Webhelp B2B Marketplace

B2B Purchasing and Marketplaces - 7 tips from 3 experts: Manutan, Zetrace and Webhelp Payment Services

Webhelp B2B Marketplace

Which Purchasing platform models are best suited to B2B? This is the question we put to three experts in the field: François Duranton, CEO at ZeTrace; Julie Dang Tran, Managing Director for Southern Europe at Manutan; and Julien Duméry, International Development Director at Webhelp Payment Services. Here are their answers in the form of 7 practical tips.

  1. Identify the two main families of solutions for making your Purchases
  2. Choose the purchasing model that suits your business size
  3. Consider the punch-out solution
  4. Check whether a “Manutan” model would suit your requirements
  5. Payment services: comply with the B2B codes
  6. To onboard your Sellers, rely on an optimal KYC solution (automated systems + human input)
  7. Key Accounts: don’t underestimate the difficulty of operating a marketplace

1. Identify the two main families of solutions for making your Purchases

François Duranton (ZeTrace): To help you get your bearings in the vast universe of corporate purchasing platforms, we can distinguish two families that correspond to two ways of buying: shopping vs purchasing.

  • In a shopping model, which we can also call a “seller-side” model, strategic purchases are set aside, and we look for the best solution for everyday purchases – bearing in mind how easy B2C platforms are to use. B2B distributors often have an e-commerce site of their own and are sometimes grouped into B2B marketplaces. In the latter case, the current software reference is Mirakl – a publisher that came out of B2C. In this particular context we would also mention Izberg, which has a few B2B solutions, and Uppler, a specialist.
  • In a purchasing or “buyer-side” model, – we find the historical Purchasing and e-procurement platforms. They are more supervised from a contractual point of view and make it possible to manage strategic sourcing, but they are less attractive from a UX point of view (research, navigation, customisation, single multi-seller basket, etc.). In this family of solutions we would also mention products such as SAP-Ariba, Coupa, Ivalua and Determine.

In both cases, these families of solutions should be compared with certain key elements: the company’s internal Purchasing processes, for example, or integration with its IS.

2. Choose the purchasing model that suits your business size

François Duranton (ZeTrace): The larger the size and requirements of a business, the less suited the marketplace model is. In general, a VSE or a small SME does not see itself as a “Buyer” and does not think in terms of a “Purchasing function”: it is often the manager who deals directly with major purchases. As for average SMEs, they sometimes have this function for class A or B direct purchases, but indirect purchases are poorly controlled: there is no question of having single invoices or grouped deliveries, for example. This need for supervision increases with the size of the company, as the Purchasing function becomes a focus of value creation. But the greater this need for supervision, the less relevant the marketplace model is: it is well suited to a many-to-many distribution model (users, buyers) while the Purchasing function of a large company is more of the few-to-many type.

Julie Dang Tran (Manutan): From our point of view, the marketplace model is actually not well suited to managing the peculiarities of a Key Account Customer. Suppose, for example, that special conditions are granted – discounts, payment deadlines, delivery conditions, etc. – these conditions will be difficult to impose or enforce on third-party Sellers in the marketplace. Similarly, it will be practically impossible to impose a price, since this would affect the Sellers’ margin.

3. Consider the punch-out solution

Julie Dang Tran (Manutan): To the family of purchasing solutions we can add punch-out systems. These are dedicated and personalised websites for a Customer – which Manutan can deploy for some Key Account customers, e.g. on an SAP-Ariba basis. When the Customer connects to Ariba, it will see a Manutan icon among its Suppliers: with a click, it can access the punch-outsystem. This is where it will find its usual purchasing processes, in compliance with internal validation systems. In fact, under this solution, we do not place an order directly: we issue a purchase request, which will then go through the company’s internal validation system, and finally be converted into an order.

4. Check whether a Manutan model would suit your requirements

Julie Dang Tran (Manutan): Class A and B purchases are well formulated in large companies, unlike class C purchases. However, the latter, which represent a very large number of references spread across all areas and departments, account for the majority of indirect costs, even though they are presented as small amounts. At Manutan, for these class C purchases, we start from a basic premise: the company manager or the Purchasing manager is responsible with regard to their employees. Indeed, the teams use these products on a daily basis, informed by safety, ergonomics, and often CSR.

