By Brandon Spear, President, MSTS
“Marketplaces have been a viable tool in the B2B space for years, operating as a sorting platform, or a way for buyers and sellers to find each other in a quick and convenient manner. We often see the B2B world trend a few years behind B2C, meaning it’s not a huge surprise that there’s truly an uptick in B2B marketplace popularity a few years after Amazon has taken a firm grasp on the B2C space and made great strides in B2B. Unlike B2C marketplaces though, B2B buyers are tasked with making large purchases, a process that is complex and oftentimes can’t be slapped on a credit card. With payments technology reaching new heights, B2B marketplaces have been able to gain new customers and new sellers as major pain points have lessened with innovative payments technologies.”
How has the current global health crisis affected how B2B buyers and sellers are turning to vertical marketplaces? How do you foresee this continuing to pan out?
“There’s no doubt that the rise of B2B marketplaces has been trending since before the COVID-19 crisis, but like a lot of tools and technologies, like contactless payments, the pandemic has made their use cases and value crystal clear. In the healthcare vertical for example, we’ve seen healthcare companies flock to marketplaces that provide real-time updates on inventory, a very helpful feature as companies scramble to find available beds, ventilators and other necessities. Hospitals usually operate with a traditional supply chain, but shortages and a lack of resources have opened up the possibility of marketplace purchases. While this is just one example that stems directly from the health crisis, we’ll see this in many other verticals as restrictions lend businesses to online marketplaces. And with the benefits of purchasing online, I imagine that – also like contactless payments in the consumer space – this is a new B2B behavior that could stick and further push the industry into expansion.”
How can sellers ensure their marketplaces are competitive and catering to B2B buyers?
“We launched a B2B Buyers Report last year that found that brand loyalty in the B2B space is essentially dead, with 74% of B2B buyers reporting that they’d purchase from a competitor if their vendor’s e-commerce store could not keep up with their purchasing expectations as a buyer. This is applicable to any online marketplace and with more and more online marketplaces emerging, experience loyalty will be king. A few surefire ways to create a suitable experience is to offer a wide range of payment options. About half of all B2B buyers (48%) have not completed a purchase for their company because their preferred payment method wasn’t an option and a majority of B2B buyers would choose a vendor over others if invoicing were offered at checkout with 30-, 60-, or 90-day terms. Aside from offering differing payment methods, B2B buyers are also looking for custom pricing, purchasing controls, a speedy checkout process, efficient websites, portals, and accessible customer service in case problems arise.”
What are the warning signs your B2B marketplace isn’t up to par?
“In today’s day and age, not offering preferred pricing, PO information or enough payment options isn’t going to cut it for a majority of businesses or quite frankly, create a symbiotic relationship between the seller and buyer. For example, credit cards may be an option for businesses but more often than not, buyers need alternative options like invoices because purchases can be too large to put on a credit card. Additionally, there aren’t a lot of sellers willing to accept credit cards for large B2B transactions due to chargeback rules that are buyer friendly and create an unbalanced dispute management situation. Thus, a marketplace that isn’t supporting the complexities in B2B purchases or providing multiple payment options is doomed to alienate the buyer or create inefficiencies for itself.”
What recent innovations in the B2B payments world allow for smoother marketplace purchases?
“There are plenty of fintechs offering alternative financing to extend working capital when needing to make these larger purchases. At MSTS, we’ve partnered with ecommerce platform Magento, SaaS ecommerce platform BigCommerce, and online marketplace Arcadier to simplify and redefine the B2B payments space. InvoiceMe, a tool within our Credit as a Service suite, allows buyers to pay by invoice at checkout, simplify onboarding, and approve credit decisions in under 30 seconds. Offering InvoiceMe as a payment option leads to an increased share of wallet and average order size, playing into this much larger trend of payment tools accelerating the viability of B2B marketplaces.”
Online jobs soar by 14% in third quarter 2020, Freelancer.com’s Fast 50 reports
Freelancer.com (ASX: FLN), the world’s largest freelancing and crowdsourcing marketplace by number of users and jobs posted, today released the Freelancer.com Fast 50 Report for Q3 2020.
The quarterly index which measures the most sought-after employment skills showed the freelancing industry continues to thrive in the current economic climate. The figures from Freelancer.com revealed a 14% increase in jobs posted year over year, when comparing Q3 2020 versus Q3 2019, with the total number rising to 539,000 from 465,000.
