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    | Red Bull Arena

    E-commerce strategy: Only join a platform that supports your own business model

    Platforms are forcing suppliers to take a hard look at themselves. Many suppliers have to decide whether to become a platform themselves to avoid losing direct contact with their customers. These and other challenges were discussed by representatives of retailers and manufacturers at the 2nd Unite Seller Conference in Leipzig.

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    Platforms offer rapid customer penetration via a single channel

    There are many possible changes in store for retailers and manufacturers as a result of digitalisation. For anyone intending to be part of a future-ready platform economy, one of the key things to decide is whether to join a platform or create your own. There are several advantages to active participation on an already existing platform: above all, bundled demand and rapid customer penetration via a single channel. Then again, retailers and manufacturers are worried by downsides such as price transparency, increased pressure from competition, and brand dilution. During the panel discussion at the Unite Seller Conference, Joël Kaczmarek, founder and editor-in-chief of the online magazine digital kompakt, Matthias Müller, product marketing director at Intershop, and Dr Bernd Schönwälder, a member of Mercateo’s executive board, discussed possible platform strategies and the investments sellers need to make to gain a foothold in the platform business.

    “Becoming a platform means a massive shift in the business model”

    For niche providers with a USP and market leadership, it may be worth setting up their own platform, says Matthias Müller. But it’s easier to join an existing platform as the challenged faced when entering the platform business are often underestimated. “Becoming a platform means a massive shift in the business model and strategy. Companies have to establish whether they’ve got what it takes and are willing to undergo the necessary restructuring,” explains Matthias, adding that not every company has the budget needed to set up a platform.

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    Avoid conflict with an external platform’s business model

    Dr Schönwälder recommends that suppliers look at where their added value lies and how they carve out their profile on the market. In his view, the real added value of platforms is not so much the supply of goods but providing guidance and service. Wholesalers’ greatest strengths – their service and product knowledge offering customers added value – can be presented on platforms. “Platforms have enormous potential to reverse the price-sales curve and increase the benefits for every stakeholder,” says Bernd. Nevertheless, suppliers should make sure the platform’s business model doesn’t conflict with their own. But if your own business model is supported by the platform’s, his advice is “Go for it!”

    Using Ariba Spot Buy to reach new customers via the back door

    Brütsch/Rüegger has already adopted this tack and joined a platform. This long-standing Swiss company has managed to gain access to global players via Unite. “Thanks to our BusinessShop on Unite, our sales team now has an additional tool that it can present to customers as a solution-provider,” explains Danijel Zugec, who heads e-commerce at Brütsch/Rüegger Tools. “The Spot Buy feature in the SAP Ariba project enables us to reach customers through the back door much faster than with more conventional means.” Moreover, customer-specific relationships and prices are supported in the BusinessShop, encouraging customer loyalty.

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    “We build bridges”

    Apart from SAP Ariba, Unite also works with e-procurement system vendors such as 2bits. This specialist in SAP-based purchasing describes itself as a technological bridge. “We build bridges between SAP and its customers with special requirements. Obviously, SAP can’t and doesn’t want to support every customized solution, so that’s where we come in,” explains Jens Meyer-Beck, head of consulting and project management at 2bits. Unite enables suppliers via interfaces to connect to customers’ e-procurement systems, thus opening up their reach to new potential customers. For their part, customers benefit from an integrated procurement system with the advantages of a comprehensive cross-catalogue product search engine. “At 2bits we deliver flexibility while Unite handles standardization for suppliers. And that’s the teamwork we need,” says Jens.

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    Unite-Seller-Conference-2019 Keyvisual
    Christian Möller

    Sell now with Unite!

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