The Manutan model is therefore based on product selection, which must meet certain criteria. In contrast, with a marketplace model – where it is the Sellers that are selected – the choice of products rests with those Sellers. This means that the Manutan model is focused on referencing selected products, in the context of a partnership with Suppliers. From the Customer’s perspective this makes it possible to guarantee the origin of the products and to supply the corresponding certificates, while providing them with advice and monitoring the commercial relationship.

5. Payment services: comply with the B2B codes

Julien Duméry (Webhelp Payment Services): Everyone knows that B2B processes differ from B2C processes, and that they must be scrupulously observed. For example, certain key operations must be initiated prior to payment:

  • facilitate the creation of a customer account;
  • ensure a customer’s solvency from the outset;
  • manage the entire order up to invoicing (i.e. checking the content of the order and the invoice; an incorrect or incomplete invoice may result in late payment and compromise the relationship with the customer);
  • offer a recovery solution, automated or human;
  • facilitate reconciliation (to avoid costly manual processing);
  • and finally, manage the payment transactions associated with B2B codes (bank transfer, direct debit, card, etc.).

We therefore recommend ensuring that the operations leading to payment are also managed in a spirit of value addition.

6. To onboard your Sellers, rely on an optimal KYC solution combining technology and human input

Julien Duméry (Webhelp Payment Services): To ensure that the B2B marketplace remains a trusted space, in full compliance with the latest regulations at all times, ensure that you have effective KYC procedures in place. These will enable you to onboard Sellers, regardless of their geographical location and their local legal constraints.

Offering your salespeople good onboarding experience is important. We recommend that you ensure human support is made available; this is essential, because automation cannot meet every need, especially when the items expected are not the right ones. This is why you should favour hybrid solutions that combine technology and human input, and ensure that they are perfectly integrated. What if the automated system has failed to resolve the problem? It sends the file to an expert so that they can provide an immediate solution, or enter into dialogue with the Seller in order to obtain the information or documents essential for finalising onboarding.

7. Key Accounts: don’t underestimate the difficulty of operating a marketplace

Julie Dang Tran (Manutan): Learning from some of the failures or difficulties encountered on purchasing platforms, it must be recognised that it is easy to underestimate certain key processes. For example, the onboarding of Sellers may be seen as nothing more than a straightforward large-scale administrative operation. The reality is much more complex and does not allow the operator to rely entirely on existing tools: for example, some reference suppliers of turnkey platforms, coming from B2C, do not provide a satisfactory response in B2B. To put it briefly: it’s not the same business as negotiating with suppliers when buying products from them, or referencing them on a platform by taking charge of all administrative aspects.

Julien Duméry (Webhelp Payment Services): I also think it important to advise great caution: some platform projects are started without taking sufficient account of certain obstacles. As far as Key Accounts are concerned, it is not enough to launch a project around a platform publisher, hire a payment intermediary, and then hope that customers will on their own initiative go to the new marketplace without communication, training of buyers/sellers, or prior marketing. In reality, these Key Accounts are then the only ones managing and running a marketplace – which is not actually where their expertise lies. Bringing this distribution channel to life is a real challenge! It will require integrating the costs associated with marketing and communications, or the recruitment and training of buyers/sellers, into the business plan.

 

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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


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.

B2B Marketplace payment terms

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.

 

Although this clarification is mainly for the domestic market, these good practices also 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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The Summer of B2B Marketplaces

The Summer of B2B Marketplaces

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

This new version, entitled The summer of B2B marketplaces: a bright future ahead for marketplace development, goes further into the new development and opportunities for B2B marketplaces.

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

  • The different maturities on the subject of B2B Marketplaces by industry;
  • The 5 different strategies of B2B Marketplaces;
  • The different approaches to launch such a project;
  • A focus on the automotive spare-parts market based on the Marketplace model.