In terms of the most in demand skills, key takeaways from the Q3 2020 Fast 50 Report compared to the Q2 2020 Fast 50 Report:
As COVID-19 forced more people online, entrepreneurs focused on eCommerce startups
With more people at home sparking a major increase in online shopping, entrepreneurs flocked to starting eCommerce businesses. Web and app development projects related to Website Build, Testing, and Management, Digital Marketing, as well as software and coding skills with Flutter, React.js, Vue.js, Node.js, React Native and CSS3 went up in the quarter, up 9% to 28,593 jobs. Design projects related to T-Shirts, Posters and Brochures, to Photoshop, Photo Editing and Creative Design, and even Interior Design, went up in the quarter 6% to 38,877 jobs. To reinforce the upticks in the third quarter, Sales & Marketing related jobs subsequently were on the up, rising 17% to 2,153 jobs.
Home remodeling booms during pandemic
Home organization hacks became even more popular during quarantine and consumers cleaned out shelves of storage containers and the like. Sheltering at home also influenced the increase in demand for Home Design which saw a rise of 17% to 1,579 jobs in the third quarter. Remodeling platform Porch.com also recently reported that more than three-quarters of all U.S. homeowners had done some type of home improvement project during the pandemic.
COVID-19 highlighted the importance of translation services
The biggest increase in demand in the third quarter was for translation services – this is most likely attributed to a much larger online audience since COVID-19, prompting businesses to boost their marketing efforts to reach new markets with information in various languages.
Projects related to Translation & Languages took off in the quarter up 20% to 6,043 jobs. Furthermore, as the majority of workers have moved online full-time, there is more demand for English content for communications including, sales and promotions, marketing and social media, and websites and blogs.
With restrictions starting to ease, demand for local services picks up
Lockdowns last quarter saw the demand for local services collapse – this quarter, as restrictions around the world started to ease, Local Jobs & Services picked up again, increasing 15% to 1,325 jobs.
Matt Barrie, CEO and Chairman of Freelancer.com, said, “Despite global economic activity falling in 2020 and unemployment continuing to climb, the freelance online job market has continued to grow. In this COVID-era, the whole world has been forced to work online – we completely rely on the Internet, hence we are seeing a lot more online projects and becoming accustomed to this new normal.
“As the skilled labor pool around the world has significantly increased over the past six months, many workers who found themselves jobless have turned to freelancing to supplement their income. Freelancer.com has seen an upsurge in users on the platform since early March with around 35,000 new users, globally, per day signing up. Many people are either looking for jobs or looking to transition out of jobs. Budding entrepreneurs who have found themselves out of their full-time gigs are setting up their startup or side hustle.”
While the world is starting to experience a slow recovery, the recession is far from over. The overall trend for jobless claims in the US remains high, reported to still be over 800,000. With stimulus benefits expiring and the unemployment rate at an all time high, Freelancer.com continues to see an increase in users joining the platform to boost their personal income.
In the UK, the categories which saw the biggest increases in jobs posted during third quarter included: Websites, IT & Software (up 22%), Local Jobs & Services (up 20%), Data Entry & Admin (up 14%), and Writing & Content (up 9%).
The Freelancer.com Fast 50 Report tracks the quarterly movement of the top 50 fastest growing and declining jobs on the site’s global online marketplace that spans 247 countries, regions, and territories. The Fast 50 Report is the leading indicator of trends in online jobs related to industries, technologies, products, and companies.
Freelancer.com is the largest freelancing and crowdsourcing platform in the world by number of users and jobs posted, connecting users with skilled jobs tapping into the best talent and ideas. With headquarters in Sydney, Freelancer.com operates six global offices in San Francisco, London, Vancouver, Manila and Buenos Aires. The company employees 500 people globally.
Pivoting growth strategy to rebuild consumer trust and confidence
By Richard Steggall, the CEO of Urban FT
Trust is essential to all relationships, whether personal or professional. And in an uncertain environment like we are experiencing amid the COVID-19 pandemic, trust becomes even more critical. We place our trust in healthcare providers to do their best in caring for us; we trust grocery stores to provide safe access to nourishing food; and we trust our fellow community members to practice care and vigilance. The stakes in trust have never been higher and with financial services ranking among the least trusted industries in consumer’s eyes, according to the 2020 Edelman Trust Barometer, there is much work to be done in luring customers back in.
