What happens when a company with the goal of providing a complete end-to-end solution environment for marketing and sales by acquisition, invites the heavy cruisers of the German E-Commerce agency landscape to let them compete openly against each other? So, give them entertainment, give them excitement, and let’s get ready to rumble!
But honestly, Arena4Commerce was just another moment of insignificance, a collection of superficial conversations, and a cry for attention in this difficult times, when typical sales approaches are not applicable, and audiences got tired of marketing webinars.
Setting the Arena4Commerce
The background of Arena4Commerce is obviously based on true events. The briefing provided to the contestants is what real companies provide as RFP to make important decisions for their digital future. Sure, digital has something to do with software, doesn’t it?
In a nutshell, a fictional manufacturer of metrology and opto-electronics technology and solutions with solely focus on traditional sales channels bought an e-commerce technology and is now looking for an implementation partner to bring an online-shop live within a two month. The rest of the briefing is rather generic and obvious, but at least some motivations and ambitions are provided.
But let us take a step back and analyze this initial situation and consider what is wrong after just five minutes in:
- Instead of taking the opportunity to educate and improve how companies should tackle digital challenges, Adobe and IFH KÖLN are reinforcing the core problem of digital transformation with Arena4Commerce: Buy software and then make an implementation partner RFP to solve your problems.
- Why the budget of 200k and the two-month timeline? Do we really think, all the invited contenders can or ever did deliver such a project in this time or money constraints? Some definitely can’t and won’t, because of their own definition of a target customer.
But never judge a book by its cover, maybe one of them will surprise us …
Ave, Caesar, morituri te salutant
I will not go into the details of the individual contestants and presentations of Arena4Commerce. It is a difficult task for all of them to pitch openly and trying to make a good impression, while not disclosing too much of their secret sauce.
As said, I am not convinced that all four contenders comwrap, diconium, diva-e and T-Systems MMS really can deliver such project a product in these constraints, but let us validate whether they can show:
- at least a comprehensible a compelling story,
- how they would lead a customer through this journey,
- how they provide measurable value to customer and project,
- how they structure the time given, and
- what the customer must provide to realize the project.
They do not deliver an emotional or optical firework but a solid pitch story, the construction site of a prefabricated house. “Shop Now” for B2B scenarios with Magento, as a preconfigured kickstart package with defined interfaces and some possibilities for individualization is a realistic scope and a more or less convincing project approach: convincing for the technical delivery and operation part, less convincing for the organizational and enablement part. T-Systems earns an extra point and proper street cred, since they really offer Shop Now since 2020. It’s normally based on Shopware, but at least it’s real.
Starting with the typical “about us” slide diva-e quickly switches to creating a bridge between requirements and solution just to continue with a logo wall to then continue with the solution approach – so a more Hollywood-Blockbuster-like quick cut scene approach.
The approach is a condensed sequence of kick-off, concept phase, implementation, integration, testing, and go-live in an MVP-approach as the intersection of strategy, processes, requirements, UX, design, operation, and team. The following slides with a user story map are interesting, but due to the time restrictions of the pitch very text-heavy, confusing, and in no optimal position. The real interesting insights were not delivered during the presentation but in the subsequent discussion. On the company’s website you just find a landing page of the event, no comparable real-life offering.
diconium is starting with a clear story into the pitch – I like! During the presentation they manage to provide “proof” that the approach is feasible as well as recommended additions to create a desirable result. The project approach and team structure are comprehensible and appropriate for the timeframe and they do not create unrealistic expectations, but instead provide an objective forecast of the actual work that is ahead of the company. And as it should be, they put the “about us” section where it belongs: at the end of the pitch as the “why we”.
On the diconium website one won’t find a reference to an according offer nor a mention of the event. But this is one TRVE KVLT point for me …
An unusual but appropriate start is to set the context for the project as a starting point for the company’s journey. Proof of a valid approach is delivered by comwrap’s B2B E-Commerce Blueprint as a bundle of project methodology, technology artefacts, best-practice documentation, and automation. And if more proof is required – fixed price option. I understand the idea of the following slides, but it is probably too much information, to provide additional proof of the solution approach’s feasibility – at least it looks like comwrap really delivered projects successfully with this methodology – less inspiration and clear definition.
Also no real mention of the event or a corresponding offer, but B2B commerce with Magento seems to be daily business, as the pitch showed.
Based on the pitches I’m not able to decide who is the champion of the arena. comwrap probably pitched most convincing how they can deliver a project with the given constraints but missed the why with them, diconium had the most compelling story and T-Systems MMS a real offer. Adobe could have spent at least a minute or two in advance to check that all custom fonts are installed – the fallback font decreased the appeal of all presentations. But sure, why should Adobe have an eye for design …
But should there really be a champion? This is probably literally meaning of “It’s the taking part that counts!” Let’s be honest, it was a marketing show for Adobe and IFH KÖLN as it was a marketing opportunity for the four agencies, but no one took the chance to do what would have been right to really stand out. The most interesting part of Arena4Commerce was the discussion afterwards when one could put everything in perspective.
Mittelstand not found – did you mean Acrobat Reader?
One question still remains: why such a setting and format for Arena4Commerce? Agreed, B2B E-Commerce for German Mittelstand (medium-sized enterprises) is a hot topic. E-Commerce was a major puzzle piece missing in Adobe’s sales and marketing solution portfolio and Magento a good fit and acquirable. But for years Adobe fails to address this specific and highly lucrative clientele. Quarter after quarter they launch a new offer, that most of the prospects simply resist.
Take a look at Adobes website, the search and the navigation reveals everything you need to know. There is Commerce and there is Commerce for SMEs.
So is Adobe just taking advantage of its partners to create an own story for the German Mittelstand and B2B, will they have a better story or offer after Arena4Commerce? I don’t think so …
Why do the agencies attend this format? Are they that desperate to spend time and effort to pitch non-existing projects with chance of make a bad impression?
And no, none of the contenders made a bad impression at Arena4Commerce, but none of the contenders made a real difference!