The Hard Truth About B2B eCommerce

The Evolution Of B2B eCommerce And Where Were Heading With Justin Finnegan of Conexiom

September 09, 2020 Isaiah Bollinger Season 1 Episode 14
The Hard Truth About B2B eCommerce
The Evolution Of B2B eCommerce And Where Were Heading With Justin Finnegan of Conexiom
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The Hard Truth About B2B eCommerce
The Evolution Of B2B eCommerce And Where Were Heading With Justin Finnegan of Conexiom
Sep 09, 2020 Season 1 Episode 14
Isaiah Bollinger

In episode 14, we talk with Justin Finnegan about why B2B eCommerce is now a critical requirement to be competitive and that relationships with customers are no longer enough. Justin Finnegan has built three leading digital agencies including most recently, Gorilla Group, one of the largest B2B eCommerce providers in the world. Justin Finnegan has been in B2B eCommerce since its inception in the late 90s and early 2000s and is now at a product company helping automate offline B2B orders, Conexiom. In this episode, we discuss many topics such as the evolution of B2B eCommerce, why companies struggle with it, why it's so important, and what agencies can do better to support b2b companies with eCommerce.

Show Notes Transcript

In episode 14, we talk with Justin Finnegan about why B2B eCommerce is now a critical requirement to be competitive and that relationships with customers are no longer enough. Justin Finnegan has built three leading digital agencies including most recently, Gorilla Group, one of the largest B2B eCommerce providers in the world. Justin Finnegan has been in B2B eCommerce since its inception in the late 90s and early 2000s and is now at a product company helping automate offline B2B orders, Conexiom. In this episode, we discuss many topics such as the evolution of B2B eCommerce, why companies struggle with it, why it's so important, and what agencies can do better to support b2b companies with eCommerce.

Unknown Speaker :

Welcome to Episode 14 of the hard truth about b2b e commerce. I'm your host, Isaiah Bollinger. Unfortunately Tim, our co host is not available today. So we're just gonna go ahead and get going with the podcast. So before we get started I want to mention our sponsor, punch out to go punch out to go is a global b2b integration company specializing in connecting commerce platforms with E procurement and eirp applications punch out two goes I pass technology seamlessly links business applications to automate automate the flow of purchasing data. So with punch out to go you can immediately reduce integration complexities for punch out catalogs, electronic electronic purchase orders, invoices and other b2b sales order items. documents so a great solution in the b2b e commerce space. And a great partner and sponsor that we've been in touch with for years now. So if you don't know punch out to go please get in touch with their team and Brady their CEOs is a great guy to talk to. So without further ado, I'm really excited for today because we have a special guest for for all of you who don't know Justin Finnegan. Justin, you're actually a within a new company now. And in your career, you've been at agencies in the in the b2b world pretty much your entire career. So you've been you've been in b2b commerce for a while and now now you're on you moved from the agency side to the technology side as you call the the dark side, I think so can tell us a little bit more about that. Yeah. So first of all, thanks for having me. You know, appreciate the opportunity to talk about this kind of stuff. So yep, I recently started to weed, you know, the client services for a technology firm called connects them. And you know, on the one side, it is a bit of a change move in the technology side that realistically on, you know, the problems we're solving are very similar. So connects to an automation platform that's, you know, providing true automation for manufacturers and distributors. And it's a really interesting problem. So there's 17 billion 17 trillion, excuse me. dollars worth of b2b transactions every year, eight and a half trillion of those are processed manually, although the rest are handled by CDI by hand are handled by bt commerce are handled by technologies like punch out to go, which is a partner of yours. But the, you know, a very significant percentage are still handled manually by companies passing documents to each other. And, you know, what happens is somebody sending in a purchase order in an email or a PDF or a Word document or an Excel or whatever, and somebody has to take that printed out, you know, turn their mobile chair and type it right back in. And it's a, you know, a huge amount of friction and a huge amount of cost. And connect cm has a true Intelligent Automation solution that removes that for us, you know, especially manufacturers and distributors, where we can extract the data with 100% accuracy. We can perform whatever transformations need to be done and we can put that directly into Our customers back end systems. So it's a it's a neat solution, we can implement it pretty quickly. We remove a lot of cost, we speed the cycle time, we remove the errors, and we've got a lot of really satisfied customers. That's awesome. Yeah, I was gonna say it sounds like one of the big problems could also be a lot of errors. Like when you're doing lots of manual processes, and you're dealing with all these orders, putting in the wrong number, the wrong skew could that could probably cause a lot of problems, I'm guessing. You know, just judging by the emails I've sent you. You can see how many typos went up in those. I think that's probably a fair fair case. So um, so want to talk also a little bit about your background. Before can axiom because that's a more recent move. You know, you've kind of been in the trenches at a few agencies now. And some of these are some pretty impressive agencies, companies that actually had trouble We've kind of looked up to you, especially while we were smaller, and we're like, who, you know, who are the people doing a good job in our space? And some of those were those were those companies. So tell us a little bit about that, and kind of how you got into b2b commerce. Because probably when you started, I don't think b2b commerce was much of a thing. No, I, I've been, I've been in the commerce space for over 20 years now. And, you