B2B ecommerce (the struggle is real)
At Corevist, there’s a certain story we hear all the time when it comes to B2B ecommerce. It’s an unfortunate story in the sense that it includes disappointment–yet it’s a hopeful story, too, because it includes lessons learned from the real world.
That story has three stages:
- First foray into ecommerce
- Hello, insurmountable obstacles
- [sigh] Okay… complete do-over
A recent case study at B2B Ecommerce World illustrates this story perfectly. It’s about Ergodyne, a manufacturer of workplace safety equipment that launched ecommerce in 2009 with 3 separate websites not integrated to their ERP system (Microsoft Dynamics). Go read the case study to get the full story—then come back here. We’ll talk about the pattern we’ve seen time and again and how this story fits into it.
Stage 1: Launching a first foray into ecommerce (You don’t know what you don’t know)
The manufacturing industry has been slow to adopt ecommerce, and legacy processes have prevailed, such as order placement by phone/fax/email. That makes ecommerce a totally new initiative for many manufacturers.
For this reason, manufacturers tend to approach the uncharted waters of ecommerce in two ways:
- Launch a low-cost POC (proof of concept) that’s meant to be temporary. Gather data from the experience and use it to make an intelligent choice for a permanent ecommerce solution.
- Launch a solution that’s meant to be permanent right away, whether you have all the data you need to make a permanent decision or not.
We’ve covered the proof of concept elsewhere—click that link for more. In this article, we’re focusing on the second path: launching a solution that’s meant to be permanent.
That’s where so many manufacturers run into unforeseen obstacles.
Stage 2: Unanticipated obstacles pop up (often with no possible resolution)
Since ecommerce is so new, decision-makers at manufacturers may find it overwhelming to research potential solutions. Worse, no one stakeholder has a grasp on the complexity of all business processes combined which ecommerce will touch. (Hint: That’s why we’re so insistent that organizations define the role of Ecommerce Lead.)
Because most organizations don’t have this role defined, the expert at the helm of ecommerce often comes from a specific department (Marketing, IT, etc.) and may not have visibility into how ecommerce will affect all parts of the business.
When you embark on ecommerce without this holistic view, you don’t know what you’re going to encounter. Generally, in our experience, you’ll end up with an ecommerce solution that may serve one part of the business, but doesn’t serve all parts that it affects. Sometimes a new ecommerce solution actually makes life harder in one department (say, IT, if there’s no ERP integration) while making it easier in another department (say, Marketing).
On the topic of that missing ERP integration, that’s exactly what Ergodyne encountered in the case study we mentioned earlier. The company launched 3 separate websites, which forced customers to search for products in multiple places. Worse, none of the websites integrated to the ERP. Theresa Kuske, Ergodyne’s senior digital marketing manager, described the pain of this situation: “We were dealing with the inefficiencies of managing and synchronizing data between all three sites.”
Ergodyne’s next step is familiar to us, too. Faced with an insurmountable obstacle—3 sites that didn’t integrate to their ERP—the company realized it was time for a do-over.
Stage 3: The do-over
Ergodyne replatformed to Magento in 2016. (Go read the B2B Ecommerce World article for the full details.) In essence, Ergodyne solved their ERP integration problem and became easier to do business with.
At Corevist, that’s what we’re all about.
If your organization is in this situation, it’s easy to get discouraged. However, we encourage manufacturers not to see their first foray as a failure even if they’re replacing it. There’s so much to learn from an ecommerce project that didn’t work out. If you know what led to problems this time around, you can find a more holistic solution and craft a new, scalable rollout plan that specifically prevents those issues from happening again.
However organizations come to the ecommerce do-over, we applaud them for having the courage to take the next step. With the right learnings from your first ecommerce initiative, the right view into your organization as a whole, and the right ecommerce partner, you can launch ecommerce that fits your unique organizational needs (and those of your customers).
Moving forward: FREE case study
Wondering how B2B ecommerce replatforming works in real life? Download this case study on LORD Corporation. You’ll learn how this manufacturer got off a cumbersome legacy system and moved to Corevist Commerce. The result? Cloud-based ecommerce, fully integrated to SAP, that works for all stakeholders—both customers and internal users.