Seventeen years ago, Southern California experienced a four month strike of unionized grocery workers across all of the main grocery chains. Stores shelves were empty and people dared to cross the picket lines. Combined, the chains suffered losses of $1.5B. This disruption led shoppers to seek alternatives, finding companies like Trader Joe’s and Costco who became regular new supply sources and boosting those chains fortunes. The grocery shopping landscape was forever changed.
In a similar vein, the coronavirus is disrupting direct people connection, travel and how business is getting done. In this case, the available alternatives are the online collaboration, social/community and business platforms that exist. As one example, web-based video conferencing supplier Zoom Video Communications, Inc. has already added more users in the last two months than in all of 2019.
Online Business Marketplaces
Another technology that offers a powerful alternative are online business marketplaces. These platforms are very mature in the B2C space, providing remote food and personal goods shopping and delivery that are further expanding as a result of the current crisis. In the B2B space where adoption and use are catching up, these marketplaces provide an immediate and powerful alternative for companies to continue to promote their brands and presence, stay in front of and connected with their customers and to continue to do business. B2B marketplaces are projected to account for 30% of all online sales volume by 2024 according to iBe, a payments research and consulting firm.
Take your convention booth online
Conventions are being cancelled or postponed and employee travel is being pulled back. In Europe, 260 conferences have been cancelled because of the coronavirus outbreak and in the US, several major gatherings, including Facebook’s F8 developer conference and an oil and gas convention in Houston have been cancelled.
Online B2B marketplaces offer a number of similar key elements of a convention:
- Dedicated presence/spot in the marketplace that you fully control (your booth)
- A specific audience of buyers and your customers that have been attracted to this space on your behalf, in this case by the marketplace vs. the convention company
- An easy opportunity to quickly perform market and competitor intelligence (walking the floor)
- Buyers have easy access to “visit” many providers and directly connect with them
Two of the most important aspects and benefits of online B2B marketplaces are the speed at which you can join and establish your presence (right now and within minutes!) and the costs being little to nothing. On top of that, the convention (and therefore your presence) never ends, no tearing down the booth and traveling home!
B2B marketplaces will not replace, they will augment
The grocery strike passed and Trader Joes and Costco did not end up replacing the major chains, rather they augmented and became a greater and more permanent part of grocery supply and shopping and resulted in a new normal.
So too will B2B marketplaces as a result of the coronavirus today. That time not being spent traveling and having in-person connects, can be used to ramp up the use and adoption of these online alternatives. Providers can use these platforms to immediately build new channels to stay connected with current customers and to acquire new buyers. Buyers will have new opportunities to use and become familiar with these online platforms to locate providers, connect and transact business. The new normal is currently be established.
Those companies that move quickly to adopt these new and readily available alternatives will weather these challenges better and be poised to reap the benefits sooner. This current coronavirus will pass, but know it will not be the last disruption that will limit travel and direct connection. Important to also not think these alternatives will just disappear after this crisis ends. Lastly, don’t think your competitors are not out there already ramping themselves up taking advantage and preparing for this new normal. Don’t be left behind!
CannaMPx is an online cannabis and CBD-focused B2B marketplace and business hub for equipment, technology, services and business supplies. If this is your space, we welcome you to come aboard!