know, came to it, you know, little accidentally so started my career in consulting, and mostly working with customers, eirp projects. And in 1999, we had a customer come to us and said, you know, we think we want to try this ecommerce thing. And we ended up building them, you know, their first generation e commerce system from scratch, and that was a b2b system. because there wasn't any Wow, so you you started really, it was probably one of the first b2b e commerce sites out there. Probably It was it was pretty close. I think we called it a portal. So that's how, that's how early days we were. And, you know, we had to sort of learn, you know, how, you know, what are the pieces you need? Well, you need a catalog, well, you need a checkout, well, you need pricing, you need all these things and build them. And, you know, thank god 20 years later, you don't have to, you know, do that from scratch. There's, you know, a lot better ways. But it was an early introduction to the e commerce world. And I said, this stuff is pretty cool. And you know, there may be you may be a career in here, and I've been doing it for 20 years. So, from there, I was at a company called Hitachi consulting for a number of years leading e commerce projects move to a agency in Chicago called acuity group, which has since been acquired by Accenture, where we really were The first, you know, specialist, you know, agency that combined both the technology and the, you know, experience side in North America did some of the, you know, very early large scale b2b projects, you know, for some, you know, very, very big organizations following that had the opportunity to help lead a company, also in Chicago called gorilla grip. So, gorilla is a ecommerce service provider or e commerce agency or, you know, we never really could decide what to call ourselves. But you know, became the leading, you know, b2b agency in North America, independent b2b agency in North America and really, you know, our competitive set was, you know, the global players, so, You know, did a lot of interesting stuff. We sold gorilla to wonder Ben Thompson a couple years ago when, you know, still a great growth story. And, you know, if you're looking to do enterprise b2b, they're there. They're the sharpest you know, the sharpest folks outside of trellis. Yeah, you guys, uh, you guys got to a pretty, pretty massive scale on. So it's pretty, pretty awesome to see the stuff that you guys are doing. And I think, you know, there's a lot of competitors out there, but I like to look at it as like everyone's kind of bringing things up and in a good way for us. So the more that grill is helping move the needle up for all the b2b e commerce companies, it forces all the other companies to realize they got to do something and maybe hire trellis or something like that. So, um, so I think we've all kind of helped each other in one way or the other without actually realizing it. So tell us a little bit about what you've seen out of the evolution of b2b e commerce. You mentioned like, okay, 1999 was like a portal that was just kind of like an idea and like, no one really knew probably what it was gonna really do for them. They're just like, hey, let's try this out. And now it's like, most companies, I would say, at least know, it's something they got to do in terms of their strategy or their thinking about where they probably already have it. Yeah, I think we've gotten to the point in 2020, where it's recognized as a necessity, not you know, not something that we're going to try. It's something that you know, we have to do, and most b2b organizations are there and I actually think that's, you know, that's a bit of a recent development. I think, even if you go back three or four years ago, you know, it was still you know, considered innovative. For a lot of companies, and I think actually one of the interesting, you know, we've looked at this a bunch and talked about it, one of the watershed moments, we think was when Amazon bought Whole Foods. And, you know, you sort of go, you know, what does that have to do with b2b commerce? You know, that's nothing to do with selling, you know, vacuum pumps or MRO supplies or, you know, whatever. I think that was sort of the the final nail in the coffin of, you know, thinking that there's any part of the economy where this isn't gonna be irrelevant. So if you buy a grocery store, yeah, so you think it's because it's like, Okay, if you can buy food online, and that's moving online. And that's a perishable thing, like what, like pretty much everything can be sold online at this point? Yeah, well, I mean, three things have sort of come together. One You know, and most importantly, it's the customer expectation. So the people doing the buying, or at least a significant portion of them, you know, are digital natives at this point. And, you know, they've grown up with an expectation that they can gather information that they can, you know, execute transactions online. And to not have it is, you know, a little bit of cognitive dissonance. I mean, you know, think about in your personal life, you know, how often do you if you're getting food delivered you call the restaurant at this point? Yeah, I mean, we just literally we just did Uber Eats at the office, and we've done probably too much Uber Eats at the office at this. We all we all have to, you know, yeah, the the quarantine 15 is a real thing. But, um, you know, you know, at this point, you know, you if you're looking to get takeout from a restaurant, and they You can't do it online, it's almost, you know, a question of, Okay, well, do I actually really want to get it from there, I gotta talk to somebody on the phone, I got to read out my credit card number, you know, customer expectation has, has driven this, they, they want to and if you can't do it, you know, you're going to at least open up a question in your customers mind of, you know, are you, you know, are you the people they want to do business with? Yeah, you know, I totally agree. Yeah. So that that's the first piece. The second piece is, you know, I think a better realization that you know, if an organization is just about relationships, that's not a defensible position, and you have to be present In, you know, in multiple channels and if you go back, you know, a long time, you know, Forrester would call on the term multi channel and then