TechBytes with Jeri Kelley, Sr. Product Strategist, Oracle Commerce Cloud

Jeri Kelley

Jeri Kelley
Senior Product Strategist, Oracle Commerce

Recently, Oracle Commerce Cloud, in partnership with Mirakl, released the Next Generation of B2B Purchasing Report 2018. The cutting-edge report studied the behavior of modern B2B buyers as well as the differences in attitudes across three generations – Baby Boomers, Gen-X and Millennials. We sat down with Jeri Kelley of Oracle Commerce Cloud to understand how B2B vendors could better leverage technology and create results-oriented product maps for their customers.

Tell us about your role at Oracle and the team and technology that you handle.

I am part of the product strategy team within the Oracle CX Cloud Applications group. Our team is responsible for building market awareness around Oracle’s B2B Digital business, which includes applications such as Oracle Commerce Cloud and Oracle CPQ Cloud. I joined Oracle in 2012 through their acquisition of Endeca and I’ve worked closely with B2B brands for 10 plus years helping them build and enhance their digital commerce strategy.

Define the state of ‘B2B Purchasing’ in 2018? How could B2B vendors leverage technology to create better product maps for their customers?

Existing research has been done around B2B purchasing trends from the viewpoint of the manufacturer or distributor, but we wanted to flip the lens and interview the end buyer to get a better understanding of purchasing experiences buyers actually want versus what businesses think they want. And, we wanted to understand how purchasing needs were shifting as Baby Boomers are retiring out of the workforce and Millennials are having more of an impact on purchasing decisions.

We recently released this new research and our original hypothesis was that Millennials would far outweigh other age groups in their needs for online purchasing – but it turns out that ALL age groups are demanding a shift for more online purchasing options. When asked about which channels B2B buyers bought from in general, B2B buyers responded:

So, the takeaway is that B2B buyers:

  • Want more purchasing options, flexibility, and transparency;
  • Are still relying on outdated purchasing channels, leading to missed sales opportunities.

And conversely, B2B sellers:

  • Are missing digital opportunities with a clear desire from buyers for online purchasing options;
  • Need to embrace an omnichannel digital strategy that connects buyer interactions and experiences.

Which segment of customers are you targeting with this report? What are the major/key takeaways from the report?

Anyone at a B2B organization whose role focuses on driving revenue such as sales leaders, e-commerce and marketing executives, and customer service professionals should read this report.

B2B businesses have made great strides over the years when it comes to delivering digital experiences, but this report highlights that there is still a major gap between buyer expectations and the experiences being delivered today.

The report’s key findings conclude:

  • 87 percent of business buyers across all age ranges are already purchasing in online marketplaces, more than any other channel. This clearly validates that all age ranges are moving a portion of business purchasing to marketplaces like Amazon and Alibaba.
  • 73 percent of respondents state they like to purchase in digital channels, but only 11 percent chose digital channels as their preferred choice overall, indicating there is a demand for better digital experiences.
  • 14 percent of respondents prefer person-to-person sales as their top purchasing channel, although it’s still the least utilized channel with 70 percent of buyers engaging with a person for purchasing. This indicates that B2B buyers want a mix of channels to purchase from.
  • The less negotiation, the better. In each age group, approximately 70 percent of business buyers value the fewer negotiations and improved sales processes associated with marketplaces and online buying channels.
  • Outdated purchasing channels are still used despite preferences for faster options. Only 8 percent of overall respondents prefer eProcurement systems for B2B purchasing, but 71 percent of respondents continue to purchase through this channel. In addition, 59 percent of respondents overall do not prefer RFPs, but 84 percent continue to use this channel as well.
  • Buyers are becoming more comfortable with complex purchasing online with 60 percent of buyers stating they would buy products requiring configuration or quoting online.

How do millennial population impact the entire B2B ecosystem? What are the major challenges and opportunities for marketers dealing with this segment of buyers?

Millennial buyers know their options. They spend more time researching online than engaging with sales reps. And, in fact, 97 percent of Millennial B2B buyers already purchase through marketplaces. Millennials stem from a generation of instant gratification – they move fast and expect responses quickly. Businesses have an opportunity to embrace this generation and create a competitive advantage through digital channels including e-commerce, mobile, chat and marketplaces. The challenge: can business execute and innovate fast enough before Millennial and next generation demands evolve?

Is the gap between buying needs and deliverables from B2B vendors widening? How does Oracle empower customers to bridge this gap?

It is clear that B2B buyers want online purchasing options and connected experiences. Luckily, B2B businesses can leverage cloud technology to modernize legacy investments and processes that are not equipped for the new rate of change.

With Oracle CX Cloud Suite, businesses can power continuous and consistent omnichannel experiences, no matter where, when or how a customer begins the engagement. Oracle’s CX Cloud Suite offers an integrated set of applications that span the entire customer lifecycle from marketing to sales and commerce to service. Businesses can now deliver omnichannel experiences rapidly without the worry of managing performance, infrastructure and upgrades.

Oracle also partners with marketplace leader, Mirakl, to give companies a fast path to increasing customer value by launching an online marketplace. Marketplaces provide broader product selection, at better prices, with superior service.

How do you see emerging technologies like video, AR/VR, and Artificial Intelligence further impacting the B2B buying journeys?

First, businesses need to master the basics: Is your buyer offered consistent product assortment and pricing across channels; is it easy for buyers to purchase and re-order products; is information your buyer sees, such as offers and promotions, being tailored to their specific account? Once the basics are mastered, then emerging technology can help drive smarter experiences.

For example, AI can take personalization to the next level for B2B organizations.

AI allows businesses to provide a personalized and engaging customer experience regardless whether sales is cold calling or serving a first-time website visitor. AI can be used for online and offline sales transactions to improve conversion rates, increase order value and enhance customer satisfaction by providing more relevant offers and products without the need to write manual rules.

Chatbots and virtual assistants use cases for B2B are on the rise, with the demand for quick interactions to check order and delivery status, invoice status and get answers to common customer service questions.

Finally, I wanted to share another interesting example of a plumbing supply customer of ours that is looking at using voice recognition technology for their service technicians to place orders (especially since their hands are usually covered in water and mud). “Siri – I need to order a 3/8-inch faucet connector – what are my options?”

So as Millennials become more dominant in the workforce, emerging technologies will become standard for B2B buyers and will drive differentiation among brands.

Thanks for chatting with us, Jeri.
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