With a new e-commerce site launched in July, GE Oil & Gas has high expectations for shifting online more sales of its industrial parts to companies that produce and transport petroleum and natural gas, the company says.

GE Oil & Gas, a unit of General Electric Co. with about $19 billion in annual sales, operates in an industry with many customers struggling under rising operating costs amid a worldwide abundance of petroleum  that is cutting their prices and profits, says Jackie Wallace, the  commercial excellence chief information officer at GE Oil & Gas. The cost of building and operating an oil-producing platform, she notes, is two or three times now what it was a few years ago.

To operate as a more efficient supplier to customers operating in such challenging times, GE Oil & Gas launched a new e-commerce platform in July that it expects to greatly increase the amount of orders its customers place online, Wallace said at a recent conference hosted by its e-commerce technology provider, hybris Software, a unit of SAP SE.

The new site, she added, was designed to make it easier for GE’s globally dispersed customers to find the right product information and place orders at any time without assistance from customer service reps. At the same time, the new site enables GE to more accurately display product information and pricing, helping it improve its own profit margins. “We’re trying to change the game from a digital perspective,” Wallace said.

Under the GE unit’s old e-commerce site, a relatively limited software infrastructure made it difficult to organize product pricing, resulting in “margin leakage,” or lost profits, Wallace said. The old site also made it difficult for customers to configure products to get customized pricing presented online, with the online option to further request a new price quote, as well as to gather feedback from online customers about their online buying experience. “We knew we needed to change,” she said.

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The new site’s capabilities include giving GE’s site managers the ability to personalize content to the interests of customers tracked by web analytics, and quickly and accurate updating pricing on products.

GE Oil & Gas expects the new site to vastly increase the potential for online customer activity in several areas. It expects the percentage of orders the company will be able to handle online to grow from 1% this year to 80% next year, as the percentage of online pricing quotes increases from 12.5% to 80%, Wallace said. She did not comment on actual existing or expected percentages in these areas, but noted that GE Oil & Gas also expects to noticeably increase its rate of converting prospective online customers to buyers.

GE Oil & Gas did not comment on the cost of deploying hybris software. The cost to deploy hybris as licensed software starts at a one-time fee of about $200,000; the Internet-based on-demand versions starts between $10,000 to $20,000 per month, the vendor says.

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