by Aline Abeya, Sales Manager France & Benelux at Webhelp Payment Services.

The role of a sales agent is to help fashion brands, whether they are emerging or well established, to grow in a market. And in these complex times, they play the even bigger role of a facilitator. So at Webhelp Payment Services, we pay particular attention to our relationship with sales agents, to whom we offer a comprehensive range of payment services. Your agency, Talk, specialises in urban fashion and streetwear. Can you tell us a bit more about what you do?

Jérôme Tordjmann: I set up the Talk agency and have been running it since June 2019. It’s one of the subsidiaries of JV Fashion which I established in 2006. Talk specialises in urban fashion and streetwear for men and women on a B2B basis.

Our team of 7 people offers selective or comprehensive support in 3 areas:

managing sales in France and around the world (business development, sales, after-sales), with the overall management of billing, payments and debt collection taken care of in partnership with Webhelp Payment Services

creating temporary sales outlets: in-store corners, pop-up shops and shop-in shops (Galeries Lafayette, Printemps, Samaritaine, etc.), as well as recruiting and managing teams, training, merchandising and logistics. We also have a permanent showroom in central Paris, and we rent temporary showrooms during the fashion weeks in January and June.

– organisational consultancy: marketing, positioning, creating or adapting collections, artistic direction. We work alongside brands in all these areas, in both physical and digital environments – in the phygital world if you like. As far as the digital world is concerned, we can help brands with marketplaces like Zalando and Amazon which are becoming more and more influential from a commercial point of view.

So to sum up, we help a lot with “value creation”: sales agents play a key role in developing fashion brands!

To give you an idea of how well Talk is growing, our turnover has doubled each season.

Can you describe the kind of brands that you work with?

J.T.: They are often European brands, and exclusively involved in young, urban fashion and streetwear. We want to build and promote a really consistent world.

We work regularly with around fifteen brands, including: Daily Paper, ARTE Antwerp, Foret, The New Originals, Libertador, Mercer, Ksubi, Shaka, Rise of Human and Dechase.

Webhelp Payment Services offers sales agents a comprehensive range of payment services, from billing to debt collection, both nationally and internationally. And of course paying the agent their share after being paid by the client brand. What does your partnership look like?

J.T.: I’ve been working with Webhelp Payment Services since 2006, when it was called FDI. Talk’s clients are mainly adopting solutions like order analysis, payment plans, debt collection, credit insurance and customer scoring, both in France and internationally.

So at the moment we are not using the other services that Webhelp Payment Services offers sales agents, such as imports, logistics, paying commissions and KYC.

We are also in discussions with Webhelp Payment Services about offering some emerging brands the chance to embrace processes geared towards wholesale management. This is so that we can work together to help them grow in areas such as managing customer receivables, multi-brand stores and other strategic organisational issues.

How do you see the future of fashion brands in an era of marketplaces and online stores?

J.T.: Quite apart from the pandemic, online sales are booming. These sales compensate, sometimes to a large extent, for the decline in business for multi-brand retailers for example.

So clearly, we need to think about the development of large generalist marketplaces, like Zalando and Amazon, as well as more specialist platforms. We help brands within this environment, which is often new to them.

However, I sincerely believe that opposition to online shops is no longer a big deal. On the contrary, we are seeing the rise of a phygital approach, combining sales in physical stores with digital channels, trying to find the right balance.

The most dynamic emerging brands understand this: I can see that all the ones that we work with have an online store, which gives them a revenue stream, consolidates their financial and commercial position, and lastly, speeds up their growth.

Therefore, a phygital approach is a real opportunity for fashion brands, if they know how to manage it!

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Data revolution: how APIs can and should accelerate your Digital Transformation

Colin Clive, Director of Platforms & Engineering, looks at the history of APIs, and the value they can and should bring to your business.

APIs: a history

The Application Programming Interface or API as it is more commonly known refers to the modern approach of using HTTP to provide access to data. APIs allow software applications and digital services to talk to each other. They return and send raw data, which can be in a standard machine readable format, and are primarily used to support the integration of systems. Modern Web APIs became mainstream in the early 2000s when new start-ups such as Salesforce, Amazon, and eBay published Web APIs to make services available to customers and third party providers.

Since then, APIs have been behind the technology revolution in a number of sectors, and has improved the customer experience in each of these sectors. This includes Financial Services, where the use of Open Banking opened up commerce and payments, and Social Media, where APIs became the power behind the platforms used by giants such as Facebook and Twitter.

You can find more information here on APIs including a link to a popular dissertation on Representational State Transfer (REST) by Roy Fielding, which laid the foundations of Web APIs that we use today.

