Three lessons from the German B2B platform economy

In the global B2B market, companies are building business models that create value for others—customers, suppliers, and partners. This shift in strategic thinking is significant. After investigating the platformization practices of 370 top industrial companies in Germany, Accenture proposed three recommendations that will help the B2B platform maintain growth and competitiveness.

First, think creatively about value networks (non-winners’ eating rules). A ball bearing manufacturer does not have a large ecosystem like the Android platform, but the B2B platform can still create network effects of different sizes. The key is to go beyond the industrial value chain and imagine a new industrial network.

When the cleaning company Calvatis approached a meat processing plant, it found that the factory encountered problems with food manufacturing chaos and high cost of clean production facilities. Calvatis worked with Siemens to design a solution: Siemens connected the processing plant’s industrial cleaning system to its IoT operating system to collect data. With this information, meat processing companies can make better use of resources and reduce costs. At the same time, Calvatis has created new preventive maintenance and resource management services; Siemens is also able to enter the food industry to clean the field and expand its business boundaries.

Second, establish an open platform in an open spirit. One of the key drivers of network effects is the openness to third-party contributors. If the platform is closed, the ecosystem of value creators will never grow. 31% of the German platforms in the study sample are open-sided; some companies not only build open platforms, but also open up as part of the value proposition, and their income figures are significantly better.

Third, put away the fear of data. Consumers often don’t mind giving up personal data in exchange for something free, and B2B platform participants tend to protect data. But if you can’t access data on platform interactions, B2B platform owners won’t see the next opportunity—what kind of “smart” service can enhance the user experience? This is why it is important to develop strategies such as data collection, evaluation, and pricing.

For B2B companies, don’t think that you can learn anything from Uber or Amazon, and don’t think that all the rules of the B2C platform are applicable to B2B networks. The answer varies by industry and company, but all answers should be guided by basic platform issues: How can I help others create value?