multi channel became omni channel, I think I once saw somebody referred to it as ultra channel. You know, I think you could probably, you know, keep throwing words out, but it's all pretty much the same thing. You know, I, I don't think people think of it as channel I think of it is, you know, people have recognized that the channel isn't the important part, the value you're providing your customers is the important part, but you better be able to meet the customers where they are. And so So to your point, you think that historically, a lot of b2b companies are like, Oh, we have the best relationships with these key companies. And that's no longer you know, enough to stay competitive because your customers might say, Oh, I can just go on Amazon and get this thing or they're starting to realize that But they can go other places and get things more conveniently. It's, it's necessary but not sufficient. So, you know, having those relationships incredibly important having a, you know, a good set of relationships with your customers very important being easy to do business with very important, especially, you know, at the more complex end, having, you know, providing knowledge along with product, very important. But none of those things, you know, well will get you there. If your customers can interact with you with minimal friction in the way they want 24 seven, etc, etc. Gotcha. So what summer three, I think that's number two. Number three, number three is frankly The technology has, you know, gotten to the point where it's, you know, it's meeting the promise. So, you know, part of the reason why, you know, b2b commerce adoption lagged b2c is the, you know, the technologies that were appropriate for b2c e commerce and, you know, I could go do a half hour on why I don't love the terms b2c and b2b. To start with that, I'll say that for a different day. You know, the technology, were generally focused on the b2c use cases. So, you know, the simple way to look at that is if you can put it in a box and get to the customer via FedEx, you know, there's been great technology available for that, you know, all those problems have been solved, you know, for the last 10 years. Yep. Totally agree. There's innovation in general There's integrations in terms of the back end in terms of how you do merchandising in terms of, you know, how you make the system, you know, prettier. But, you know, the core of that problem was solved, you know, years ago. It's only more recently that you know, the the use cases the technology support have really got into maturity to support a lot of, you know, the more complex use cases. So, configuration, variable or contract pricing, the ability to, you know, manage fulfillment across multiple delivery methods and multiple warehouses, the ability to have, you know, mirror customers purchasing roles. You know, those were all things that you would, you know, if you're going back 510 years, you would take a piece of b2c technology and then start grafting that on top of today. De more and more those, you know, those use cases are covered in mature way in the in the technologies. Yeah, I think that's very true Magento actually just launched I think it was like yesterday or the day before, like the newest addition to dot for like a newest version and they finally added order approval like budgeting and order approval and that kind of stuff. I think they actually bought that from someone and kind of like wrapped it in but so we'll see how good it actually is. We'll probably take a couple couple iterations before it's like really perfected but I do feel pretty confident that they finally kind of got to a point where like, pretty much like the main requirements that we see for the average b2b are now all in their kind of Enterprise Edition now that they've added this order approval if you assume that that's working perfectly. You know, they've got, you know, company accounts and that whole functionality they've, they've, they've basically like transitioned from more of a b2c company to really I would consider it like we look at them as more of a b2b e commerce platform. Then a b2c platform at this point in there and I don't think that's wrong. I, and again, I'm going to, you know, you know, sort of, you know, unaccept the the premise of this podcast that it's about b2b commerce because I don't necessarily think you know, b2c and b2b B are the right way to look at it, I tend to more you know, look at things as simple and complex So, you know, simple commerce again, any you can, you know, put in a box great. Complex is all the business models so that's you know, traditional b2b when you think of, you know, industrial manufacturer or selling you know, something big or small to, you know, another industrial company. It can be hybrid models can be b2b to see it can be selling through distribution, so b2b to be It can be multi level, it can be complex subscription. And there's a lot of really interesting use cases. You know, that can be enabled. I totally agree. And the reason we call this the hard truth about b2b e commerce. I think you're right. We could probably call it like, the hard truth about complex commerce or just complex e commerce podcasts. Because, you know, that's kind of really what we're getting into is, there's a lot of podcasts out there around like, Oh, you know, let's do some Facebook marketing for e commerce or just talking about Shopify and some of these like pretty, in my opinion, simple use cases. And when we talk about b2b e commerce, what we're really talking about is is complexity of pricing, er p integration, things that could could apply to B to C, and also things in b2c that could apply to b2b like vice. They both kind of go hand in hand. And I think one of the things that we've talked a lot about on the podcast is that there's it's no more no longer Really b2c or b2b anymore. It's just kind of like a spectrum like from the really simple use cases to the really, really complex ones, which might be like large customers or, or government or something like that where you have like really complex ordering processes and integrations to get those people to order. And we're kind of focused on the second half of that spectrum, like the complex part. And the other reason we call it the hard truth about b2b e commerce is because typically, most manufacturers and distributors who are the