5 Key Questions For Your B2B eCommerce Strategy

Win in B2B eCommerce with the Right Strategy

Last updated January 28, 2021.

Everyone is going digital nowadays.  But just because everyone is doing it should you?

This Ken Favaro penned Harvard Business Review article entitled “Don’t Draft a Digital Strategy Just Because Everyone Else Is” suggests that you shouldn’t be pressured by your Senior Management Team, Analysts, Technology Vendors or even your peers, into creating your digital strategy until you answer these 5 very important questions.

  1. “Does digital technology change the businesses you should be in?
  2. How could digital technology improve the way you add value to the businesses you are in?
  3. Could digital technology change your target customer?
  4. Does digital technology affect the value proposition to your target customer?
  5. How can digital technology enhance the enterprise capabilities that differentiate you from your competition?”

To paraphrase Mr. Favaro, first figure out how your digital investments will contribute to your business, then put together an implementation plan.  Sounds like the right order of operations to me!  This is how Mr. Favaro conveys his message:

“Many companies organize their digital efforts around infrastructure: IT systems, data architecture, analytics programs, recruiting and training, partnering, governance, and so on. This leads to waste and confusion because it’s not grounded in clear and coherent answers to the five questions above.

The trap is set when you start by asking, “What is our digital strategy?” Instead, start with the five questions. While everyone else is talking about the global digital economy, you’ll be focused and acting on how digital technology can bring a new edge to the corporate and business strategies you already have.”

Let’s take a look at these questions one at a time and see how they have manifested in our client base.


1 – Does digital technology change the businesses you should be in?

Bell and Howell is a “pioneer of production mail inserting and sorting systems”.  That basically means that they manufacturer, sell and support big complicated equipment that stuffs envelopes with all of those invoices that banks, utilities and insurance companies send to you every month.  You would think that digital technologies that undermine the need to put stamps on envelopes would be their enemy…unless you embrace them.  Such is the case with Bell and Howell’s eMessaging IQ service which offers a hosted service that “enables your company to deliver bill, statement, and marketing content together with personalized messages via a branded Web site or mobile app platform”.  Bell and Howell now brings their mechanically minded expertise of stuffing envelopes to the digital age and opens up new markets for themselves.  Brilliant!

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2 – How could digital technology improve the way you add value to the businesses you are in?

This question is all about making your employees more effective and efficient at what they do.  I have three major examples of how Corevist’s clients are taking advantage of their SAP Integrated B2B eCommerce projects to answer this question:

  1. Support changes in distribution – Several of our clients are migrating (all are thinking about it) from either a Distributor/Wholesaler to a Dealer Direct distribution model or from a Dealer Direct model to a Direct to Consumer (B2C) sales model.  They are all motivated by similar reasons of wanting to get closer to their customers, controlling their brand experience better and increasing their margins.  Once the strategic decision is made, their SAP Integrated eCommerce websites become their virtual marketing, sales and customer support departments which enables them to make the distribution channel shift profitably.  They get to handle a greater number of smaller sized orders with the same staff…once they figure out how to pack and ship something other than containers or truckloads :-).
  2. Support field sales staff – Checking on your customer’s ordering history and accounting status before you make a sales call without having to call into HQ for a special report is a great time saver for the field sales staff.  Another popular scenario in our client base is enabling a salesperson to place sample orders online and having them shipped to their customers and prospects without having to phone it into their Customer Services Organization.  Lastly, collaborating with customers when it comes time to place those large seasonal orders via the Corevist website’s template orders feature saves a lot of time and aggravation of having to manage all those excel spreadsheets.
  3. Making Customer Service Representatives (CSRs) more productive – There is no reason whatsoever why a CSR should be answering trivial order status questions in 2016!  Did my order ship?  When will I receive it? Did you ship everything I ordered? Did I get the discount you promised?  Can you resend me my invoice?  These are all questions that a click of the mouse provides answers for on our SAP Integrated B2B eCommerce websites.  That leaves CSRs time to deal with the more important, and complicated, questions that they should be dealing with about product usage, program terms and conditions, optimizing freight costs etc.