No one person or organization has all the answers for making the financial services industry more respected and trustworthy in the eyes of consumers. But every business leader is in a unique position to drive positive change in their own organizations and communities. Namely, leaders in financial services must rethink their growth strategy and embed it with measures of transparency, ownership and accountability.
Define your purpose
The fast-evolving pandemic has not only presented us with a health crisis unlike any we have seen in our lifetime, it is also driving significant social and economic pressures around the globe.
With increased consumer attention on corporate social responsibility, many brands are leveraging purpose-driven activities as a key differentiator in the competitive financial services industry. Purpose-driven business fosters a greater connection between a brand and its consumers, so long as the message at hand is sincere and meaningful to audiences. If implemented with due authenticity, it helps brands gain trust with consumers.
Defining your purpose may involve deploying volunteers into the community or making philanthropic donations. But those in financial services are on the front lines of the unfolding economic situation. Why not make modifications to core business activities that can be done to directly touch the consumer? Examples might include deferment of fees or personalized financial advisory to individual customers who have been financially impacted by coronavirus.
Protect consumer data like it is your own
A single data breach or ethical lapse can paralyze a brand instantly. Equifax discovered this the hard way when the personal information of 143 million consumers was leaked in 2017 and the organization was forced to pay a whopping $700 million in penalties, according to the Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC). Within 10 days of the news going public, Equifax’s YouGov ‘Buzz Score’ dropped from a neutral zero to -33. I would not have wanted to be in that board meeting.
Thanks to such notorious widespread security breaches, consumers are fast becoming more protective of their personally identifiable information (PII) and will only share data with brands they trust. Recent regulations like the European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) are also empowering consumers so they can decide for themselves who has access to their PII and who does not. These developments hold companies liable for the PII security of each consumer they engage with. After all, with great power comes great responsibility.
Amazon Prime has excelled in protecting and promoting PII within the e-commerce industry, conveying to consumers how PII can improve how they shop while still offering protection. Once viewed as a platform for free shipping, Prime customers are now investing in membership because of the personalization, customization and unmatched convenience. Amazon’s responsible handling of PII has cultivated consumer trust and increased organic word of mouth marketing. For some financial service organizations, repositioning how PII is used could become a key differentiator in the marketplace.
Make fees clear as day
This will probably come as no surprise but, historically, financial institutions (FIs) have made much of their revenue on the dreaded “gotcha” fees that can become quite overwhelming for unknowing consumers: overdraft fees, external ATM fees, fees for not maintaining a certain minimum balance, etc.
I don’t mean to knock anyone down, but now might be the time for FIs to stop promoting the so-called ‘free’ checking account. By now, most consumers get skeptical when they see the word free, knowing there’s probably back-end fees or inflexible stipulations attached. And if a product or service is worth it to them, consumers will pay for it.
The lack of transparency around extra charges only damages the reputation of financial service, solidifying the industry’s unsavory reputation for making money by taking money. There is a simple solution however. Financial service organizations need to be as upfront as possible about the fees that a customer might incur. No exceptions. In the end, this transparency will pay off over and over again in the form of trust, retention and referrals.
Master all touch points with humanization
For today’s consumers, there’s no shortage of options in financial services. While the power of choice is a win for consumers, there are still a number of potential pain points and disconnects. Apart from the misuse of data, other obstacles to trust could be simple errors that temporarily freeze an account, lack of streamlining, failing customer support or absence of personalization.
In other words, consumers are looking for a “digital concierge” to help them along their financial journeys—one they can trust and knows their preferences, needs and behaviors. As traditional outliers, such as price and location, diminish in importance, companies that humanize their digital user experiences (UX) will be more likely to drive long-term business growth, according to the Digital Bank Report’s “Humanizing the Digital Experience in Banking.”
Strive for digital agility
Thanks to the implementation of new digital technology, there are opportunities for financial service organizations to move beyond pushing products and to instead provide the digital personalized assistance that today’s consumers are looking for. This is the key to building sustainable relationships in today’s marketplace.
But the financial services industry must first bridge the gap between what technology can offer and what consumers are looking for. Only through digital agility will financial services organizations be able to adapt in a rapidly changing business environment and maintain strong relationships with consumers. Part of this agility will depend on adopting FinTech into services and products. For example, banks and credit unions may look to implement a FinTech Core, which works alongside an FIs banking core or transaction processing system to enable endless digital expansion without having to contract with each FinTech service piecemeal. Having this in place can help ensure that FIs adopt tomorrow’s technologies today, protect their digital ecosystems, personalize UXs and win back the trust of consumers.
