Team eCommerce Next interviewed Tim Beyer from Sana Commerce to get more insights on how B2B e-commerce evolved since the pandemic. Following is our interview with him:
Tell me about Sana Commerce. How do you help companies?
Sana Commerce started in 2008 as a spinoff of ISM. Our mother company had been doing e-commerce implementation very early on, but the focus was typically on retail. One of our customers came to us and said, “I’m not just a retail business, I also have a wholesale practice. Given the size of my inventory, your retail solution doesn’t fit for me. Do you have a solution for my B2B?”
So, some very smart people came together and said, “We need to rethink how we tailor e-commerce specifically to the needs of B2B customers – wholesalers, distributors, and manufacturers.” That’s how Sana was founded.
What makes Sana unique is that we make your SAP or Microsoft Dynamics ERP and e-commerce work as one. This eliminates the system silos, unnecessary complexities, and compromises caused by mainstream e-commerce solutions. Everything you see in Sana Commerce in terms of business logic, pricing, delivery times, stock units – it all comes from the ERP in real-time. The more complex the backend, the more valuable the integration that Sana Commerce provides.
How has B2B e-commerce evolved since the pandemic?
In the B2B field, there are still a lot of family-owned, traditional companies. Many of these companies, at the start of the pandemic, didn’t have an e-commerce solution yet. When governments started mandating shutdowns, these companies weren’t able to sell their products. They quickly concluded that they need to look into an online environment because that is the only store they can open right now.
We saw a huge shift of forced movers. People that were not online before the pandemic suddenly had e-commerce move to the top of their priority list. And moving to e-commerce provides B2B companies with significant cost savings and efficiency increases – it doesn’t just produce revenue online, but also reduces cost in terms of manual intake and manual order processing. So, yes, the pandemic forced the issue, but B2B businesses that made the move have seen significant benefits.
What types of challenges are B2B sellers facing as a result?
Supply chain issues are number one. During the pandemic, there was (and still is) a lot of uncertainty. Sellers faced a lot of questions, “When can I expect my order? What is the timeline?” Providing transparency in the buying journey is critical in mitigating that uncertainty.
In general, buyers are willing to tolerate a longer shipping timeline as long as things are transparent.
And again, where do you track those movements? In your ERP system, therefore, providing a solution that integrates this data in real-time mitigates that uncertainty.
What has been the impact on B2B buying?
The integration of various channels. It’s not just B2B; it has become more B2X. Wholesalers were traditionally only selling to their retailers, now they are opening up to a broader audience. This can cause channel conflicts. Where once the buyer was exclusively the retailer, now the retailer may be circumvented. The B2B seller can sell directly to the end customer. Now, the retailer that buys from you is not happy when you start approaching the end customer. There isn’t an easy solution.
Should B2B sellers be rethinking their e-commerce game plan? If so, how?
The pandemic changed where people work and when people work. Now, people expect to be able to order outside of the typical nine to five. There are still a lot of B2B companies that are stuck on normal office hours that aren’t taking advantage of these expanded buying demands. 24/7 e-commerce provides that opportunity.
Some B2B companies are saying, “We don’t need an e-commerce solution, we need a vendor portal or a sales portal.” In practice, those terms are nearly synonymous. E-commerce still has that big retail sound to it, which may be off-putting to B2B businesses. The urgency is there, but the terminology isn’t resonating. Bridging that perception gap is a priority.
I think it is important to have someone truly accountable for your e-commerce practice: an online store manager. We see this happening in the B2C space, but it’s less common in B2B. Instead of relying on your IT manager or marketing manager to drive this campaign, consider hiring a specialist who can oversee your entire online practice.
What toll could deglobalization have on B2B e-commerce?
I don’t believe that there is going to be a long-term trend of deglobalization. You will see countries think more critically about what they choose to produce locally – strategic reserves, medicine, energy. But that doesn’t mean deglobalization as a whole. Even with regard to supply chain issues and border closures, we are already in a better spot than we were a couple of months ago. Yes, we will need to rethink what we choose to buy internationally – we cannot buy everything from China, but that doesn’t mean we won’t buy anything from China. It’ll be a strategic rebalancing, but it’s not deglobalization.
If we look ahead to 2025, what do you think will be the big B2B e-commerce trend to watch?
I hope that every company will have a digital strategy. Digital strategy can help ensure that smaller B2B businesses can stay competitive with the larger brands that have jumped on this train earlier.
Infrastructure investment is becoming increasingly more in reach for everyone. Take hosting for example: in the past, everyone needed to have an expensive onsite hosting solution. Now, everything has moved to the cloud, and it is cheaper for companies to store their data. Infrastructure and software as a service are moving to a usage-based price – what you use is what you pay for. If you’re a small company, you don’t have to pay as much. It becomes more affordable to have advanced software. I anticipate that more software will be available to smaller companies at affordable prices, and B2B businesses will increasingly take advantage of these offerings.
What can we expect to see from Sana in the next year? What are your plans?
You’ll see the further rollout of our latest Sana Commerce cloud SaaS proposition; it’s been a huge market success. Eighty percent of all new customers are onboarding to our latest SaaS platform. You will also see an increased investment in our local footprint. We are aggressively expanding our team around the globe – certainly here in the Americas, where we hope to welcome 100 colleagues soon here on the ground. This will further enhance our support, service, and consulting capabilities. Lastly, we will continue to invest in our data-driven capabilities to drive the e-commerce success of our customers by giving them in-depth advice based on our expertise and what we see on an aggregate level.
About Tim Beyer
Tim Beyer is global COO of technology scale-up Sana Commerce, an ERP-integrated B2B e-commerce solution provider and certified partner of Microsoft Dynamics and SAP. As a highly coveted guest lecturer and ecommerce keynote speaker, Beyer has presented at prestigious educational institutions and companies in the Netherlands and abroad, sharing insights on topics including international entrepreneurship, cross-cultural management, market entrance and ecommerce growth strategies, scaling up, and the Rockefeller Habits.
About Sana Commerce
Sana Commerce provides a scalable, user-friendly, and reliable e-commerce platform, Sana Commerce Cloud, for growing B2B organizations looking to embrace digital transformation and accelerate business in a constantly changing market. The Sana approach to developing the software has resulted in a one-of-a-kind product: one that integrates natively with Microsoft Dynamics and SAP ERP systems without the need for additional middleware or connector technology.