Trends 2020 – Upply is digitalising the supply chain and integrating Webhelp Payment Services solutions!

A preferred marketplace for transport and logistics professionals, Upply brings increased transparency and fluidity to the supply chain market. Highly innovative in terms of data and AI, Upply uses KYC and payment services provided by Webhelp Payment Services. For more details, we spoke to Christophe de Sahb, Business Developer at Webhelp Payment Services.

 

Launched in November 2018, Upply's mission is to help supply chain and transport firms control volatile freight rates by accessing prices and transport capacities in real time.

Several initiatives have followed:

  • Launch of a service for real-time comparison of transport prices in 2018
  • Launch of a price analysis and trends functionality in spring 2019
  • Launch of a marketplace for road transport in France in July 2019

Data science, AI and Marketplace for supply chain optimisation

Upply combines business expertise and data science: the fast-growing company currently employs 110 people, including 9 data scientists, and processes 150 million data updates every week. It's a winning formula, since more than 700 companies have registered on the Upply marketplace since July 2019!

Marketplace offers its users – hauliers, shippers and charterers – a direct digital connection service and a valuable decision-making tool.

The platform collects data (prices, meteorological data, financial indices and economic indicators, etc.) and analyses it using mathematical algorithms and advanced machine learning methods.
Xavier Fraval, Product Director at Upply, details the company's approach: "Thanks to the marketplace, we give all players – large or small, old or new – free access to offers and requests that correspond to their transport needs, using a matching algorithm."

How Webhelp Payment Services manages KYC and Upply's payments

"We started working with Upply in January 2019. Thanks to the pragmatism of this start-up and its agile mode of operation, our KYC and payment solutions were able to be integrated into marketplace in just four months," explains Christophe de Sahb, Business Developer at Webhelp Payment Services.

As of July 2019, we have enabled payment by bank transfer (denominated in euros), which is heavily used in the B2B market. Bank card and SEPA direct debit payment will be available in   early 2020.

As Upply states, prices are freely set and negotiated between the client and the carrier, with full transparency. For the marketplace service, Upply receives a management fee corresponding to 5% of the transport price, shared equally between the parties (2.5% for each).

A customised onboarding and payment solution based on a specific API

As Upply is 'API centric', it is natural that they chose this solution. "Our API solution builds on    the one we successfully implemented for our Rungis marketplace customer", emphasises Christophe de Sahb.

Tight deadlines and a challenging level of demand for the Webhelp Payment Services team. "We had to work intensively to produce specific diagrams, because, for example, Upply wanted one invoice for the seller and another for the buyer for each payment", adds Christophe de Sahb.

In practice, these two invoices are produced by Upply and forwarded to Webhelp Payment Services, which is then responsible for overall reconciliation.

"We have prepared a specific system for Upply, from ordering through to delivery", explains Christophe de Sahb. That's why we organised technical workshops between the teams, particularly around certain key themes: payment, identification and vendor onboarding (linked to KYC and AML regulations), invoicing and reconciliation, and finally pay out (remittance of funds).

"Upply's tools and operating methods allow for a successful balance in relationships among all players in the supply chain, today in Europe and tomorrow worldwide. We are delighted to be of service in this great technical and human adventure", concludes Christophe de Sahb.

 

Also read:

B2B Marketplaces – Limits of the Marketplace model for Global Account customers (1/2)

B2B – Marketplace or Drop Shipping: It is urgent not to choose (2/2)


B2B Marketplaces – Limits of the Marketplace model for Global Account customers (1/2)

In B2B distribution, the new challenge is to massively expand the product offering. The Marketplace model has rapidly prevailed in this context. It is now showing some limitations, as François Duranton, CEO of ZeTrace, explains in this first column.

B2B marketplaces are gathering momentum! They are currently winning VSE/SME targets, especially for service-sector and non-strategic purchases.

But it is true that they are still facing some difficulties with Global Account and Government Contract customers, particularly for strategic or primary purchases.

