The diversified manufacturer has rolled out a new B2B e-commerce platform, starting in Canada, that it plans to extend worldwide. 3M says it expects to double B2B online sales worldwide within several years.

3M Co. operates a legacy business-to-business e-commerce platform, built in-house a decade ago, that processes “$7 billion to $8 billion” in annual online sales, 22% to 25% of total 2013 net sales of $31.82 billion, says Charles Calisto, the senior program manager for 3M’s new B2B e-commerce strategy.  

But the diversified manufacturer—probably best known for paper products like Post-It Notes, yet whose motto, “3M Science. Applied to Life,” underscores product lines stretching into high-tech industrial and scientific products—is looking to a new e-commerce platform to put its B2B e-commerce sales into higher gear, he says.

3M’s existing global B2B e-commerce platform, which it calls Enterprise Ordering Center, for years reliably took orders from customers across 48 countries. But the EOC, as it’s also called, is “successful but antiquated” and lacks the imagery and helpful search and navigation features of modern e-commerce sites, Calisto says. “With the new generation of buyers coming online, they’re more tech-savvy.”

That’s why the legacy EOC is on the way out, and 3M’s new bCom B2B e-commerce platform—designed with extensive product images and a more user-friendly site search and navigation—is on the way in, Calisto says. Within several years, he says, 3M expects bCom to double the company’s B2B online sales to $14 billion or more.

The bCom platform earlier this year launched across Canada, replacing the EOC platform as of the end of February, and in mid-April launched in the Philippines, Calisto says. Within the next few months bCom will launch in four yet-to-be-named countries in Europe. Eventually, the bCom platform, which is accessible only via account passwords, will operate across all of 3M’s markets worldwide, including the United States, he adds.

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The new bCom e-commerce platform—the small “b” symbolizes the small effort business customers make to use it, while the big “C” symbolizes  growth in commerce—is being built on e-commerce technology from hybris Software, with 3M’s own software developers working with experts from hybris and technology consulting firm Accenture. 3M is also upgrading its enterprise resource planning software, including software for running various business operations like inventory, financials and human resources, on software from hybris parent SAP AG.   

“We’re extremely happy” with the hybris e-commerce platform, Calisto says. “The functionality is unlimited. You can do anything with it.”

New features include checking order status, viewing invoices, and downloading product marketing materials, in addition to more product images and search and navigation features. Buyers will also have the option to search and place orders by product number as well as re-order products they have purchased before, Calisto says.

3M expects part of the new growth, he adds, to come from customers that now place most if not all of their orders through electronic data interchange, or EDI, the electronic transfer of purchase orders, invoices and other documents. “The EDI customers will not move off EDI,” Calisto says. “But with bCom, they will be able to go in there, do product searches, and see products they’ve never ordered before. That will provide a sales lift for 3M.”

Sign up for a free subscription to B2BecNews, a weekly newsletter that covers technology and business trends in the growing B2B e-commerce industry. B2BecNews is published by Vertical Web Media LLC, which also publishes the monthly business magazine Internet Retailer. Follow B2BecNews editor Paul Demery on Twitter @pdemery.

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