majority of these b2b companies that are trying to move into e commerce, they're in the other half of that complexity spectrum like there. And they don't, I don't think they fully realized it. Like you said, they've I think people are realizing that they have to do e commerce. But I don't think they've realized what it takes to get that second half of complexity to be successful. Like we just had a conversation with someone who's like, yeah, our budgets there on Magento one dot x In their, their budget, he was trying to get to two dot x or basically like revamp their platform for less than 50,000. And they had a pretty complex CRP integration, you know, 10s of thousands of products. And I was just like, you know, maybe there's someone out there that can do it, but it's probably not trellis and it's definitely not a guerrilla group. It's, uh, I don't you know what I mean? Like, I think there's just kind of a lack of reality in a lot of these organizations, and that's part of what we're trying to bring to the table is like, it still is complex, but yes, the technology is getting there, but it's still complex, you know, use cases to implement Yeah, it is and I mean, realistically you know, the the organization's Yeah, I think probably if I wanted to add a fourth piece is that, you know, the idea of doing e commerce is you know, fully at this point moved out of it, and into, you know, a core a core goal for most businesses. So if you look at it as an IT project, you know, okay, well, we got to buy software, we got to hire consultants, we've got to do this, we've got to do that. That's not the right way to start looking at the business case. The business case becomes, you know, has to include, you know, do you have the ability to get market share? Or is this going to be necessary to defend market share? What portions of this, you know, make sense to digitize and what don't, and it may not, you know, it may not be that the place where the best ROI is putting this onto a website and maybe assistive technologies and maybe enabling PunchOut it may be sales order automation, it may be, you know, a number of different things, but you've got to look at it holistically. You've got to look at the business case holistically. You've got to look at both upside and downside. And, you know, there's any organization where, you know, one person owns the website, as you know, from a business point of view and somebody else owns the rest of, you know, the the, quote to cash process, there's probably a misalignment. Yeah, I think that's a really good point. And it kind of gets us into some of the topics that I wanted to discuss, um, which is, so we're kind of gonna jump around here a little bit, but you bring up the point of having it's become its own discipline. And I think that's very important. And something that we've talked a lot about, which is, let's say you're trying to scale b2b e commerce. Um, it sounds like you kind of agree with what we've been talking about a lot on this podcast where you really need to like, kind of create your own department around e commerce because they're going to tie into it. They're going to tie into sales, they're going to tie into marketing. They're kind of like the intersection between all the departments in a way and if you If you don't do that, it'll just get siloed into it, or I'll get siloed into some area and never really kind of like unify the company or get its maximum potential. Yeah, I mean, there, there has to be, you know, again, e commerce itself isn't magic. You know, if you build it, that doesn't mean they'll come. You know, that works in Kevin Costner movies, but, you know, not in our business. You know, the places where, you know, we see it being most successful is when it's viewed as an enabling technology for things that the organization is already doing, which, you know, means that it needs to be business driven. It needs to be multidisciplinary. You know, it can't. It can't just be an IT lead initiative. Yeah, I think most people, I think most people are there. Gotcha. Um, and then, in terms of So, you know, at grilla, you guys became pretty focused on b2b. And I think you mentioned that probably more than 50% of your projects ended up as b2b like, as the organization grew. So as a digital, you know, for, for both merchants working with digital agencies, so they know what to avoid with a digital agency and for digital agencies, what do you think, um, you know, leads to success or failure, and b2b e commerce? Like what do you see kind of like happening in digital agencies that is maybe wrong or could be corrected? Um, so, you know, I'll sort of answer this from the perspective of an agency but I think it's also an equally good point from the point of view of a customer. So the key to, you know, having a successful outcome, if you're going to invest in b2b e commerce is being working with a partner who understand who can understand your business because again, the goal is have, you know of these projects is not to stand up Magento or hybris or NetSuite commerce or insight, or whatever, right? That's, you know, that's a big part of it. And you need somebody who understands the technology and you need somebody who, you know, has the right. You know, the right engineers and you know, the right, smart people to do that. But that's not the goal. The goal is to, you know, the goal is the goal. The goal is to increase market share, defend against, share erosion from competitors, who are easier to do business with, yep, use cost. You know, better serve your customers, reduce cycle time, etc, etc. That's the goal, right? So if you are working with a partner who sees the goal of standing up the technology, you're a lot less likely to be successful. If you're working with a partner, he understands what your business is trying to do and can meet you there. So to be successful, the key is having people who understand, you know how this works as part of the business. And it's not just, you know, the other thing, I think, you know, the other way to phrase that is, I think a lot of agencies make the mistake of viewing their involvement within the bubble of the system, right? We're going to we're going to draw diagrams as this is where the data comes into the e commerce system. And this is where it, it weaves the accomplished system. And, you know, we're responsible for what happens