Before going into detail regarding these difficulties, we may specify that there are three models for massive expansion of the product offering:

  • the industrialized Drop Shipping model, where a distributor shows its customers the catalogues of suppliers who will perform delivery;
  • the Marketplace model which establishes contact between vendors and customers around a trusted third-party operator; and
  • combination of these two models.

The advantages and disadvantages of these models are very different. For Global Accounts and Government Contracts, the Marketplace model has five main limitations.

1. Risk of legal requalification of the marketplace

On paper, the Marketplace model enjoys an excellent image. For example, it is very efficient for the delegation of tasks to the vendors – which take charge of catalogue onboarding, stock and price management, orders management and customer service, etc.

But the marketplace is based on a special business model, which could pose a problem for Global Account and Government Contract customers.

For example, the concept of personalized prices or prices negotiated with the operator is problematic, because, on a marketplace, the price is usually controlled by the vendor. But, if the marketplace imposes negotiated prices on its vendors, the latter could blame it for not complying with the standard intermediation model, i.e. doing “disguised drop shipping” – and this requalification could take place before a court.

Just recently, Cdiscount avoided a ruling of liability on counterfeit products sold on its Marketplace, in particular because it had in no way changed the information provided by the vendor, and had therefore remained in a role of hosting service and not publisher.

To meet the needs of these customers and to reduce the legal risk, the operator will therefore be obliged to take on numerous responsibilities (product compliance, tax reporting, customer relationships, etc.). And this complicates the pure marketplace model and has an impact on its profitability.

2. IT problems in ensuring an assortment for each customer

The Global Account and Government Contract customers tend to compartment their procurements: certain products, at a certain price, from a certain supplier.

The marketplace must therefore filter its assortments according to the customers who log on, and combine them with the negotiated prices.

This situation is not always well managed by commercially available solutions.

3. Constraint of the single invoice

For Global Account and Government Contract customers, they dread having numerous suppliers. They want to rationalize the full acquisition cost – which includes invoice processing, order forms, reconciliation of payments and deliveries, etc.

Hence the goal of reducing invoicing. But in the marketplace model, the current standard is as follows: if there are five vendors in a given order, that will result in five invoices.

Firms such as Webhelp Payment Services propose packaged third-party invoicing solutions. With this system, the operator signs an invoicing mandate with each of the vendors, which authorize the marketplace operator to issue in their name and on their behalf the invoices produced for the end customer.

The advantage of this solution is good standardization of invoices, which become easier to integrate by the customer and by the platform.

For example, the operator can compile all the monthly invoices in a statement of invoices, which greatly simplifies administration and reconciliation tasks at the customer level.

There is a limitation, however: certain auditors could consider that this invoicing becomes a “hotchpotch” and demand a personal account for each supplier. Ultimately, everything depends on the customer’s accounting strategy.

The only alternative solution to produce a single invoice is to switch to a dropship model, possibly supported by the marketplace information system: the operator creates the vendor listing catalogue, manages sales to the end customer and sends the order to the vendor, which manages dropship delivery to the end customer. This solution amounts to taking responsibility for the sale on the operator side (product compliance, taxes, etc.).

4. Rationalization of the supply chain

Global Account and Government Contract customers want to rationalize product delivery. Very often, they impose time slots for delivery, together with penalties. This situation is complex to manage for a marketplace in which each vendor manages their shipments.

There are solutions to the supply chain problem, such as groupage of deliveries in the warehouses of the marketplace distributor (cross docking). Then, this distributor manages deliveries in the time slots agreed with the customer.

However, these solutions are complex to implement, more costly, and they entail longer delivery times.

5. Globalized customer service

Another requirement: customer service will have to operate in the language and in the time slots wanted by the Global Account or Government Contract customer.

Possible case: a German vendor must ensure relations with a French marketplace customer. If this vendor is not capable of this, there must be a replacement solution.

In this respect, the marketplace must take charge of the costs that on paper it was supposed to save.

In the second article of this column*, I invite you to discover that the conventional opposition between Marketplace and Drop Shipping deserves to be left behind.

