The 4th Industrial Revolution (4IR) is a shift away from a world powered by machines with human operators into one of limitless possibilities fueled by technology and data. It’s about to transform B2B eCommerce as we know it. So, get ready.
While the case for 4IR technologies has been clear for some time, adoption is ramping up as companies better understand their own processes and how these innovative resources can drive their business forward.
No matter where this revolution leads us, one thing is clear: the customer is at the center of everything. Businesses capable of providing immersive, frictionless buying experiences and putting customers in the driving seat will come out on top.
Join along with us as we go through the basics of the Fourth Industrial Revolution, followed by what it means for the future of B2B eCommerce as we know it.
- Explaining the Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR)
- About 4IR Technologies
- What 4IR Means for the Future of B2B eCommerce
- How You Can Harness the Powers of 4IR Technologies Before It’s Too Late
How to Deliver a B2B eCommerce Experience
Executives shouldn’t think of eCommerce as "just another sales channel". Learn how this massive shift in B2B buying is shaping how companies win or lose.
What is the Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR)?: The Basics
Before we answer the question: “what is the 4IR?” we need to cover the characteristics of the first three revolutions.
- 1st Industrial Revolution focused on moving from agrarian societies to urban, industrial ones. It used water, coal, and steam power to mechanize production.
- 2nd Industrial Revolution was all about mass production using oil, electricity, and railroads.
- 3rd Industrial Revolution saw the dawn of the digital age with the rise of electronics and information technology (IT).
Technology won’t just support processes and operations during the 4th Industrial Revolution. 4IR technologies will be at the core of everything a business does. It will merge the digital, physical, and biological worlds to create interconnected “self-driving” systems.
As world-renowned economist, Klaus Schwab says, “We stand on the brink of a technological revolution that will fundamentally alter the way we live, work, and relate to one another. In its scale, scope, and complexity, the transformation will be unlike anything humankind has experienced before.”
What Exactly are 4IR Technologies?
Some new technologies arising during the Fourth Industrial Revolution include:
- Artificial intelligence (AI). Artificial intelligence uses computers and machines to leverage human decision-making abilities. With the help of algorithms and exposure to more data, AI’s capabilities become more advanced over time (machine learning.)
- Augmented reality (AR). Augmented reality uses a camera on a mobile device to superimpose a digital representation of a product onto the physical world. In this way, buyers can interact with the said product before purchasing it.
- Virtual reality (VR). Virtual reality is different from AR as users need a headset to view a 3D simulated environment. They can still interact with objects, but it occurs in a fictional, albeit highly compelling, reality
- Internet of Things (IoT). The Internet of Things is a network of connected objects and sensors that exchange data to function without human involvement.
- Big data analytics. The more the world moves online, the more data is created and stored. Advanced analytical techniques make sense of all the data, extract valuable insights, and uncover trends and patterns to enhance decision-making and reduce risk.
- Advanced robotics. Advanced robotics refers to the design, manufacture, and use of robots for personal and commercial use.
- Blockchain. Blockchain is a decentralized and secure way of sharing data without the need for third-party intermediaries. It’s usually associated with digital currencies, such as Bitcoin, but its applicability spans payment processing, supply chain monitoring, loyalty programs, and digital IDs, all of which power eCommerce.
Keep in mind that each of these technologies enables one another. For example, pattern recognition in AI is enabled by the IoT gathering lots of data which is stored and evaluated using cloud computing.
What the 4IR Technologies Mean for the Future of B2B eCommerce
It’s important to note that the development of 4IR technologies will vary significantly between industries. Each industry will focus on the technologies that are most conducive to its growth.
Still, the technologies driving the 4IR–and the experiences they enable–will mold the future of B2B eCommerce.
Customers Will Go Where There’s a More Personalized Experience
Fail to provide a personalized buying experience, and there’s over a 65% chance that you will lose a B2B buyer to another brand. This is where 4IR technologies step in.
AI and big data help track customer journeys. By doing so, B2B eCommerce companies can offer better product recommendations, chatbots, and enhanced searches, among other personalized features.
Immersive Buying Experiences Will Be the Norm
The further we progress into the COVID-19 pandemic, the more we realize how crucial providing an immersive, remote buying experience is.
With new technologies like AR and VR, eCommerce companies can simulate in-person visualizations bringing products into buyers’ homes and phones.
Ordering Processes Will Be Automated
Storing and tracking products is one of the most expensive and time-consuming parts of running an eCommerce store. IoT can step in to help with inventory management.
Businesses can set up automatic requests so that IoT sends for orders when stock is down. This automation not only prevents your business from running out of stock but prevents overstock, improving cash flow.
Companies Can Crack Down on Fraud Quicker
Using big data to identify fraud in real-time is another huge benefit of harnessing 4IR technology in B2B eCommerce.
Fraud prevention is enhanced by linking business data with customer-specific data, such as purchase history, social feed, digital IDs, weblogs, and geospatial location information from smartphone apps.
Are You Prepared to Harness the 4IR Revolution?
To remain competitive in your industry, you need to embrace the emerging 4IR technologies.
Get it wrong, and you risk losing more than just sales as you’ll soon fall behind more tech-savvy competitors. Customers will come to believe you don’t have their best interests at heart and your products are as low-tech as your website.
Get it right, and you’ll not only retain loyal customers for many more revolutions to come but lower overheads and increase profits.
Next steps? Find out how you can make mass customization easy as a manufacturer using a 3D configurator.