in that bubble. And that is absolutely true from technology point of view. But that's like saying, you know, that's like being a personal trainer and saying, I'm only responsible for, you know, the left long. You have to understand how that fits in the contacts. You have to understand how that data is going to get created. And you know, it There's going to be issues with that, you know, work with your customer that to make sure that those are being solved, whether you're solving them or somebody else's, if there's going to be issues with what happens after the order is taken, the whole, the whole process needs to work start to end and company, you know, agencies that understand that and start with that assumption are going to deliver much better outcomes to their customers. Yeah, that's a really good. That's a really good point. I, you know, just to summarize for people, you know, on the merchant side or the or the agency Sachs kind of look at it together, is, you know, you need to come together, you know, as the true partnership on the agency in the customer side and say, Okay, we're gonna look at this holistically. Like, here's how we're gonna, here's our product data goes into the PRP. You know, that's how it goes into, you know, the e commerce system. You know, here's how we're going to augment that to maybe add some data to make it look pretty on the on the front end, like basically the whole flow and here's how sales reps are going To use the website so that they still get their commission. So there's kind of a unified approach to this entire project so that it's going to be successful. And the end result isn't just a website that technically does what they said, requirements wise, it actually like helps the organization move forward. And so that's really what you would say is kind of the key drivers of success, working together as an agency and merchant, and then you see a lot of that just failing, falling down, I'm guessing. Yeah, I do. And I mean, you know, you've done a lot of b2b projects, I've done a lot of b2b projects, what are the common things, you know, that, you know, cause them to, if not fail, you know, get into trouble take longer cause more not produce the results? Well, the biggest one, we're probably the most common is we don't have the right catalog information to make the system work the way we want. So we went out and we we brought in the UX People and they build beautiful pages and run the technology people and they they built a high performing, you know, website that, you know, is always on and you know, as, you know, great page response speeds and whatnot. Right. And, you know, we implemented, you know, we put together a checkout that's easy for people to use. And we've done all those things, right, great. But we don't have the product data. We don't have the right enhancement content. The stuff is an attribute as well. So the search doesn't work. And what our customers need to do is they get on they can't find the products they're looking for, or they can't get the information they need to. Yeah, versus decisions. They can't decide if they need this or that. And all of a sudden, they're back on the phone with us. Yeah, so essentially, it's a useless application in that sense. And I totally agree with that. And that's why I think a lot of my recommendations to companies that are still you know, in the earlier stages, like maybe the They're only doing 5% or 10% online or even less, or even, you know, below 20% Online is to focus on just, you know, product data and good kind of operational, you know, workflow that mimics kind of what your customer would expect. So that would mean like accurate pricing. So when I say accurate pricing, I don't mean like just the list price, I mean, their negotiated price on the website. So, you know, I think those are, to me, those are the two main things that we see is they don't have all the products and all the inventory and the correct kind of like product data to buy, and then they don't have the correct pricing. So if you can call and get better pricing, why would you ever order online? And so if those two things aren't working, then you're just not going to have adoption? You know? Exactly. So, you know, if you're, you know, if you're a if you're the person who you know, if you're the manufacturer or distributor or whatever, looking to do this, you know, the The first step is, thank you through what are the, you know, what are the processes? So, the other way to look at that is where somebody's manually interacting, you know, if we're doing quotes, does somebody have to go pull out a calculator or a piece of paper or fill out a form? Okay? You know, where is the knowledge, you know, some of that knowledge is in people's heads to be successful ramp, all that out. All these things are doable. Again, none of you know, there's, you know, there's companies that are doing billions through their website, you know, hundreds of thousands and millions of dollars or, you know, millions of transactions. And, you know, it's all doable, but you have to approach it holistically, you have to approach it from, you know, a business and process view, not a technology view. And you have to, you know, pick your partner intelligently. So, the the ability for them to implement the technology is important. Obviously, if you hire a partner who can make the technology work, you're not going anywhere. But that's table stakes. So you If, if I were hiring an agency, the first thing I would do is, you know, I check off that they really do know the technology that's important, right? Then I check off to make sure that they're going to be a good partner and help understand my business and bring original thinking. On the other hand, you don't want as an agency that just says, Okay, how do you do it today? Great. We'll go try to replicate that online. That's probably not ready. Yeah. And it's, it's, it's funny you say that, because I think that's a big problem in the industry, at least from my perspective, and our perspective might be a little biased there. But I feel like there's a resistance from most b2b companies to listen to their agencies about things outside of the core technology and e commerce because they've been doing things for a certain way and it's hard for them to go oh, this like, e commerce agency is telling me I gotta like change all my processes, like, what