The Value that APIs can Bring

When an organisation can make it simple to exchange information both internally and externally, it opens up massive opportunities. It is a misconception that APIs are only there to be used by Technology professionals to build applications. They can also be used simply to provide access to a wide range of data sets. To enable this, it is important to make the APIs accessible to non-developers using API tooling that doesn’t require any knowledge of coding.

A simple and powerful starting point is to outline clear instructions, detailing how to use the APIs and where to find to them. Extending this simple concept to your partners or customers opens up the provision of data and digital capabilities outside the organisation, without the need for time consuming and expensive technology integrations.

Of course, with increased interconnectivity comes increased security risk, and APIs are no different. It’s vitally important that organisations employ API security best practices, including API gateways and data encryption, to ensure the APIs are accessible to those who need them, and nobody else.

How APIs can accelerate Digital Transformation

Simplicity is the key to innovation and accelerating Digital Transformation. The focus of the Technology team should be to remove the backend complexity and provide a catalogued suite of APIs that will open up functionality and data to clients and partners.

However, this is not just about Technology. In an API-first organisation, the API strategy should be linked to and driven by business needs, with business owners defining the details of the API contracts, i.e. the data to be sent or received, how it is requested, and the events that allow the data to be sent or received.

With the technology in place and the key business experts involved in defining and prioritising, the capabilities to be integrated through APIs will allow for innovation, and the unlocking of value, at a rapid pace. Working in collaboration with clients to react to changing customer needs through already created and available APIs will accelerate the speed of achieving digital transformation.

What we’re doing at Webhelp

In business process outsourcing, the seamless integration of data and functionality between the client and the outsourcer is paramount to providing the best Customer Experience and insight.

With this in mind, Webhelp is currently putting in place an API infrastructure and deploying an API Gateway to manage, secure, and monitor a rich suite of APIs that will be available internally and – more importantly – externally, to our partners and clients. With an initial focus on data exchange, we will provide an open and secure mechanism over the public internet to allow the common data required for seamless operational reporting and business intelligence through Partner APIs.

We will provide a standard suite of APIs that will be accessible, catalogued, and simply defined using common industry standards. This will allow our clients and partners to use the APIs from Day 1 without the need of any timely and costly IT set up. All that is required is access to a reliable and performant internet connection.

 

Nothing stands still. The ability to develop new APIs and change existing APIs at pace to drive digital transformation, will require a shift from a traditional monolithic design to a cloud-native design supported by modern technology. To support this, Webhelp are moving to a modern enterprise digital platform, leveraging the best practice in the technology industry. This platform, combined with a team of highly skilled engineers using Development, Security and Operations (DevSecOps) to deliver securely at speed, will provide the ability to deploy APIs to the business, and to partners, at lightning speed.


AI content

Impact of AI on online content moderation

We have all heard about Artificial Intelligence (AI) and the numerous potentials impacts it will or already has on our daily lives.

Machine Learning through Data Annotation is teaching computers to recognize what we show them, what we say, and how to react accordingly.

When trained well, the impacts it could have on online Content Moderation seem quite straightforward at first. Nonetheless, we will see that AI brings opportunities in the field as well as new challenges, not forgetting that we are only witnessing its genesis – there is still great room for improvement.

Implementing the process, but not totally developed yet

Virtually, AI seems to be a no-brainer as it will take the hit on the most sensitive contents. It will work as a fully impartial chooser instead of moderators having to approve or deny harmful posts.

This is currently put into practice within Webhelp – thanks to our in-house technology handling a growing part of the incoming User-Generated Contents, and attributing priority levels for moderators to take care of the most urgent ones first.

We have established that if AI obtains total control over what can appear on the internet, it will start to get messy very quickly. 2020 pushed tech giants to send workers home and to rely on algorithms to moderate their platforms. As soon as this happened, issues were observed across the two extremes. In fact, on Twitter, there was a steep increase of 40% of hate speech in France, while Facebook and Google both doubled the number of pieces of content flagged as potentially harmful material from Q1 to Q2.

Several examples of artificially intelligent moderators failing their tasks have been observed as not being able to understand human expressions in the first instance, such as irony, sarcasm, or more striking and unambiguously harmful words, however when they are put into context they reveal to be harmless.

This happened over a live chess game on YouTube which has been taken down due to hate speech, but only chess strategy was talked about. The limitations Artificial Intelligence encounters start to fade away as researchers from the University of Sheffield are starting to successfully integrate context in Natural Language Processing algorithms. This technology will be able to detect the differences of languages across communities, races, ethnicities, genders and sexualities, but as Ofcom says: “Developing and implementing an effective content moderation system takes time, effort and finance, each of which may be a constraint on a rapidly growing platform in a competitive marketplace”.

