B2B is Dead. Long Live B2E

Can you keep a secret?

Let me give you a tip! – today, nobody can.

There was once a time when retailers were charged with the responsibility of “curating” information provided by a select set of vendors and then presenting this information in a moderated way to the consumer. Having control of this information channel had its benefits. The retailer was the kingmaker. Profitability and product selection could be heavily influenced in favour of the retailer. Consequently B2B relationships were paramount to a vendors success.

As a retail buyer it was my responsibility to walk the fine line between maximising profit for my employer, providing the consumer with an adequate selection at a competitive price and maintaining relations with my vendors. This task was extremely difficult when vendors like Apple and K-Tel (showing my age here) drove direct consumer demand.

Today when consumers have almost ubiquitous access to consumer ratings and review, comparative pricing services and product information, there is no doubt they hold the balance of power. Retailers now need to focus on areas of the buying cycle where they can add value. This is in stock availability, delivery and after sales service. So the focus has changed from being and advocate for a product brand to positioning their own brand  clearly in the consumers mind.

So if the retailer is going to reduce the focus on the product brand what becomes of B2B? Vendors need to recognize that today it is B2E (Business to Everyone). Information needs to be presented so that is can be re-purposed by all of the new players in the digital world. Above all there must be the recognition that nothing can be maintained secret anymore. (Wikileaks has certainly showed us this)

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