E-commerce solutions as we know them from traditional Business to Consumer transaction landscapes tend to impact the development of how Business to Business companies digitize their sales processes today. But when companies trade with each other, the otherwise good principles from private consumption behavior often do not match the professional setting. The Danish company Go Autonomous has challenged that and consequently introduced a completely new way to digitize companies’ sales using artificial intelligence.
There is no denying that e-commerce is here to stay. Both when it comes to Business to Consumer, i.e. e-commerce for individuals, and when it comes to Business to Business trading between companies. The biggest challenge, however, is that the two types of e-commerce are often perceived as being the same. They certainly aren’t, according to Bjarke Ruse Sejersen from Go Autonomous. Bjarke Ruse Sejersen and his three co-founders, Nikita Smagin, Jacob Ramlov and Jacob Hessellund have developed a software that specializes in automation of trade between companies focusing on how these types of transactions differ from the Business to Consumer market. What might not be obvious from the outside is that the purchasing situations in the two scenarios are very different from one another. Whereas the consumer is typically looking for a product or a service, the buyer in a company usually knows exactly what he or she is looking for.
Based on knowledge and relationships
Roughly speaking, you can say that the good and well-stocked webshop with many options is a prerequisite for the private consumer to get inspiration and find the right product that meets the need, while the buyer in a company often knows what they need from a specific supplier, and therefore only needs to have confirmed that the product exists, whether the price is the agreed, whether the item is in stock and whether it can be delivered to the address tomorrow morning”, says Bjarke Ruse Sejersen. He continues: “despite the fact that e-commerce is here to stay, there are many valid reasons for why professional buyers still handle much of their business via phone and email”. One example is that a buyer often has to enter orders into their own system before it can be processed with a supplier. This means that a webshop solution can be perceived as double work.
Easier, but for whom?
“I have previously worked in a number of large organizations, including Saint-Gobain Distribution Denmark and the Airbus company Satair, where I was responsible for digital development. Here we invested a lot of money in developing e-commerce solutions, with the aim of making it easier for the professional customer to find products, prices, see stock status, etc., but of course we also did it to simplify the sales process and save money for us as a business. We spent several years and large marketing budgets to change customer behavior so that customers would start shopping online. In Saint-Gobain Distribution Denmark, the customers in the plumbing industry had a behavior that was partly reminiscent of the private consumer, which is why it went well, but in a more traditional industry such as aviation, there was a large part of the transactions where e-commerce would not make sense”, explains Bjarke Ruse Sejersen. Consequently, when he started Go Autonomous two years ago, it was with the ambition to make it easier for the classical B2B companies to do business without it actually being necessary for customers to change their behavior. The fact is that the vast majority of B2B business often takes place through the exchange of emails, but at the same time it is a hopelessly inefficient and time-consuming process that makes it difficult for the supplier to scale their business without having to hire more employees to manage the order handling manually.
Artificial intelligence creates value
“We have developed a platform that is based on artificial intelligence. This means that the buyer and seller actually communicate as they have always done, but our solution digitizes and automates the heavy and repetitive parts of the process – we call this Autonomous Commerce. When a company sends an email to another company it often takes hours or days before an answer is received as to whether an item is in stock, and this can mean that the customer chooses to go elsewhere”, elaborates Bjarke Ruse Sejersen. In his view, the time factor is directly proportional to the risk of losing an order. With the technology from Go Autonomous, an algorithm automatically goes in and decodes the customer’s request, looks up the supplier’s own systems and quickly provides feedback on whether the item is in stock, what the delivery time is, or whether special conditions apply. Typically, this can free up 30% of each employee’s time, which can now be spent on activities that create actual value – spending time with customers and solving more complex tasks.
A win-win situation
“The advantage of autonomous commerce where algorithms digitize email communication, is not only the time saving itself and the improved customer experience, but also that data is collected about the customer’s behavior. This could be; how often the customer writes, what types of inquiries they have, insights on response times, which products are quoted, and how many price inquiries are actually converted into an order. In most companies, valuable knowledge as this is hidden in the e-mail inbox”, explains Bjarke Ruse Sejersen. This knowledge is worth its weight in gold. If, for example, there are products that are often in demand and which should be included in the product offering, or if there are an extraordinary number of inquiries about logistics challenges from certain customers, this is knowledge that should be dealt with. With Autonomous commerce, the buyer can use the channel that suits them best and always get quick clarification of questions and thereby achieve a good experience. For the employee at the supplier, there will be significantly fewer repetitive tasks such as answering e-mails and the non-value-adding typing tasks. All in all, it’s a win-win situation for all parties, made possible by artificial intelligence.
Companies have seen the light
Go Autonomous helps SMEs and larger enterprises in Europe. In Denmark, Go Autonomous has signed contracts with a number of large Danish companies, including Grundfos and Hans Buch, who are manufacturers and suppliers of pumps, instrumentation, electromechanics and much more. “Previously, it was the case that the buyer had already entered the order in his own ERP system before it ended up with Hans Buch. Therefore, many customers felt that our webshop gave them double work. We therefore did not experience the desired growth in the share of digital orders. The Go Autonomous AI platform now automates the price and order inquiries that hit our email inbox”, says CEO Henriette Olsen from Hans Buch.
This makes it possible for a B2B company like Hans Buch to digitize the sales, which otherwise take place mainly via e-mail and telephone. The solution from Go Autonomous can be integrated with, among others, Microsoft Outlook, but also with actual sales systems such as SAP, Microsoft Dynamics 365, Salesforce and Adobe.
Article published in Berlingske, May 2022 (translated from Danish)