B2B companies today are rethinking their online strategies. eCommerce is no longer an afterthought, but rather a can’t miss opportunity to expand your business model and acquire new customers.
Even beyond providing a better experience online for current B2B customers, B2B merchants are taking the leap to sell direct to consumers. It’s a way to differentiate from your competition and tap into new markets.
It can be a little overwhelming though to move from B2B selling to B2C online selling. So, we’ll take an in-depth look at nChannel customer Amax Incorporated, a B2B seller, and how they successfully launched four B2C websites for the first time.
Tips for Launching Your First B2C eCommerce Site
When looking to expand business and increase revenue, B2B manufacturers and distributors have a unique opportunity to explore selling direct to consumers. The advancement in eCommerce technology makes it easier than ever to create and launch new websites.
The only challenge is that B2C selling is unchartered territory for B2B sellers. Consumers think, buy and search a little differently than B2B buyers. They’re making purchases for themselves, not a large, repeat order for a company.
And if you’re paying attention to the industry, many merchants struggle to keep up in the “age of the consumer” that portrays consumers with ever changing lofty demands. B2C commerce relies on a killer experience that turns first-time buyers into repeat purchasers. B2B websites aren’t usually known for the intuitive, slick designs.
This can make B2C selling seem daunting to undertake. How do you navigate the space? How do you put together an eCommerce strategy that you know is going to work?
Learn from Others: Amax Incorporated
Look no further than nChannel customer Amax Incorporated to see how they successfully launched four B2C websites for the first time.
Amax launched in 2009 as a B2B retailer, but decided in 2013 to sell direct to consumers. As a global leader in the development, manufacturing, and distribution of office products, tools, and consumer products, they saw an opportunity to target different audiences with their portfolio of brands that include Bostitch® office products and Konnect™ desktop organization, PaperPro® office products, Stanley® tools and scissors, and BLACK+DECKER™ laminators and LED lighting.
After creating and executing a thoughtful strategy, Amax was able to launch their B2C websites. Today, they have approximately 400 SKUs across all four sites and 50,000 monthly visitors. They’re on-track to more than double their revenue goal for this year. With an expanding eCommerce team, they’re ready to continue their growth and even consider new online channels like eBay in the future.
After reading Amax’s success story, here are a few key takeaways that made their B2C eCommerce initiative such a success:
1. Planning Your Strategy
Amax knew they wanted to launch separate sites that could appeal to different audiences that ranged from corporations to teachers. However, eCommerce was a completely new concept for them. Their technology wasn’t set up to handle eCommerce transactions. So, they wanted to first prove that B2C made sense for them before going all in.
Amax made the smart decision to take a methodical approach. They set a strategic goal to launch one site per year. This allowed them to build on each experience and make impactful improvements along the way.
Key Takeaway: Research your audience and market to different personas if needed. Start small with your eCommerce strategy and test the waters before investing all your time and money.
2. Picking an B2B eCommerce Platform
After setting their strategic goal, Amax’s next step was to choose the right technology to create their website. The challenge is that there’s a plethora of eCommerce solutions out there to evaluate.
Choosing the right eCommerce platform is a critical decision. The platform you choose affects what type of customer experience you can deliver. It also has to fit into your current infrastructure. When comparing eCommerce platforms, consider the following:
- Plug ins and partnerships
- Cloud vs on-premise
- API – ability to integrate with other software
When first starting their search, all Amax knew was that the platform had to integrate with their current ERP systems Microsoft Dynamics GP. From there, they narrowed down their choices and ultimately decided on Magento.
Key takeaway: Always consider your current systems like your ERP when narrowing down your eCommerce platforms. While B2C might be a new endeavor, it still needs to fit into your current operations.
3. Choosing an eCommerce Agency
If undertaking eCommerce for the first time, you most likely don’t have the right resources in-house to build out and maintain your platform’s performance. Like Amax, you’ll need to find and work with an agency proficient in the technology you use to bring your eCommerce vision to fruition.
There are many areas to consider when comparing agencies. Here are a few to focus on:
- Portfolio or experience with your software
- Content creation capabilities
- Project management style
- Quality control
- Cost structure
Key takeaway: Building a website can take a village. You’ll most likely need to work with multiple vendors to ensure your site turns out like you imagined. Take your time to pick an agency or developer that best fits your needs.
To get you started, see some of the eCommerce agencies nChannel has worked with before.
4. Integrating Your Systems
From the beginning of their undertaking, Amax understood that they needed to revamp their operations to support their eCommerce initative. Their processes would become more complex and Amax wanted to maintain operational efficiency. Keeping this in mind, Amax needed a way to integrate their four websites with their ERP.
This led Amax to vetting and choosing a seamless integration approach led by nChannel that allowed Amax to build an operational hub that effectively manages all the data flows between their websites and ERP. Amax chose to sync items, inventory, pricing information, sales and discount orders, customer data, order tracking, and history, shipping, and return transactions. In turn, Amax was able to:
- Centralize order management
- Handle complex order routing workflows
- Update inventory in real-time across all channels
- Manage customer records between systems
Key takeaway: Expanding your business to new channels can result in more, complex processes to move data between systems. Integration is key to automating this work and ensuring you maintain operational efficiency.
5. Track Results and Continue to Improve
Key takeaway: Continue to evaluate your results and make improvements as you go. With proven processes in place, you can continue to invest more in your eCommerce strategy.
What to Do Next
While B2C online selling might seem overwhelming, B2B merchants are executing eCommerce initiatives by choosing the right technology and partners to work with. Over four years, Amax was able to transform from a B2B manufacturer into a B2C eCommerce success. You can read their full success story here.
Keep reading B2B eCommerce tips:
- How to Choose the Best B2B eCommerce Platform for Your Business
- 10 Advantages of B2B eCommerce Selling
- Increase Lead Generation with a B2B Content Marketing Strategy
- How to Navigate B2B eCommerce: Go-to-Guide for Manufacturers and Distributors Selling Online