What is a glocal supply chain?
Thanks to rapid advances in communication and information technology, manufacturers are now able to operate at a truly global level, sourcing materials where it is most convenient and expanding their international client base. However, manufacturers also need to adapt their offer to local trends, predicting which items are going to be more in demand in a particular area and adjusting their stock accordingly. Here Neil Ballinger, Head of Sales for Europe at automation parts supplier EU Automation, explains the advantages of a supply chain that operates globally, but reacts to local demand.
In a world dominated by connectivity and information technologies, political, economic and social relations are naturally encouraged to adopt a global view and become more and more interdependent. This is what characterises globalisation, a term that began to be used in its economic connotation during the 1980s and that since then has become more and more widespread.
In manufacturing, globalisation has brought numerous advantages, such as the possibility to easily access technical knowledge, learning from countries that lead the way in automation and digitalisation. Also, in a globalised world it is easier to communicate with business partners in real time, no matter where they are located. This clearly benefits business transactions and helps establish trust among business partners.
However, one of the most controversial aspects of globalisation is the threat of homogenisation. In a globalised society, the same goods are often produced and distributed across very different markets, with little attention to the preferences and habits of the final consumers. In the long run this can negatively impact sales and prevent businesses from really establishing themselves in a particular location.
For these reasons, a new term has recently emerged to indicates the possibility of operating on a global scale, but with a special attention to regional markets – it’s the era of glocalisation.
Think global, act local
The shift from global to glocal has been pushed by several factors. Firstly, in recent years it has become evident that disregard of local market conditions can negatively impact business, leading to operation and supply chain issues. Secondly, there is increased public attention to the necessity of supporting national and regional economies by sourcing raw materials locally, which can also contribute in streamlining the supply chain and reduce freight fees.
Glocalisation is not really a new thing, since multinational companies have always been compelled to adapt their production to local requests. For example, automotive manufacturers have to diversify their offer based on specific regulations, with the most obvious example being which side the steering wheel is on and whether the speedometer is in miles or kilometres per hour.
What is new is the impact that a glocal business model is having on supply chain management, with manufacturers striving to achieve a supply chain that acts on a global level but adapts to local demand.
Can automation help?
Companies need distribution and inventory management systems that can trace products at a global level, which means providing visibility across all nodes of the value chain, regardless of geographic location. However, these systems also need to be able to adjust to local trends, predicting demand for certain items in specific locations and managing stock accordingly.
To achieve the level of traceability and flexibility that a glocal supply chain requires, it is necessary to analyse data on consumers’ behaviour in real time and to be able to rapidly move items where they’ll be needed. Automation technology can help create what is known as a cognitive supply chain, where all these complex operations are fully digitalised.
One example of this Amazon’s anticipatory shipping technology, which allows the logistics giant to predict demand based on big data collected while customers browse the website, entering contact information and leaving reviews. However, Amazon is not the only company using automation to manage its stock more efficiently.
Big data, big challenges
Fully automated – or cognitive – supply chains can perfectly integrate into a glocal business model and provide a number of advantages. However, they are still not widespread.
One of biggest challenges to overcome is the poor quality of data at manufacturers’ disposal. With consumer trends changing so rapidly, using a historical statistical approach for demand forecasts is no longer enough. Big data can help modernise this approach, but only if data are processed fast enough to react to the swift changes of local markets.
Another common issue is insufficient communication between the different nodes of the supply chain. Nodes located in different geographical areas can use a variety of Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) systems, that range from Excel spreadsheets to dozens of different open-source or proprietary software solutions. This is especially true for companies that have grown through acquisition, which is currently a very common scenario.
Luckily, smart technologies can help manufacturers overcome some of these challenges. For example, it is possible to implement an overarching supply management solution that collects and analyses data from all sources, reducing issue related to the heterogeneity of ERPs in place.
Manufacturers can also use digital technology to help their businesses react to unexpected situations. For example, digital twinning can be used to test issues with supply and distribution, and it is even possible to use sets of dummy data to create a series of possible scenarios and see how the supply chain would react to them. In this way, manufacturers can be more prepared to rapidly changing market conditions.
By overcoming some of the most common challenges in supply management, manufacturers can successfully manage the shift from global to glocal. Cognitive supply chains are an essential step in this direction, as they will allow businesses to meet the needs of their increasingly diverse customer base.
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