Beneficial in fighting discrimination and derogatory speech online

Following an objective of moderating online content solely through Artificial Intelligence, several start-ups are arising in the market with ever-improving AI-driven solutions. Bodyguard is a great example of this new generation of players implementing technology fighting hate speech and other ailments. The platforms themselves have started developing their own tools: Pinterest unveiled AI that powers its Content Moderation and highlighted its benefits since its implementation: over a year, non-compliant reports have declined by 52% and self-harm content by 80% in the past two years. As we already mentioned, the quality and the quantity of labelled data is key -Facebook, thanks to 1 billion Instagram photos, has also succeeded in developing an innovative image-recognition AI system aiming at moderating the platform almost instantly. As it has just been launched, we are not able to appreciate SEER’s (SElf-supERvised) direct effects on the platform yet.

Watching out for the deepfakes

While these new technologies have potential for positive impact on Content Moderation, they have also created new challenges which plenty of us have already come across, growingly without even noticing it: deepfakes. When analyzing the credibility of content sources, AI can more easily recognize a bot that would be used by malicious users to amplify disinformation, and we can reasonably assume that it would do so for AI-created deepfakes. This issue is way more difficult to detect for the human eye, but appropriately trained moderators, supported by the right AI-driven tools is the perfect combination to complement purely automated or purely human moderation, quickly and effectively.

The first big reveal when it comes to this technology is Microsoft’s deepfake detection tool which has been trained on over 1,000 deepfake video sequences from a public dataset, in a similar manner Facebook has trained its moderation AI. Disruptors also enter the market: platforms like Sensitivity.ai are specialized in detecting face-swaps and other deepfakes which can have deep impacts on the political scene for instance. In fact, the most famous and recent example of deepfake was the face swap of Tom Cruise on Chris Ume’s body and which effect was that it impressed a consequent part of the internet and went viral. When applied to politic speeches, debates or else from official, the impacts could be way more considerable.

AI is not the silver bullet – there’s still room for improvement

Artificial Intelligence is a solution for greater accuracy and efficiency in Content Moderation. Nonetheless, it must not be forgotten that there is still huge room for improvement, as well as growing challenges because of its development for malicious purposes. It is important for any social platform and online community to appreciate how central Artificial Intelligence is becoming in the Moderation field, as both a threat and an opportunity.

Reacting accordingly by getting the right combination of human moderators and technological solutions is in fact needed, as the possibility the impacts on real life and brand image it could generate might rapidly become overwhelming.

 

Author

Thomas Japy

Digital Content Services Business Analyst

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The future of outsourcing

Webhelp’s Customer Solutions MD Andrew Hall reflects on the conversations he’s having with BPO industry leaders about how the solutions we provide continue to evolve as the world changes around us.

One question, more than any other, seems to be currently occupying the minds of industry commentators: “What’s next for BPO providers?

The suggestion here is that the sudden automation and impact of home working will significantly change the nature of the business we provide. Yet from a BPO perspective we are seeing perhaps the biggest adoption of outsourcing in a generation.

In early 2020, we saw many businesses dramatically shift their approach to employee and customer engagement. This was by no means uniform across the sector. To better understand where the market has gone, we first need to identify how companies exist at different stages of digital maturity. Through our research, we’ve identified three groups in which organisations sit.

Group 1: Digital Natives

30% of the market are start-ups – they are digitally native, able to flex and adapt with speed and agility to any crisis or opportunity presented. Their challenge is how to achieve high growth in a cost-effective way. Their platform lends itself well to scale and adoption, but CX is a human based-task and, despite best efforts, will always require a human element. For this group, we have a bespoke offering called The Nest by Webhelp. It understands the unique issues surrounding low-cost growth, and the excellent human conversations that still need to happen. Coupled with a best-shore approach, we introduce AI and other services that support customer engagement, and optimise advisor performance to deliver on a set of unique targeted outcomes.

Group 2: Digital Transformers

35% of the market are digital transformers – brands who have accelerated their journey to digital and omnichannel. While some are much further along this path, a significant number still look to an outsourcer to support their transformation. For these businesses, we bring an organisational design that delivers several things:

  1. Places customer engagement within the fabric of the company
  2. Underwrites and aligns outcomes to gainshare models that share the risks and the rewards, offering much greater certainty of deliverables
  3. Leverages the leading technology, operational performance and best-shoring approach that we offer

Group 3: Established & Resilient

35% of the market deliver mature outsourcing at scale in a sophisticated network of organisations, often with multiple outsourcing relationships and a complex supply chain, in which many now seek to leverage higher value through outcome-based, analytics-driven customer management. Typically, these would be Telco, Grocery and Utilities, along with some high-tech companies.