3 – Could digital technology change your target customer?

Office Relief used to exclusively sell through Ergonomic Professionals who recommend products to their corporate customers.  With the ability to create personalized catalogs and integrate with Corporate Purchasing Systems like SAP Ariba and SRM, Office Relief can now cater to their client’s Purchasing Managers as well.  In addition, by launching a Magento B2C website that is integrated with their SAP system, they have further grown their sales by selling directly to consumers.

Another very common strategic imperative in our client base is to make the smaller customers more affordable to support.  Traditionally our clients would have channeled their smaller customer to their local distributor or dealer.  However, in many circumstances that isn’t possible (or desired) so instead of sending that customer to the competition, enter their Corevist website which doesn’t discriminate based on time of day, geography or order size.

4 – Does digital technology affect the value proposition to your target customer?

Nowadays our clients are going way beyond the obvious value proposition of satisfying their customer’s desire for a 24×7 self-service portal to conduct business with.

Biolab, an industry leader in Pool/Spa chemicals and supplies,  support their dealers with devices and software “…tools necessary to precisely diagnose pool and spa water samples and provide more accurate recommendations for creating optimum water conditions.”  These will soon be integrated with Corevist’s SAP Integrated eCommerce portal, facilitating a seamless water quality diagnosis to shopping list creation to ordering scenario for their dealers.

Similarly, Axalta Coating Systems, the leading global coatings company dedicated solely to the development, manufacture and sale of liquid and powder coating, offers their 100,000+ refinishing customers access to their online ChromaWeb service.  This software-as-a-service enables their customers to better retrieve and manage color formulations used in their bodyshop operations.  Once the output of ChromaWeb is integrated with Corevist’s SAP Integrated B2B eCommerce solution, the time from color definition to order fulfillment will be reduced to the drive time of the local delivery truck :-).  Now that’s digital technology providing real value to a 150 year old paint business!

5 – How can digital technology enhance the enterprise capabilities that differentiate you from your competition?

Many of our B2B eCommerce clients are taking advantage of our ability to display their product catalogs on the web while preventing non-registered customers from ordering from them.  If they play their Search Engine Optimization (SEO) cards correctly, this gives them all of the marketing potential that google searches can bring to their new customer acquisition goals.

Do a google search on the term “rollator” and you’ll soon find your way to DriveMedical’s website at www.drivemedical.com .

If you have a Moline tractor and are looking for a new muffler and you google your part number “10A23891”, you’ll soon be directed to the Blount/Tisco website at www.tiscoparts.com .

Similarly, if you’re in the market for the best foot file in the market, google “Red Panda Foot File” and you’ll be one click away from The Industry Source on www.theindustrysource.com (and smoother feet).

If your unfortunate enough to need to be on a respirator and are looking for an “aerosol mask”, google will quickly help you find PARI Products at www.pariorder.com.

All of our clients have initiated their digital journeys motivated by their answers to questions 2,3 & 4 above.   With their SAP Integrated B2B eCommerce platform firmly in place, they are now ready to take advantage of the real power of their digital platforms to grow their market presence.  They are now busy (or should be busy) tuning their SEO to find new customers, and leveraging email marketing to grow average order size and foster greater loyalty.

Having come to the digital party with answers to their strategic questions and having implemented a flexible SAP Integrated eCommerce platform, their digital world is at their disposal.

So there you have it.  5 very important questions that you have to answer before you embark on creating and implementing your digital strategy.  I’ll conclude by leaving you with the words of one of the Fab Four:

“And if you don’t know where you’re going
Any road will take you there”

George Harrison

If you need help figuring out where to get started, drop me a line.

Sam

FREE B2B eCommerce Platform Comparison Chart | Corevist, Inc.

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Find your best fit based on revenue size, complexity, and depth of ERP integration required. Compare SAP Commerce Cloud, Salesforce B2B Commerce, and more.

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About Author

Sam Bayer

Sam Bayer is the Founder & CEO of Corevist. His mission is to capitalize on the convergence of the growing popularity of Cloud delivered services and the consumerization of B2B ecommerce to build a company that delivers real value to his clients and a great place to work for his team.