do they know? They just know like Magento or they know Shopify, like how to They know about b2b e commerce. So I think that there's needs to be a little bit of a culture shift there, where companies are starting to go, oh, like this agency isn't just my, you know, tech agency, they're also my b2b e commerce agency, which might help influence our processes and help us automate become more efficient. And I don't think that's happening as much as it should be. Right? That I mean, frankly, I think you're right, you know, it's, you know, if you go to the doctor, you know, you listen to the doctor, you don't sit there and go, you know, Doctor, I don't only want you to, you know, solve things on the left side of my body. But, on the flip side, you know, you know, as agency types be a we need to, you know, we need to get better at, you know, working with our customers to understand that that's where the value comes from. And, you know, a lot of times, you know, we can fall into The trap of positioning ourselves as the ecommerce people or the technology people are the Magento people or the Shopify people or the hybris people. And that's, you know, that's putting us in a box in the customers mind. And then if we're not bringing the right, you know, insights and knowledge to the table, we're gonna, you know, seal ourselves into that box and tape it up. And you know, there's a better way. Yeah, I totally agree with you. And you kind of mentioned in the beginning of the episode, like, I think all ecommerce agencies have a little bit of an identity crisis where like, you know, do you say your Magento agency? Do you say your Shopify agency, do you say you're an e commerce agency, like, it's very hard not to put yourself in some sort of boxes because you want to start to get, you know, traffic and, and and momentum in a certain area, but once you do that, you might alienate other, you know, value adds that you actually are providing. So it's definitely something that I think we have to think more about. And figure out but one of the other things that I think is part of the problem here is we've been we've actually built a pretty close knit partnership with an AARP integrator. They're actually in Massachusetts. So that's kind of how we got together because we're both local and we had done a joint project and then now we've been partnering more and more together and it's been very eye opening it's we've learned a lot about b2b e commerce from them. And the reason for that is because I think historically and still today, the company's the most b2b companies when they're going back to trusting processes and and how processes should should work is it seems like they're mostly trusting their eirp vendors, like most of their processes run through their eirp let's call it SAP NetSuite or infor whatever, they generally hire a vendor, you know, some gold partner from one of these companies. And that partner is generally the one guy that The processes like here's, you know, here's the best practice for running SAP and how you should run b2b processes. And there's a big disconnect between those companies and e commerce from what I'm seeing in the market. And I think there needs to be some sort of merit better marrying of the two, and they're starting to see a little bit of that happen, but I don't I think it's still kind of early stages. And, again, sort of, you know, putting on the, the agency hat, you know, I think there's actually a fair amount that we can learn from, you know, the GRP service providers. You know, you know, I started my career in that world and, you know, I've done some along the way as well and you know, generally the, the process there is going to be, you know, business and process driven and that's the way they you know, that's the way they plan that's the way they build projects. That's the way they interact with their customers. And that's it I think that's right now, you know, vice versa, you know, we we tend to come at things from, you know, more of the, you know, call it agile, or, you know, agency process where, you know, it's not necessarily as much of a big bang approach. So there's things that, you know, there's a happy medium. But I think that, you know, having, I used to love to hire people with the RPA implementation background to do e commerce projects. Because, you know, we can, we can always teach you the technology. You know, what we can't necessarily, you know, teach as quickly is the ability to solve problems from a holistic point of view. And, you know, if you've, you know, if you've ever implemented, you know, especially, you know, ground up and GRP for, you know, for a company, you're gonna understand their business, you have to, yeah, you have to understand how they process orders, like your You're understanding the very basic level of how they make money and how they, how they succeed. So no, I know you got a hard stop coming up. So. So a couple of things I want to touch on before before we wrap up. So what do you what do you think merchants should be learning from from b2c? And this, you know, call it 1020 years of e commerce that now now we're actually at like 30 I mean, it jumped from like 15 to like 30% because of Coronavirus. And I think b2b e commerce is still lagging a little bit behind so I think it's definitely not the 30% that b2c is at. So what are you seeing kind of like as a next phase of growth in b2b e commerce and what can they learn? Yeah, no, I think that's, yeah, that's a great question. Um, I think the basic lessons have been learned, you know, the idea that, you know, you're gonna have an experience that's meaningfully different in terms of quality from you know, beaten experience I, you know, I think we're past that point, you know, people have internalized that customer's expectations are, are set by, you know, the experiences that they have in their, in their day to day life and, you know, the idea that they're going to be accepting of a poor experience or poor performance because this is work. You know, I don't find that I've had to have that conversation as much recently. So that's good. The, you know, the next piece of it, I think is, you know, understanding that, again, if you're looking at it holistically, there may be different portions and one of the mistakes I think, we sort of seen this when the pendulum you know, swing a little too far towards