François Duranton, CEO of ZeTrace


3 key questions about your marketplace business model

One of the main marketplace elements you should consider is, of course, the business model and profitability. How can I develop my marketplace project into a profitable long-term business? Here are three key questions you should ask yourself to find out.

What ratios should I envisage in my business model?

By its very nature, and for the sake of profitability, a marketplace should not be managed by a large team. In markets where the commission rate is around 15%, the ratio 1 person to 5 million euros of business volume is an empirical figure to be considered. As for the profitability threshold, it seems to be around: 1 person to 1 million euros.
Another important ratio: the promotional budget. For some players, such as startups, the challenge is twofold: finding sellers and finding customers. Other B2B players - such as professional media (news sites, magazines, etc.) - certainly have the same problem, but they have an advantage in that they have a community and can activate acquisition levers (professional social networks, Google Ads, etc.). In both cases, it may be wise to devote a reasonable budget to acquiring customers.
The ratio of 15% advertising investment to business volume is often quoted for starting up a business, but everything depends on the type of business. At the end of the launch phase, this ratio can be as low as 4 or 5%. The promotional actions must be perfectly synchronised and fully consistent with the actual products offered and your brand advertising.

Should my sales staff be given a share of the profits?

Many B2B companies have traditionally relied on a network of sales representatives for whom they draw up a product sales commission plan.
But on a marketplace, the scenario is more competitive and the prices charged by sellers and their personal commitment must be taken into account.
The marketplace opportunity study is a good time to examine a new remuneration scheme in which no sales channel will feel penalised. Otherwise, some sales people or stores will not try to sell the goods displayed on the platform.
A profit-sharing scheme involving salespersons or stores in selling products on the Internet can be used to create a win-win scenario.

When can I expect my business to be profitable?

Take a look into the future: your marketplace has just been launched, the first customers are arriving and encountering the inevitable minor technical problems... But your business is not yet profitable. In B2B, as in B2C, this phase - which often feels as if you are in a commercial wilderness - can last between three months and two years. One of the challenges is to considerably reduce the length of this phase, with the help of experienced partners.
It will be followed by an acceleration phase, with satisfactory sales performance. This will typically last between one and three years, depending on the type of business.
Clearly, a lot of effort will initially be required. But make sure you don't try to go too fast and be careful not to cut corners!
Our aim is to make you aware of this reality: when an already established retailer creates a marketplace, this causes a split in the company and severe disruption that cannot be avoided. Advance planning is therefore essential to make this phase as brief as possible.
To put it differently, with a lot of pragmatism and a little humour: complex situations take a lot of effort!

If you liked this article, click here to learn more about our marketplaces services, or contact Christophe de Sahb (CDesahb@wps.webhelp.com).

Contributors:

François Duranton, director of Expertime Consulting

Martial Frugier, director of the Ecommerce, Retail & Transport business unit (Webhelp)


2019: marketplaces set to take the B2B market by storm

We look back at the B2B marketplace morning discussion to explain the main changes and challenges set to be feature in 2019.

“Our starting point was the observation that whereas in 2017 we were at the very beginning of the "B2B marketplace spring", we are now seeing it in full bloom!” announced Sébastien Murbach, a Partner at Roland Berger, at the opening of the morning discussion on 25 October 2018.

An analysis begun two years ago by Roland Berger, in partnership with Webhelp Payment Services and Mirakl, resulting in the annual publication of the B2B Marketplace Observatory and the #MPB2B newsfeed on Twitter.

“B2C marketplaces radically changed a lot of markets. Since 2017 it has been B2B’s turn to start taking on this transformation tool. Initially, many factors slowed its development, such as the complexity of B2B relationships, the extent of the negotiations, consultancy work and contractual formalities required,” continued Sébastien Murbach.

These factors are now under control, and 2019 will see an increase in the growth of B2B marketplaces. This is the way Alfred Hawawini, Director of B2B Business at Mirakl, sees it: "Mirakl, Webhelp Payment Services and Roland Berger all share the same conviction: B2B marketplaces are no longer an emerging phenomenon but represent a clear willingness on the part of B2B players to transform their business completely.”

