Using updated e-commerce technology to offer business buyers an easier way to buy computer gear and services is a top priority for Dell Inc., CIO Paul Walsh says.

Today Dell generates annual e-commerce sales of about $15 billion, of which an estimated three-fourths—or just over $11 billion—is generated by selling to businesses, the company says. But selling computer gear and related services online to both enterprises and consumers can be a highly competitive business, Walsh says.

To give Dell an advantage over manufacturers, wholesalers and retailers also selling computer gear and services online, Dell has spent the past two years updating its global e-commerce platform. That includes PremierConnect, a web-based procurement system used by more than 1,500 Dell business customers to customize orders, shop a catalog with pre-negotiated pricing, create order requisitions and online invoices, and connect via a secure web link from Dell.com directly into a customer’s enterprise resource planning system for updating inventory and financial records.

But buying any computer gear or service can be complicated, especially for large companies placing big web orders. Dell’s newly updated e-commerce platform, which the company rolled out in the U.S. over much of 2015 and plans to extend to the rest of the world by mid-2016, features better and faster site search and improved product recommendations, Walsh says.

The updated e-commerce platform also gives B2B buyers access to current inventory data to see if a product is in stock, assemble customized products for immediate purchase online or add to a list and save for checkout at an earlier date. “At the end of the day we are trying to make buying easier,” Walsh says.

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For example if a large business customer is using Dell.com or Dell PremierConnect to purchase a large number of new servers, the new Dell e-commerce platform now includes options that let that customer ship to multiple addresses, customize server hardware based on specific technical information and receive related product recommendations. “If a large enterprise is buying multiple servers, one feature on our updated e-commerce platform may recommend what type of software they need for the upgrade or the right type of cables,” Walsh says.

Dell sees better web technology and a streamlined and personalized online buying experience for business customers as a way to stand out in the B2B e-commerce market, Walsh says. “E-commerce works best when it’s frictionless and enriched,” he says.

Sign up for a free subscription to B2BecNews, a twice-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 Mark Brohan @markbrohan.

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