What each of these groups has in common is a need to optimise their partnerships, to draw more on the investments being made in transformation, people, data and technology, and to recognise outcomes that not only futureproof a business, but also offer certainty around CX performance that goes way beyond traditional cost-to-serve.

Included in this is the question of work from home or office. There is no doubt the world is now different; the standard customer model has changed, and so must the way companies engage their consumers and their people. Home working introduces huge opportunities to engage a more diverse group of advisors, but it can also isolate those who crave an office environment. The reality is that organisations will need to settle into a new norm of blending home and office, to optimise their teams and their performance. For Webhelp, this is another feature of our best-shore approach, and is a component we had adopted long before it became necessary to do so.

 

Far from seeing a reduction in demand, we are excited to be part of the journey with so many more companies across the different stages of digital maturity. They demand more, and we delight in offering the innovation and creativity to ensure we provide more, and meet the increasing expectation and need for our services.


B2B Marketplace payment terms

B2B Marketplace: how to reduce payment terms?

B2B Marketplace payment terms

Payment terms, if not met, do businesses a disservice by depriving them of a source of funds. In the case of B2B marketplaces, which act as a link between professional sellers and buyers, it will be crucial to manage these deadlines by offering tailor-made solutions adapted to the business lines and operating models.

Although the Modernisation of the Economy Act (LME), which entered into force on 5 August 2008, made it possible to reduce payment terms and thus improve the cash flow of some suppliers, these payment terms vary greatly from one sector to another*.

On average, payment terms are 44 days for customers across all industries, with 25 days for commercial customers compared with 55 days for manufacturing industries. Within these same industries, companies pay their suppliers between 42 and 61 days on average.

Délais de paiement marketplace B2B

How can one remove barriers and offer buyers payment terms while keeping control of the seller’s cash flow and exposure to risk?

This is the equation that operators must solve in order to convince buyers to finalise a transaction and to ensure that sellers use the marketplace as a strategic axis for growth.

As a payment institution, Webhelp Payment Services is used to working with different business sectors such as fashion, agri-food, pharmaceuticals and manufacturers. We offer marketplace operator customers solutions specific to their customer strategy, including maintaining control of payment terms and deadlines in order to reduce risk. In fact, it is up to the marketplace operator to define the rules that apply on its marketplace. It thus directs the buyer towards a risk-free but potentially prohibitive prepayment, or towards payment on the due date, which facilitates the transaction but places a financial risk on the seller.
The payment terms themselves contain a number of elements that facilitate risk management, such as payment dates or the method of payment (bank transfer, direct debit, financing plan, etc.). Also, this decision-making phase is even more crucial than the transactional phase because it will help avoid problems in the future.

 

Tailored solutions to reduce payment terms

In addition to its function of bringing sellers and buyers together via the platform, the marketplace makes it possible to automate the tracking of invoices until they are integrated into the interested parties’ CRM. Automation of the process thus allows considerable time savings between invoicing and payment, significantly reducing the payment date.

To reduce and control payment terms on your marketplace, our experts support you based on the profile of the transaction and the buyer with tailor-made solutions adapted to your situation:

  • Is this a first purchase?
  • Do you have qualitative information about the buyer and their payment behaviour (have they ever had outstanding payments to their bank? Do they have overdue debts?)
  • What is the transaction worth? (a €100 purchase does not involve the same financial risk as a €50,000 purchase)
  • Is the buyer covered by credit insurance?

Finally, it will be essential to set up a proper credit management process, following-up overdue invoices and a step by step reminder and recovery process (amicable, pre-litigation, litigation).

 

Our experts will recommend good practice to suit your situation:

  • If it’s the first transaction between a seller and the buyer: focus on zero risk 

In the case of a new customer it is preferable to offer only prepayment by credit card or bank transfer to reduce the risk of unpaid invoices (order not despatched until payment has been received).

If you know your customer, you can give them the choice of payment method. Alternatively, you can calculate the customer’s outstanding payments and offer the customer only prepayment if outstanding payments are already very high in your marketplace.

Either way, these management rules are decisions for which the operator is responsible and are applied in the marketplace via the PSP and the platform.

  • The due date has passed 

Above all, it will be necessary to manage an incremental approach to future payment reminders. A customer who is late in paying is not necessarily a bad customer. Also, it is advisable to send the first reminder by e-mail or SMS, then to space out reminders so that they are not perceived as harassment.

