We wanted to let you know about a new book on B2B eCommerce from UK eCommerce expert Chloe Thomas. The book is a thoughtful and very readable overview on planning for an eCommerce transition. It covers strategic approaches and tactical information, as well as common pain points and pitfall – all with a nice dose of humor.
Excerpt: Case Study
In recent years, Gloveman launched both B2C and B2B eCommerce sites on separate platforms. The B2B site – “Gloveman VIP” – was initially launched to offer customers something they couldn’t get from the competition; to gain competitive advantage. Unfortunately, the initial launch just didn’t work because the first web design agency couldn’t get the integration into SAGE [ERP] working properly.
Why the Integration wtih Sage was the Number One Critical Success Factor
Gloveman’s 3,000 customers each have their own negotiated price list and approved 30-day credit limits. Credit card payment is possible on the website; customers can pay for their order as they place it or settle invoices via the website. However, the majority of Gloveman’s customers use the website to place orders that they settle once the invoice is raised. That means it’s essential that the website has access to the same account information that the call center operative has:
- What’s the customer’s credit limit? Do they have any credit left or do they need to pay some invoices before they can order more?
- When do those invoices go out?
- If any invoice is overdue by 45 days, don’t let them order anything else.
- The correct price list per customer.
- Any delivery charge agreements for that customer.
If this integration isn’t fool proof, then it simply makes the website full of loopholes and the potential creator of huge risks.
The Challenge of Migration
For the last two years the website has been live and the message to customers has been: “it’s there if you want it.” Gloveman hasn’t been actively encouraging customers to switch. During this time 20% of their customers have converted to using the website. Increasing that number is something the whole team is now actively engaged in, because the efficiency savings to the business are so great. These are some of the tactics they’re using to increase the uptake:
- A carrot for the team: Incentivizing the sales team to migrate customers; alongside sales, it’s part of their key daily targets
- A stick for the customers: Announcing that statements will no longer be sent by post (invoices will still be mailed). Customers must now provide an email address to which statements can be sent, and are encouraged to use the website’s account management hub to manage their account status.
- A carrot for the customers: Actively educating the customers about he benefits, and talking them through the process. E.g. for the customer who still faxes in a printout of their spreadsheet order, guiding them through how to submit it online, and explaining the benefits (it automatically checks everything, confirms it’s in-stock/delivery timing/price, and you’ll get the goods quicker.
Overall for Gloveman, the website is there to add value to their company and their products. It’s a tool that’s not a replacement for a sales team. Gloveman do not anticipate cutting their sales team, even if every single customer migrates to their online offering.
Want to read the full book? It’s available in paperback, digital and audio here.
Plus: a special offer for DigitalBranch Incubator Members: be the first to send me an email, and I’ll get an author-signed book your way.