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The second annual B2B Next Conference had one main goal: to equip B2B executives with actionable plans to win the ecommerce race. We have to hand it to Andy Hoar, Mark Brohan and the other organizers of the conference…it definitely did just that.

Our time in the Windy City last week was invaluable. We heard from several partners, customers and industry experts in breakout sessions, integrated workshops and panels, networked with manufacturers and distributors looking to build more sophisticated eCommerce experiences and, of course, we had a lot of fun while we were at it.

Here are a few of our favorite moments and takeaways from the conference.

Pre-Conference Workshops

The day one pre-conference workshops were a great way for attendees to kick off the conference. B2B Next structured these workshops to feature detailed presentations around key digital practices and technologies by event sponsors. We had the chance to listen to some of the insights that were shared and found one thing to be certain: we are in a time of extraordinary change. Companies like us exist to serve manufacturers and distributors who know they need to do something, but don’t always know where to start.

Other Workshops We Loved

B2B Next also offered integrated workshops that tackled a current topic B2B companies are facing and gave them the opportunity to engage in small group discussions moderated by an expert advisor.

In When to Build vs. Buy Technology Infrastructure, our friend Justin King lead a discussion on the pros and cons of building a custom eCommerce solution versus buying an eCommerce platform. He kicked off the session by sharing that the best way to begin solving this puzzle is by starting with a customer-focused plan. He also mentioned that build vs. buy is not binary. Meaning there are multiple routes a manufacturer or distributor can take – like buying a platform that someone implements, buying a platform and implementing it yourself, buying a headless platform, building from scratch, and so forth.

Justin King at B2B Next

One of his key points was that build vs. buy isn’t actually a technology problem – it’s a people problem. Ultimately, this heavily debated conversation comes down to the people you have available to you and the skills those people possess. There is no single best-approach to this challenge. Manufacturers and distributors have to evaluate what works best for their business based on their unique situations. Here’s a slide Justin shared about the skills needed when launching an eCommerce initiative.

Skills and Resources Checklist

In Becoming a Customer-Obsessed B2B Organization, we heard from Tom Collinger and Johnathan Copulsky from Northwestern University about how manufacturers and distributors can become more customer-centric and build better experiences. They mentioned that for companies to become both customer-obsessed and digitally agile they must test a lot, learn a lot and scale quickly. Round-table discussions proved to be very eye-opening as many companies we spoke with said they had the best intentions to listen to their customers, but aren’t always putting their best foot forward to serve them as best as they can. We’re pretty certain they went back to their companies after this event with some ideas.

Networking

Monday night we were excited to see some familiar faces at the welcome reception in the Exhibit Hall. We were pumped to run into some of our customers, Max King from Cleaver-Brooks and Cesear Pereira from Bunzl.

Max King and Cesar Pereira at B2B Next for Insite Software

Trevor, Mike and Leigh held down the fort at Insite’s booth and talked to some pretty cool people.

Insite Software Booth at B2B Next

Our Tuesday Favorites

Andy Hoar gave an excellent welcome address Tuesday morning and powerful keynotes by Patty McCord and Scot Wingo followed. In Patty’s session she mentioned that the way to build a strong team is to figure out the problems you can’t solve and hire the right people to solve them. Scot’s keynote was focused on B2B marketplaces and he provided great tips for how B2B companies can compete with Amazon Business. We’ve decided Scot Wingo is a B2B marketplace genius. He knows so much!

Though we might be just a little biased, one of our favorite Tuesday sessions was MORSCO’s case study, Getting the C-Suite on board with a 21st Century Digital Enterprise. Darren Taylor, MORSCO’s Chief Marketing Officer gave an awesome presentation about getting buy-in from top down. Here’s a nugget we loved from Darren:

“B2B customers today progress more than 70% of the way through the decision-making process before ever engaging a sales representative. It’s not a matter of if companies should transform, it’s a matter of when. If you want alignment, you have to have a dialogue with your senior leaders. Their job is to look into the future and find out where the industry is going and invest accordingly.”

Speaking of MORSCO, Tuesday evening our VP of Customer Success, Brian Lunde hosted a 2 minute tech tour for some of the attendees down in the exhibit lounge. Lunde mentioned the success MORSCO has seen since implementing InsiteCommerce.

Brian Lunde Giving Tech Talk at B2B Next

Larry Keeley’s Keynote Session

Our highlights reel wouldn’t be complete without mention of the Wednesday morning keynote, Making B2B Breakthroughs Routine Instead of Rare presented by Larry Keeley, President and Co-Founder of Doblin. Here are some points that Larry raised that stuck out to us:

  • Winning in B2B now demands much more than just running your business
  • Think about what’s changing faster, your business or the marketplace your business is embedded in
  • Modern innovation is more about elegant integration of known things than it is about the invention of new things
  • The greatest innovators focus on something that’s irritating, hard, annoying or stupid, ask why, then figure out how to do it better
  • Fast growing innovations are culturally cool, technologically elegant and have a perceived fair business model

And perhaps our favorite quote from Keeley, “The heart of great innovation is humility and understanding that you’re probably wrong about the thing you are trying to solve. Because more than 90% of the time, you are wrong.”

Overall the folks at B2B Next definitely delivered on their promise to equip B2B companies with actionable eCommerce insights. We were honored to exhibit at the show and loved seeing attendees sport the Insite logo as B2B Next’s lanyard sponsor. Ultimately, hearing from manufacturers and distributors about their pains, challenges and opportunities is priceless to us. We continue attending industry-leading events like B2B Next because we strive to build eCommerce solutions that are engineered specifically for the challenges manufacturers and distributors are facing – and there’s no better way to find out what those challenges are than to hear from them in person.

On the heels of B2B Next, we are looking forward to yet another big event next week. We’re pumped to welcome our customers, partners and industry analysts to Minneapolis for our second annual user conference, Engage 2019!

Cheers to event season!

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