The four B2B marketplace models

“In 2017, marketplace projects were very vendor-oriented,” explains Christophe de Sahb, Business Developer at Webhelp Payment Services. Today, these projects are much more focused on buyers and buyer expectations. That’s why we are now seeing a lot of procurement departments showing an interest in new marketplace models. This phenomenon is set to grow in 2019.”

This new four-model classification has been adopted by Mirakl, Webhelp Payment Services and Roland Berger:

1. Range extension (G&S) or the one-stop shop

Typically initiated by a distributor or wholesaler wanting to broaden its products and services offer through third-party vendors to create a one-stop shop. The objective is to drive up customer loyalty and create barriers to entry by new competitors.

2. Distributor platform or distribution channel extension

Initiated by a manufacturer or service provider keen to create new sales channels without compromising its existing channels. The idea is to encourage customer loyalty among existing customers and attract new ones through an optimised platform.

3. Internal hub or business model transformation

distributor or service provider wants to start up or reorganise around a marketplace to facilitate the crossover between supply and demand in a relatively unstructured market. This need is felt mainly by buyers looking to rationalise their procurement accounting by referencing a single supplier for each procurement category (for example promotional items from Pandacola).

4. Procurement platform or procurement network

This service is initiated by the members of a group of buyers or procurement departments that are looking for an easy way to secure offers at attractive prices. This category of contract givers has four key requirements:

  • suppliers must be in automatic competition
  • an excellent e-commerce purchasing experience
  • more straightforward accounting procedures
  • simple, automated supplier management

Payment, a key element in the growth of a marketplace

Whichever model is chosen, it must offer a payment system tailored to the specific national and international requirements of B2B business. As Axel Mouquet sums up, the four challenges will remain the same in 2019:

  • compliance with national laws and customs in different countries,
  • the diversity of payment modes and methods,
  • the asynchronous nature of different payment terms,
  • managing invoicing

______________________________________

Marketplace experiences: AccorHotels, Première Vision and Pandacola

Each of the four models has its own advantages and challenges. By way of example, we invited three companies to talk about their marketplace experiences: the AccorHotels group, the fashion show organiser Première Vision and the startup Pandacola, which is set to reinvent the distribution of corporate promotional gifts.

The AccorHotels Group: an international procurement platform that uses a procurement network model

“We negotiate the prices for the products and services required by our 4,500 hotels around the world,” explains Coline Pont, Chief Procurement Officer for the Southern Europe region at AccorHotels. Our platform must meet the requirements of some thirty brands with very different characteristics. The objective of this platform is to enable our hotel customers to make savings and to facilitate the procurement process for our hotels. Currently, we are also working to win new customers outside the AccorHotels group. This is one of our areas of development.”

Première Vision: bringing together fashion pros through a one-stop-shop model

The Première Vision marketplace is for textile industry professionals. It is open to exhibitors and visitors to Première Vision fashion shows in France and around the world. Its vocation is to foster exchanges between textiles and fashion industry professionals (distributors, brands, accessory manufacturers, etc.).

“This business is made up of a lot of self-employed suppliers. It is only loosely structured and the rate at which new collections come out is continually increasing. Our marketplace does not claim to replace human contact, but it does complement it well. Nearly 70% of the visitors to our website connect to our marketplace. Our main challenges lie in helping vendors who have little experience of using digital tools. That’s why we’ve published a lot of tutorials online,” says Gaël Séguillon, Première Vision‘s Head of Marketplace.

Pandacola: selling corporate promotional gifts using a business model transformation model

The Pandacola marketplace is set to market corporate gifts and goodies. “We are the only ones on the European market. This loosely structured market features 2,500 promotional-item retailers in France, only a dozen of which have a turnover of more than €10 million. Hence our desire to create a marketplace to structure this market starting in 2019. Very few of our vendors have embraced digital technology, so we work hard to help them and publish lots of aids", explains Arthur Manier, CEO and founder of Pandacola.

To learn more about the changes expected in 2019 and events in the pipeline, send your request to Christophe de Sahb (CDesahb@wps.webhelp.com).

