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For decades, retailers operated under the paradigm “buy cheap, and stack it high”. Empires like Tesco and Walmart were built on this fairly simple principle. However, as the competitive advantage of superior supply chain and buying power eroded, buying cheap and stacking it high became a difficult proposition for both retailers and brands.

Changes in Commerce

At the same time, thanks to the power of web, shoppers started to become more sophisticated and empowered, seeking out products that met their specific needs. Brands began realizing that a slick 30-second spot and clever packaging was not a sustainable, winning formula. The world of retail was changing. “Buy cheap, stack it high” transformed to “innovate and personalize”.

In the past several years, three significant changes revolutionized bricks and mortar retailer:

  • The move to digital marketing and digital channels. Consumers took control of the shopping experience via the web and their smartphones.
  • Retailers came to understand that fresh, innovative products were the only way to win and maintain loyalty with shoppers.
  • Brands created the practice of shopper marketing to fine tune their in-store approach to product and shopper segmentation.

Lessons Learned in B2B E-Commerce

B2B E-commerce would do well to learn the lessons of bricks and mortar retail. Here are three lessons that can be applied to B2B e-commerce:

1. Buyer First­

Stop thinking about digital commerce as what your organization wants, or how you want to manage your channels. Acquiesce to the reality the BUYER is in charge, and the buyer will ultimately end up at the seller who makes buying easy and friction-less.

2. Quality Over Quantity

Acknowledge that you can’t just “stack it high and sell it cheap”. While the endless aisle can be part of a strategy, buyers ultimately are looking for something very specific that solves a distinct problem. In the digital world, fresh and compelling product content is as effective as new, exciting products themselves.

3. Channel Management

Think about managing your channels with the shopper marketing precision and hand-holding that brands like P&G and Unilever employ at retail. Break down your channels and serve each segment with care.

Empowering the buyer, becoming authentic in the eyes of the buyer via innovation, and improving your channel management strategies are dependent on great product content. Product content is a key driver for channel management in today’s digital world. If you continue to push average product content while trying to build the endless aisle, you are really just a 1980’s retailer trying to stack it high, and sell it cheap.