2019 was a historic year for platform business strategies and the online marketplaces that enable them. As I look back on the year that was, and start to look to the year ahead, I wanted to share with you my top 5 reads from 2019.

Of course, we start with retail: it has has been the natural playing ground for marketplaces, which retailers are using to extend their offerings and enhance their omnichannel strategies. Amazon may have popularized the model, but as MIT Sloan says, forward-thinking incumbents are launching online marketplaces of their own, using the model to disrupt themselves and transform their businesses.

(In fact, as I shared on the Mirakl blog back in November, big-name brands like Nike are leaving Amazon altogether, choosing to pursue digital strategies that give them more control over their brand. It’s one more sign of the massive opportunity waiting for retailers to launch curated marketplaces that deliver more of what brands – and customers – want.)

But while retailers popularized the platform model, it has grown far beyond grocery stores and fashion brands. Platforms are poised to change the face of commerce for B2B businesses as well – a fact more evident than ever in 2019.

Last year, McKinsey highlighted two distinct industries where the platform business model is already disrupting business-as-usual. In The coming shakeout in industrial distribution, we see how distribution is changing with the entry of digital-native companies like Amazon and eBay, and learn about the opportunity waiting for the distributors who are ready to seize it. 

And towards the end of 2019, McKinsey’s How B2B online marketplaces could transform indirect procurement showed how procurement is becoming online-first and digital-first – bringing procurement organizations into the digital era, and revealing an equally massive opportunity for the procurement providers who are quick to act. 

The diversity of platform use cases is exciting, but as the model’s popularity has grown, it has naturally pushed lots of organizations to ask: how do we launch this thing ourselves? Late last year, Gartner responded by publishing a report that guides organizations through the process of getting it done. 11 Imperatives When Building an Enterprise Marketplace is a crucial read for any business that’s in the process of planning to launch a marketplace. (And if you need a copy of the report, just send us a quick message.)

I couldn’t make it through my top 5 reads without offering a story of a company that’s showing us how it’s done. Mirakl’s HPE customer spotlight shows the opportunities waiting for every company in the platform business model. With the HPE Store, they built a B2B eCommerce presence from scratch, making it possible to offer a seamless buying experience, capture more demand data, and make more sales – without introducing channel conflict among their network of partners. Their early results are remarkable. I strongly encourage you to give it a read.

And of course, I can’t close this out without an honorable mention. McKinsey’s article on Why digital strategies fail is from 2018, but it’s more relevant than ever, and I find myself going back to it often. 

The core message is simple: To be successful in this new digital era, you can’t stay afloat on your relationship with your loyal customers. You have to create new relevant partnerships, foster new forms of collaboration, and define new ecosystems – and you have to start today.

Every year brings new challenges and opportunities, and I already know there are good things on the roadmap for Mirakl. Do you know how your business will transform in 2020?

Adrien Nussenbaum

Written by Adrien Nussenbaum

Graduated from HEC Paris, Adrien Nussenbaum started his career with Paribas in Hong-Kong. He then went on to co-found All Instant, an instant messaging solution that was later sold in 2003. While with Deloitte, as part of the restructuring team, he advised many retailers who were in the throes of company turnarounds and transformations until 2005.

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