Digitalisation stories for B2B merchants
Written by: Pietro Riccio, On: Thursday 25th May 2023
If you are the owner, director or manager of an established B2B company that only sells via traditional channels like phone, agents, or even fax orders, you might be wondering how to get started with B2B eCommerce.
As more and more B2B companies are now selling online, there are many examples of success stories to take inspiration from. Yet, these stories typically relate to huge companies. Are they relevant?
You would be surprised to learn that many of the problems faced by large companies are, in fact, the same small companies might face.
At the recent Adobe Summit in Las Vegas, there was an interesting speech about Sunbelt Rentals starting to sell online to B2B clients.
Who is Sunbelt Rentals
Sunbelt Rentals is the second largest rental company in the world, with a presence in US, UK & Canada. Revenue in fiscal year '22 was $7.9B. Sunbelt Rentals operates from more than 1000 locations.
In short, their problem was that "digital" was not seen as a solution. Digital tools and awareness, access and use of analytics, where not widespread. Sounds familiar?
To address this, they decided to embark on a multi-channel digital transformation.
Why would they want to digitalize - and why would you?
Scope of this transformation was to address the following:
A fragmented customer experience: Sunbelt Rentals' customers were interacting with the company through a variety of channels, including their website, mobile app, and in-store. However, the experience was not consistent across these channels. If you or anyone of your team has been searching information across email boxes, paper notes, and colleague's memory, you know what Sunbelt Rentals is talking about.
A lack of data and insights: Sunbelt Rentals did not have a good understanding of their customers' needs and preferences. This made it difficult to tailor the customer experience to their individual needs. And if you don't want to tailor the CX, wouldn't you like to at least have data organized and clear for colleagues to access and review?
High costs: Sunbelt Rentals was spending a lot of money on marketing and advertising. However, they were not getting a good return on their investment. And this probably matters to you at least to the point of everyone wanting to keep costs the lowest possible/get the best out of their money.
Surely, not every B2B merchant will have issues related to multiple physical locations, or will require to tailor the customer experience. Still every B2B merchant will want to earn more.
Which challenges did Sunbelt Rentals face - and are they different from yours?
Let's look at some of the obstacles that Sunbelt Rentals had to face, and why these are absolutely relatable:
Legacy systems: Sunbelt Rentals had a number of legacy systems that were not integrated with each other. This made it difficult to provide a consistent customer experience across all channels. Many B2B also use old technologies, and many never developed software to integrate them. Manual import/export is often preferred to automation.
Lack of resources: Sunbelt Rentals did not have the resources to implement a multi-channel digital transformation on their own. They partnered with a third-party vendor to help them with the project. And this is so common, as even tech savvy B2B operators don't have in-house software developers.
Time constraints: Sunbelt Rentals wanted to implement their multi-channel digital transformation as quickly as possible. However, they needed to make sure that the project was done correctly and that it met the needs of their customers.
Those three issues are extremely common across many industries and company sizes. And they can be lethal, killing a project at various different phases of its lifetime.
The way ahead for them - and maybe for you too.
To overcome them, Sunbelt Rentals leveraged:
Strong leadership: The project was led by a team of experienced and dedicated leaders who had a clear vision for the future of Sunbelt Rentals' digital experience. It is our opinion that digitalization and ecommerce projects need to be understood, embraced and supported by the top management.
Collaboration: The project team worked closely with customers, partners, and internal stakeholders to ensure that the new experience met the needs of all stakeholders. An ecommerce project is supposed to be transformative and cross-departmental. It can't grow if kept in a vacuum.
Incremental change: The project team implemented changes incrementally to minimize disruption to customers and to ensure that the right decisions were being made. Dividing projects into phases is a great strategy to be able to deliver fast, reducing dependencies and de-risking.
Despite these challenges, Sunbelt Rentals was able to successfully implement their multi-channel digital transformation. As a consequence of their digitisation, Sunbelt Rentals achieved a number of successes, including:
Improved customer satisfaction: Sunbelt Rentals' customers were more satisfied with the company's new digital experience. This was due to the fact that the experience was more seamless and engaging across all channels.
Increased sales: Sunbelt Rentals' sales increased after the implementation of their new digital experience. This was due to the fact that customers were more likely to purchase from the company when they had a positive experience.
Reduced costs: Sunbelt Rentals' costs were reduced after the implementation of their new digital experience. This was due to the fact that the company was able to streamline its operations and to improve its efficiency.
Overall, Sunbelt Rentals' digital transformation was a success. The key factors that contributed to their success were strong leadership, collaboration, and incremental change. All things that would significantly benefit your B2B ecommerce project too.
Something will also be of paramount importance for the success of your B2B ecommerce project is to work with a strong web development partner.
Pixie Media is a Magento / Adobe Commerce certified partner, with many B2B projects under it's belt. Some are large like Numatic, Tiny Box Co, Sparex. In these cases, many complex features are hidden behind logins and are unlocked on a case-by-case basis (special prices, product lines, credit facility, etc).
Others are simpler, more similar to B2C websites like Agar Scientific, Burtons Veterinary, Carat Wholesale.
If you are considering or actively planning a debut in the B2B ecommerce arena, get in touch today. We'll be happy to answer your questions and, if you already have your specifications document, provide you with a quote. Contact us here.