is okay, well We weren't sure if this was important. We weren't sure if we needed to do this, we, you know, oh my god, now we really need to do it right. And, you know, the the current, you know, everything going on in the world today I think is probably just, you know, more gas on that fire. So, you know, the you know, the pendulum swing from this is really hard. We don't really know how to break this problem with part two. Okay, well, now we know we need to do it. So let's solve the whole problem. Right? And we're you, you know, land up getting in trouble there is this is complex stuff. You're selling medical devices, you're selling regulated products are selling configurable products are selling, you know, both OEM goods as well as, you know, replacement and service parts. You know, you're selling through distribution, these are all, you know, these are all hairy problems. And I think the You know, the idea that it has to be solved holistically and all at once is probably where we need to swing the pendulum a little bit back to the middle. That's partially, you know, that's partially education, that's partially customer expectations setting and then partially is customer culture. You know, if you have places that are used to change and innovation and open to incremental change, it tends to be a lot easier than places where, you know, the, the incentive is for everybody to make sure they get everything they need in the first phase because they don't ever believe there's gonna be a phase two. So you know, another piece way to say that is I would always counsel people to look at this as an ongoing process, not a one off project. You're looking at it as a one off project, you're going to tell everyone that you're going to tell your you know, your sales people and your revenue people and your invoicing people When your customer service people that they better load up the Christmas tree right now and get everything they ever want. And that's not the best way to do this. Yeah. And so do you think that b2b, I guess just empirically, from the evidence that we've seen, it seems like b2b is more likely to try and do that because they just, that's how they kind of operate and they maybe especially from the DRP world, we do an E RP upgrade once every 510 years. So if we're going to do it, we're going to do this like big giant project. Whereas with e commerce, it's not not really as successful that way especially things are moving so fast, you need to be agile and adapt and improve. So it seems like b2c has started to learn that and has become more agile, generally. Obviously, there's always exceptions, but most b2c companies we see are like, okay, let's start with this. And then let's add this and then they kind of like build this roadmap that they're working to and b2b hasn't quite figured out this kind of like agile roadmap as as well as I think they they need to Sorry. Yeah, I wouldn't over general, I think a lot of companies are doing a really great job with that, I think you, you still run across places where that's not the case. And, you know, that's, you know, part of, you know, our job on the on the service rider world is to, you know, is to be smart about educating our customers, and, again, meeting them where they are making sure that we understand their incentives, but, you know, being clear, where, you know, this is how you're going to be more successful. And even if that means we're not the right partner for you today, or this isn't the right time, where this isn't, you know, we're going to do something small before we do something big. That's okay. I think, you know, there, you know, in, in our industry in the agency world, there are a lot of people who, you know, will say yes, you know, customer asked for something green, they're gonna get some ingredient they asked for a purple, they're gonna get purple. And that's not you know, that's doing a disservice to your customer. And I would argue you're doing a disservice to your agency in the long term. Gotcha. Yeah. So there, there needs to be some some some changes there and some expectation setting. So we got a little bit of time here. So a couple a couple more questions that I have are what do you what do you see is like, some of the core differentiators that you see kind of being important to b2b that maybe aren't so common and b2c? And we're, you know, to add to that, like, where would you see get out the focus be for b2b if you were kind of in the early stages. So we talked about product data, we talked about pricing a little bit, but yeah, I think there's more to it in the b2b world. The, those are two of the very important parts. Obviously, being, you know, being able to digitize the business process or whatever, you know, whatever steps Purchasing whatever stuffs around, you know, rules and, you know, availability and, you know, available the promise and inventory and you know, shipment dates, all that kind of, you know, business process stuff has to be there, that's table stakes. The third piece you know, the third major piece, though, is more around content and discovery. So, you know, especially on the, you know, more complex in the, in the process of making the sale isn't just placing the order. It's, you know, ensuring that, you know, your customers can make the right decision. And, you know, that involves content, it can involve the ability to do configuration and comparison. It can involve, you know, the, you know, the data that people need to to make some use It can involve, you know, a hybrid process that includes both, you know, digital and, and human experiences. And, you know, looking at what are the steps in your customer's journey to make a purchase decision? You know, a lot of times what you're gonna find is the customer needs to know that it's the right product or the right solution. And if you're not, you know, if you're not building that into the experience, then all you've really created as a, you know, pretty order. Yeah, that's a very good point. So yeah, you could look at as right now, there's still a lot of companies that need a better pretty order form per se, like they need to automate more of their orders, which is a really basic way that's really what b2b e commerce you know is to some degree is just making it so that your customers can kind of do the orders themselves instead of having to call in or send a p o they