In the past, the data center industry has shown a reluctance to change how potential clients interact with service providers. The complexity of the solutions required always meant that additional conversations had to happen in order to make sure deployment went smoothly. However, we’re starting to see some of these old barriers fall as data center providers see the value in transparent online platforms. In this article, we’ll explore the conditions that led to this trend and what the future holds.
The Rise of Omnichannel Marketing
Omnichannel marketing is an approach that provides customers with an integrated and seamless experience with your organization regardless of how they come to you. Ideally, you want to have as many avenues as possible for customers to obtain their desired services while ensuring that every potential client has a consistent and intuitive experience. Your branding, messaging, and touchpoints to clients, both in person and online, should all be in synch with one another.
Whether they’re making purchases online, meeting with sales team members at your headquarters, or simply emailing your support team, the processes and business philosophy that underpins each of these interactions should mirror and complement one another. This allows for a consistent brand experience with all of your potential clients. A sound omnichannel marketing strategy works to meet clients where they’re at in the decision-making process, allowing users to engage with your brand on their own terms and have a better overall experience.
The adoption of online marketplaces utilizing an omnichannel approach has grown significantly in recent years. The last few years have shown us that the data center industry is starting to warm to the idea of online marketplaces. Gone are the days where obtaining pricing from a provider would take multiple days and several conversations. The advantages of utilizing the marketplace model is clearer now than they ever have been and the demand to create your own or join an existing one is only going to increase in the coming years.
The omnichannel approach to branding has been around for as long as businesses have existed but has become something of a buzzword in marketing circles recently. This is due to the proliferation of online platforms in business verticals that haven’t traditionally utilized them. In particular, the IT industry has seen an influx of these kinds of services in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. Shuttering locations forced many companies to get creative with how they could reach their potential clients. There’s an old saying, “Necessity is the mother of all action”. We saw that play in out in 2020 with the rapid adoption of online selling platforms within the wider data center industry.
The COVID Game Changer
Prior to 2020, data center operators had a typical way of doing business. For most providers this meant having a sales team that was accustomed to building client relationships with on-site meetings and closing opportunities in person with data center tours. In the early stages of lockdown, when businesses had to close locations and greatly minimize staff interactions for the sake of public health, many providers found themselves in a conundrum. How can they continue business as usual without face-to-face interactions with clients? This led many organizations to lean into the idea of a digital marketplace for their services.
Businesses are typically faced with two options when it comes to marketplace adoption. The first option is to create their own business-to-business (B2B) or business-to-customer (B2C) marketplace. This would provide the greatest degree of control over how you present your offerings and which audiences you target. However, this option can be both costly and time consuming.
The second option is for a company to place their catalogue of offerings into an existing platform so that they can reach new audiences and create new revenue streams. The benefits of using an existing marketplace are twofold: the costs of creating the platform would have already been incurred by another company and you get to benefit from the existing branding and traffic that already exists for that platform.
The datacenters.com marketplace was created in 2011 with these benefits in mind. To provide a highly trafficked, easy to use platform where data center providers and companies in need of their services can quickly get connected. It’s easy to search and compare hundreds of providers and thousands of facilities globally. A win for both organizations that want to advertise their services and companies that need to purchase them.
B2B Marketplace Overview
A B2B online marketplace is an online platform where enterprise companies purchase and sell goods. These platforms typically comprised of 3 types of stakeholders: buyers, sellers, and suppliers. The buyers are other businesses seeking specific services, colocation or cloud solutions for example. Sellers are internal sales teams that work to qualify buyers and guide them from a quote to order installation. Suppliers are the companies actually providing the services.
There are many examples of business-to-client (B2C) marketplaces that have become so successful they’ve seemingly become a part of our daily lives. Amazon and WayFair are some of the largest examples. As the digital transformation continues, we’ll see an increase of adoption of the B2B marketplace model, similar to the adoption we’ve already seen in the B2C model.
IT companies, medical providers, and even hospital systems are starting to realize the unique opportunity of utilizing online marketplaces to bridge the gap between complex services and where potential clients are in the buying process. According to recent studies, B2B online marketplaces will account for 30% of all worldwide online sales by the year 2024.
A well-run marketplace platform is easy to navigate from a user’s perspective and intelligently aggregates providers for specific services or business verticals. Obtaining quotes should be as transparent as possible so that clients have a good sense of what services would cost them prior to them getting in touch with a provider. This is the big draw of online platforms and given the proliferation of B2C platforms, most people are already accustomed to purchasing goods and services in this manner.
The ordering process should be just as simple as requesting a quote and should flow directly from the client to the business. A well designed B2B selling platform should operate much like a good dating site, where clients are only ever connected to providers that offer exactly what they’re looking for.
The Future of the B2B Marketplace
We’re already well on our way to online marketplaces being the primary means by which people purchase good and services. The COVID-19 pandemic only served to increase the rate in which new business verticals adopted online marketplaces. In the coming years, the digital marketplace will be the default selling option for most companies regardless of the business they’re in.
B2B buyers are already used to utilizing B2C platforms in their daily lives. These preferences are beginning to bleed into the workplace setting and dictating business strategies. Soon, there will be an entire generation of C level employees who will have spent their entire lives primarily making purchases in online marketplaces. It’s only natural that these habits and preferences will be reflected in the decisions they make for their respective organizations.
In addition to personal preferences, automation and the ability to directly connect buyers and sellers creates massive operational efficiencies for companies. Automating the processes that provide lead generation and eliminating unnecessary or time-consuming processes will allow businesses to have their employees spend their time on more important tasks. In addition to ease of use, online platforms save money for companies over the long run and greatly reduces the strain on your people resources.
The digital transformation is here to stay and will only accelerate over time. The only question left is, how well is your company positioned to take advantage of it?