7 Nation, a manufacturer of water sports equipment, grew its North and South American order volume by 29% from the first quarter of 2015 to the first quarter of 2016 and found that empowering buyers to help themselves on the company’s e-commerce platform contributed to the growth.

Greg Kish, 7 Nation’s North and South American sales and marketing director, credits the company’s self-serve transactions for a significant part of the sales growth. Kish defines self-serve transactions as any time a customer makes a purchase using the company’s e-commerce platform without any help from 7 Nation’s sales or support staff.

According to Kish, the number of B2B and B2C self-serve orders in the Americas grew 47% from early 2015 to early 2016. The number of self-serve orders from business customers in the Western Hemisphere grew by 60%, and now make up 11% of 7 Nation’s total North and South American revenue. Including sales to consumers, e-commerce makes up 14% of the company’s revenue, Kish says. He declined to provide specific numbers on the company’s annual revenue but noted that 7 Nation is on the low end of the mid-market. Forrester Research Inc., defines a mid-market company as one that generates between $25 million and $499 million in annual revenue.

7 Nation sells directly to schools, retailers, rental operations and distributors as well as to consumers in 54 countries. Customers can buy directly online at one of the company’s websites, SlingShotSports.com, MoonshineMFG.com and RideEngine.com.

Kish says that 7 Nation saw an opportunity to grow its B2B footprint by catering to younger buyers using its e-commerce platform. “We’ve found that legacy buyers are a bit set in their ways, but the younger demographic is excited and open to using a new platform as long as you show them how.”

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But the e-commerce site has to work well if buyers of any age are to trust it, Kish says. “The B2B system has to be accurate,” he says. “If our process fails them along the line with an inventory mistake or incorrect bill at some point, the customer is very likely to revert back to old habits.” Breaking old habits is where Kish sees the biggest obstacle in bringing long-time B2B buyers online. Older customers need to see the benefits of the system and what’s in it for them before they move online, he says.

7 Nation has been using NetSuite Inc.’s SuiteCommerce online selling software since 2014 which has aided in boosting order volume. The company also uses NetSuite’s enterprise resource planning, or ERP, software for managing inventory, customer history and finances. Kish says using software from a single vendor has benefited 7 Nation because all employees are on the same platform, which avoids the confusion that can arise when piecing together software from multiple vendors.
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