can go online and get their pricing get everything you know, and buy And even hopefully get their shipment dates and correct inventory. But then that next level, is this whole content discovery, are they ordering the right things? Are they even know what you have, they might not even know that you have, you know, 20 more products that might help their business. Yeah, I mean, the first piece of that is important, and it's making it easier to work with and it's, you know, you know, frankly, probably reducing cost and increasing customer satisfaction. But that's not going to you know, that's not gonna help you expand your market or gain market share that's gonna help you defend. So yeah, I totally agree. And I think that's also a culture shift that needs to happen and we had a a lead that came in from from our partner and you know, decent business, decent sized business, but their budget just wasn't there for what they were asking. And the way that they were looking at the project was very it I think it was the it I can't remember what his title was, but it was very, this is gonna replace one customer service person. So that's how much we're gonna budget for it like that was how they looked at the project, and I My mind I'm like, I mean, this could be like that he didn't even didn't even think about marketing or sales or, you know, just even like the basic Google Search aspect of things. I mean, SEO is obviously a big component that could could help a lot of these companies. So I try to kind of convince them otherwise but I think that's where it's challenging because you need to talk to other people in account like he's probably not the marketing guy. So someone else needs to be in that conversation. You should tell the tell the IT guys if what they're looking to do is free up your customer service or inside sales. people's time check out connects him Yeah, I think that's a great point, you know, we need to start sending them your way and then yeah, once you guys have solved that problem, and you know, they need some more sales and marketing, you can say, hey, go back to go back to the agencies to actually grow your business. Well, it really is, um, it really is part of the same coin again, what you're, you're not, you know, your e commerce customer isn't necessarily different from you know, your other customers and, and, you know, you want to be working And how you're how you're making yourself a modern business. And, you know, that's why companies like an axiom companies like punch out to go and companies like, you know, trellis, you know, are all parts of the solution and can all work together? Absolutely. Like I said, That's why I think we're all trying to kind of raise raise the tide here, so I don't look at it as, honestly competition, even some of our direct competitors sometimes. Um, so the last question I have, what do you see kind of in the you know, you've been doing this for for over 20 years now, in the e commerce space. What do you see kind of in the next five to 10 years in b2b e commerce? I know it's, it's pretty hard to predict these kind of things, but what are some of the things if you had to take a take a stab at it? Um, you know, I think I sort of alluded to this one one, I think, you know, in the companies where this doesn't already do and a lot of people are already here. I think this is going to be come viewed as a core business model. Rather than an IT driven or, you know, even or an e commerce department, I think that, you know, part is probably, you know, this is going to become, again, just like anything else, it's core to the business. So the revenue leaders, the, you know, the product owners, the business owners are going to, you know, going to get a lot more interested in this. I think we'll continue to see the technology mature, to the point where it's a lot more possible to bring, you know, off the shelf technology to enable complex use cases. Hmm, yeah. More configuration, then, you know, less of customization more like, hey, look, we're gonna actually just configure the software. Yeah. I think headless approaches, well, you know, from a technology point of view will become increasingly prevalent in the b2b world as well. You know, it's funny, you know, sort of the headless pattern actually, you know, is the first Through the new technology pattern and e commerce, in my 20 years of doing it that really actually starts to, you know, usually technologies, you know, come in and they first get applied to the b2c world. And then we try to figure out how to apply them to the b2b world, I think, you know, headless as a pattern goes the other direction. Because you can bring in so many different systems more seamlessly, and b2b typically said, I totally agree there's more value, probably from a b2b perspective. So, yeah, no, those are all really, really good points. And I think, you know, you're gonna be Yeah. Sorry, continue. Yeah, the last thing is, I think you're gonna see, you know, the, you know, the agencies, the good ones, like trellis you know, really, you know, make this a core specialty rather than, you know, a, a, something we do sometimes, and I think that is important. I totally agree. You know, we've kind of been splitting up some of our strategies and even personnel and you know, obviously like you said there's a spectrum so it's tough to put people in a b2b versus b2b b2c bucket but there are, you know, skill sets there that you do need to specialize in so totally, totally agree with that. Well, thank you so much we're at the end of the hour. So for all of you that don't know Justin How can they get in touch with you at connect cioms so you know, they want to get rid of that customer service person sorry or not get rid of them maybe replace them, put them in a new department didn't give them give them you know spend their time on more high value things exam you can you know, you can you find me on LinkedIn, you can get me at Jay Finnegan at Connect cm calm, come my house, you know. So great, great, check out Connect cm it's a it's a great tool in the b2b space. Thank you for joining and for all of you. You know who are staying tuned to the podcast? Come back for Episode 15 with Laura MacDonald. She's been in b2b e commerce for a while and we're gonna have some great stuff to talk about with her. So thank you so much, Justin. All right, thanks. Take care. Thank you.