However, if after several weeks the payment has still not been received, we will recommend that you call in specialist collection agencies who will be responsible for contacting the customer (by post and telephone).

To conclude, while it is true that, in the context of how a marketplace operates, the risk of non-payment is borne by the seller, it nevertheless remains the responsibility of the marketplace operator to set the rules and more particularly the payment terms made available, the payment deadlines granted or the type of reminders when payments are in default.

 

These good practices apply internationally, adapted to normal practice in each country, something which Webhelp Payment Services does through its seven subsidiaries based in Europe and North America, making payments to more than 35,000 buyers in 35 countries.

 

* Based on the 2018 Annual report on compliance with payment terms

 

 


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Job platform match: attracting companies and job seekers using content management & moderation solutions

If the job-matching process is smooth, companies will trust your platform and so will job-seekers.

The trust and safety of users online is crucial in today’s digital world. As 2020 shifted society to online and seek for jobs all across the internet, user-generated content is fast becoming a powerful and flexible tool to enhance job-matching capabilities and attract users to these job ads platforms.

This paper looks at some of the pain points in the the job ads space, highlighting how Webhelp can offer a comprehensive and game changing solution to ensure a smooth and efficient experience.

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Peer Hackman joins as Managing Director of Telecommunications, Media and Technology Practice

Webhelp and Gobeyond Partners are pleased to announce the expansion of their Telecommunications, Media and Technology Practice, under the leadership of Peer Hackman.

Peer joins Webhelp as Managing Director for TMT. He brings a wealth of knowledge to the business with over 20 years’ experience in leadership, consulting and operational roles with CSPs, technology vendors, management consultancies and media start-ups.

He is supported by a global team of industry consultants, customer experience specialists, customer engagement operations experts, analysts, data scientists and engineers, who work with our clients to transform and create value from customer engagement and experience engineering. This practice brings together specialists who transform customer experience excellence into profitable growth and run your customer operations at greater efficiency and lower costs.

 

Commenting on the TMT expansion, David Turner, CEO of Webhelp UK said:

“Telecommunications is a diverse and hugely important sector of the global economy, which has provided a crucial  role during the pandemic in keeping individual and businesses connected, media companies entertaining and informing us, and technology vendors providing the devices and infrastructure. However, the gap between these sectors in shareholder returns has widened. All businesses have realised that customer engagement, experience and trust is THE decisive enabler to produce sustainable growth and expansion in uncertain times. Peer and his practice are working with leading operators, media businesses and technology vendors to help them mature their digital transformations across strategy, customer engagement, operations, culture, technology and data, to build sustainable, resilient and highly profitable future-facing businesses.”

 

Peer Hackman, Managing Director for TMT, continues:

“Webhelp and Gobeyond Partners provide end-to-end capabilities – from assessing our clients’ digital and CX maturity, to helping them to shape their customer engagement strategy to drive business performance, to engineering profitable customer experiences and providing holistic customer engagement solutions. We are uniquely placed to deliver transformative programmes which help clients grow the value of their existing customers, open new market opportunities, drive down the cost base, increase revenue and improve customer satisfaction.

“I’m delighted to be joining the team at Webhelp and Gobeyond Partners and look forward to bringing customer engagement transformation solutions to the often complex challenges faced by their prestigious client base.”

 

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The Nest ESG for startups

Incorporating ESG initiatives from the ground up – A game-changer for startups

ESG (Environmental, Social, and Governance) initiatives are created using different elements that measure the sustainability and societal impact of an investment in a company or business. These roles of course can differ based on the industry and startup.

In order to create strategic value for ESG initiatives, companies can partner with a trusted advisor that is committed to an honest approach to measure sustainability and societal impact. Too often ESG initiatives can be done as a feel-good exercise or even in an attempt to “good-wash” a business. An experienced partner can be used in addition to a wide range of initiatives related to a company’s core business.

Continue your reading on the Nest by Webhelp to know why incorporating ESG initiatives from the ground up for a young company is key for its future growth and how The Nest, through the impact sourcing programs set up by Webhelp, can be a key partner to support startups’ growth in this context.

Click here to know more about ESG for startups
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When should your startup outsource?

When should your startup outsource?

If your startup is close to the scaling point: by this we mean that it has reached a stage where its growth is taking off and you need to control it, streamlining your operations in order to “scale” . If you also want to make your customer service a strong and differentiating pillar of this growth, you might want to consider outsourcing as an option for your customer service or customer acquisition – and this is where a structure like The Nest by Webhelp could help you.

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