 


International B2B e-commerce: 5 mistakes to avoid

B2B ecommerce

Increasing numbers of B2B businesses both large and small are setting their sights on trading internationally through an e-commerce platform. To give yourself the best chance of making a decent fist of it, Axel Mouquet, CEO of Webhelp Payment Services, proffers his advice and explains which mistakes to avoid.

At Webhelp Payment Services, we know all about trading internationally: we cover 35 countries and we collect 80% of our payments (€1,5 billion a year) outside France on behalf of B2B vendors.

As a payment institution, at Webhelp Payment Services we help our clients to devise and manage their B2B payment strategy. Our shared objective is to improve the customer experience and develop a secure business.

To this end, we offer risk management, transaction management and non-payment management services, working internationally with brands such as Conrad, Aniel, IPH, Procsea, Conforama, Le Duff and Rungis International Market.

From day-to-day practice and our observation of the market, we have identified 5 avoidable mistakes:

    1. The ‘everywhere-at-once, all-at-once’ strategy. The temptation is to launch in several countries at the same time instead of introducing a gradual rollout (which is more advisable as we shall see later). In this faulty model, the starting point is often the home-country e-commerce website or the reference website, which is then cloned and rolled out simultaneously in the different languages and countries. Typically, this is done by employing translators to translate the existing content. But you can bet your bottom dollar (or euro) that it won’t work!
    2. A succession of ‘cut-and-paste’ openings. In this variation on the faulty model above, the plan is to proceed country by country, simply ‘cutting and pasting’ from one site to the next. But here too you’ll be heading for trouble, as B2B conventions vary hugely from country to country. You have to understand and follow not only the law but also business practice, decision-making cycles and order-validation circuits for example. It’s therefore a no-brainer: you must redesign the site – and the customer experience – for each country or region.
    3. Staking everything on adwords. This is perhaps the costliest strategy: the company invests a fortune on buying adwords in the hope that this will capture demand. Of course, you must not neglect or forget about digital marketing, but human contact is important too! In B2B commerce, building a relationship of trust – between professionals – is crucial, especially when your business is starting out. You have to devise a sales force deployment strategy on the ground or operating in the local language. And later you will have to regularly tweak your mix of digital and on-the-ground presence.
    4. Over-centralising your business. Is your company based in Paris, Lyon or Bordeaux? Then it’s there that all of your international operations will be based. We cannot say it often enough: in B2B you must ensure you have a physical presence local to your customers. And your customers will want to check that this presence is on offer, even if it is just a sales or logistics service. In B2B, digital commerce will never do away with borders completely!
    5. Having the same payment conditions everywhere. To speed things up when rolling out your B2B e-commerce platform internationally, it is tempting to standardise your payment conditions. But experience shows that even within Europe there are major differences here, and some of them may even put you at risk. There are differences between payment conditions, respecting payment deadlines, legal aspects of the market, etc., and you also have to take into account local competition, prices and products and services on offer. And in B2B, assessing customer credit risk is crucial. Webhelp offers a range of specific international commerce solutions.

    In summary, our advice is not to spread your resources too thin and to tailor your offer to each locality. To become an international business you will have to identify the key success factors for each country and focus your efforts on them.

    And here are 5 examples of approaches that work well, where we have helped our customers grow their B2B business internationally.

