How Digitization Can Streamline Co-Creation in B2B

AR and other emerging tech can take it to the next level

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For B2B businesses, purchasing large custom products can be a headache.

Consider a business in need of a new office space. The company would need to work with dozens of different vendors and service providers to complete the process. The business has to determine an ideal location, work with real estate agents to schedule viewings, pick a property and negotiate a lease. The company then needs to find an architect, decide on finishes, find a contractor and, finally, purchase office furniture.

In short, the business seeking the office space needs to complete a co-creation process and pull together multiple leaders internally to make a complex set of decisions involving price, legal and functionality considerations. Completing this process seamlessly is no easy feat. It requires a lot of long nights, face-to-face meetings, phone calls and more. In some cases, it can take years to complete.

But what if you could start with the office furniture manufacturer? And what if the manufacturer could help you pull together the value chain, providing a digital platform that enables you to see all the tradeoffs and streamline the coordination of all the vendors and service providers?

Thanks to advancements in ecommerce technology and augmented reality, it’s now possible for manufacturers to build new innovative business models with higher margins, greater opportunities for differentiation and new sources of revenue. If you are a manufacturer, now is the time to craft a strategy for co-creation.

If you are a manufacturer, now is the time to craft a strategy for co-creation.

So, how can tech play a role?

Given the complex nature of co-creation, much of the process happens over the phone or in person and will continue to require this kind of human-to human-interaction. Every purchase hinges on the last, making it difficult to make decisions in isolation. In the office remodel scenario, a buyer could not make lighting purchases without first determining the building’s electrical structure or previously determined design concepts.

But basic B2B ecommerce sites aren’t the answer, either. All actors involved must have the ability to collaborate against a single set of data within a digital context, and while they work in the B2C world, simple add-to-cart platforms won’t cut it. That’s where configure price quote (CPQ) technology and augmented reality can play a role.

With AR and CPQ, sellers can digitize the co-creation process in a way that’s more tailored to problems that arise with B2B buying. These technologies will facilitate co-creation, harmonize data and bring digital into the collaborative but convoluted selling process that is typical in B2B.

Augmented reality 

AR can help businesses visualize their purchases, whether it’s for an office space, an elevator or a fleet of trucks. It gives buyers the power to determine spatial requirements, dimensions and item positioning to more easily collaborate with third parties.

In the office example, AR could make it easier for the buyer to determine how many temperature controls need to be installed and where they should be located in the space. Using AR, the buyer could more quickly determine if an item like a light fixture, for example, is too large or small for the space.

Configure price quote technology

This tech brings together the various inputs in a purchase process and shortens the configuration and pricing process.

CPQ solutions deliver accurate order configurations, offer real-time price optimization, enable guided buying and selling and, most importantly, enhance the end user’s experience. In manual configurations and quoting processes, the workflow is lengthy, convoluted and lacks continuity.

Consider the office example again. With a CPQ solution, the buyer would know exactly how much thermostats cost for the new office space given the building’s dimensions and geographic requirements. Without CPQ, buyers would have to submit a request for a quote then wait to hear from a sales representative, who would then ask the buyer to start the process from the beginning.

If you’re a B2B seller relying on physical catalogs, phone calls or even basic ecommerce sites to facilitate sales, you’re positioning yourself to miss out on long-term revenue opportunities. As business buyers demand more intuitive digital experiences, the sellers that embrace new technologies to streamline complex co-creation processes will win big.

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