    1. Introduce a gradual, tailored rollout. The idea is to be realistic, starting with the country or region that appears to present the fewest operational difficulties and learning all the lessons you can before expanding elsewhere. On each occasion, you must take the time to understand the specific characteristics of the local demand. You should implement a carefully thought-out, localised approach incorporating co-design and co-construction.
    2. Use the marketplace model. The marketplace model has certainly proved its worth in B2C and now represents a tremendous opportunity in B2B since all the tools and methods are already available. This strategy enables you to construct your offer locally, minimising the risks, investment and any logistical problems involved. And you also have the option of signing up dependable salespeople with a good reputation who are already in place. At Webhelp, we think this model is becoming the go-to approach and that you should consider it very carefully. In other words, you’ll have to have very good reasons not to adopt a marketplace-based approach!
    3. Make sure you have localised payment strategies. This is where Webhelp Payment Services comes in: devising, implementing and managing the complete payment circuit, with the option of including credit insurance, constructing a secure business model for the country in question and taking into account specific customer risks. In this respect we are able to provide tailor-made solutions on the basis of conventional or pooled distribution of profits/risks.
    4. Build locally with international partners. Your success is conditional upon knowing the ins and outs of B2B practices in the country or region concerned. Giving yourself the ability to identify and work with international partners gives you a decisive advantage. Especially if your growth objectives – organic or external – are ambitious.
    5. Develop a local sales force. As we have seen, B2B is not all about digital technology. You should consider gradually introducing sales forces on the ground.


Marketplace : Vendeurs, Pure Players et Distributeurs, quel est votre rôle ?

Sur une marketplace B2B on peut retrouver trois types d’acteurs : ceux qui la rejoignent, c’est-à-dire les vendeurs, et ceux qui en sont à l’origine, c’est-à-dire soit un pure player qui la créé, soit un distributeur qui en devient une. Chacun d’entre eux a des attentes à satisfaire et des défis à relever.

 

Le vendeur indépendant : rejoindre une marketplace

Aujourd'hui, en B2B, beaucoup d'e-commerçants et de retailers sont face à une décision stratégique : rejoindre une marketplace ou poursuivre en solo. L'idée de rejoindre une marketplace apparaît comme une excellente opportunité, quand on se souvient que moins de 20 % des entreprises B2B françaises font de la vente en ligne !

Cependant, pour être au niveau de qualité attendu par une marketplace, il faut prendre la mesure des changements à opérer :

 

  • devenir parfaitement cohérent avec les exigences qui font l'identité de la marque,
  • se démarquer, face aux autres vendeurs, au-delà du produit et du prix,
  • offrir une relation client de qualité élevée, pour ne pas se retrouver déclassé à terme.En clair, il faut considérer la marketplace comme un nouvel écosystème, prometteur mais très exigeant, dans lequel s'intégrer au mieux. Pour cela, il est possible de faire appel à un partenaire qui apportera une "brique" relationnelle : la gestion de la relation client sur tous les canaux (téléphone, email, SMS, tchat, médias sociaux...).

De plus, si nécessaire, votre partenaire pourra prendre en charge la production, l'optimisation et la mise à jour de votre catalogue de produits ou services. Quant à la logistique, elle peut également être sous-traitée avantageusement.

 

Le pure player : créer une marketplace

Quand un pure player détecte un besoin B2B insatisfait, il peut décider de se lancer dans la création complète d'une marketplace. Ce nouvel entrant a carte blanche, et il n'est pas confronté à la difficulté de "disrupter" sa propre structure puisqu'il la crée entièrement (comme l'a fait Bizmeeting dans le domaine de la réservation des réunions et séminaires d'entreprises).

 

Le distributeur : se transformer en marketplace

Un distributeur, ou une centrale d'achats, peut décider d'ouvrir une place de marché -ce cas est aujourd'hui le plus fréquent. Le défi est de niveau élevé : il consiste à créer une entreprise dans l'entreprise, ou à en refondre l'organisation autour d'un nouveau business model.

Dans ce cas, l'entreprise va créer une disruption interne : certains métiers ou domaines d'expertise forte -qui ont fait le succès de l'entreprise -vont être remis en cause. En résumé, l'entreprise va pratiquement réinventer chacune des strates de son organisation (cadre juridique, équipes, processus, partenaires, pratiques commerciales, relations avec la force de vente, expérience client...). Tout l’enjeu est d’y parvenir sans renier son ADN, mais en lui donnant plus de force, grâce à la marketplace.

En amont de cette disruption d'organisation, il faudra d'abord accompagner une transformation de l'état d'esprit et des schémas mentaux(mindset) des principaux intéressés. Dans l'idéal, ils devront désirer -et au pire accepter -qu'un nouveau modèle économique vienne servir toute l'entreprise.