B2B Next speaker Matt Clark, global head and vice-president, digital marketing at Premier Farnell, explains how Farnell is reaping benefits by making B2B e-commerce a priority and how other companies can as well.

Last year, global supplier of industrial electronic components and systems Premier Farnell saw its e-commerce growth rate surge. E-commerce now accounts for more than 50% of the company’s $1 billion in total sales. In short, this company’s online sales are on a fast trajectory upward.

Why—and how? Matt Clark, global head and vice-president, digital marketing, has helped lead that charge on B2B e-commerce since joining the company in that role in 2015, having originally served as head of digital commerce and marketing at Newark element 14, Premier Farnell’s business in North America. He’ll be speaking at B2B Next, a brand-new, B2B conference and exhibition created under a new partnership between leading B2B e-commerce expert Andy Hoar, formerly of Forrester Research and now head of his own consulting firm, and Vertical Web Media, founders of the Internet Retailer Conference & Exhibition, the world’ largest e-commerce event. (IRCE is now owned by Emerald Expositions LLC.)

Helping B2B manufacturers, wholesalers and distributors transform their selling strategies to thrive in a digital marketplace is the mission of this premier event, to be held Sept. 24-26 at the Sheraton Grand hotel in Chicago. In an online interview with B2BecNews, Clark was quick to sum up and share his success formula, the kind of first-person knowledge from experience that will be offered in abundance by the B2B Next speaker roster.

Q: What’s your biggest piece of advice for B2B companies looking to add online sales or increase them?

Clark: Make it easy to find. Make it compelling to convert. And make it easy to buy. The most crucial thing is the focus on the fundamentals.


Q: How long has Premier Farnell been selling online?

Clark: Premier Farnell—operating as Farnell element14 in Europe, Newark element14 in North America and element14 in Asia-Pacific—has offered online sales options for around 20 years. We now have 48 transactional websites in 12 languages, providing customers with access to the products they need 24/7.

Q: What led to the company’s decision to expand online?

Clark: In the late 1990s we increasingly found that customers wanted to research products online, given the very technical nature of products they were looking for. From providing product information online so that customers could research the right products for their designs, it was an easy leap for us to enable them to order. Online is a key element of the proposition we provide.


Online orders tend to be simpler, so we see fewer lines per order, or in smaller quantities. This works well for customers in the research and design phase, when they are looking for small quantities of products, quickly, to meet their evolving needs.

As customers move through their product development process we may see larger or more complex orders. The complexity comes from products themselves, or the way the order needs to be processed; for instance, on a detailed release schedule. We begin to see customers turning to offline options to discuss their needs in more detail. We support that with phone, quote requests or in-person visits.  It’s all about providing the right support at the right time.

Q: What has been the biggest challenge?

Clark: Keeping it all easy. We continuously work to make it easier for customers to research and buy online. B2C, rightfully so, has been raising customer expectations on all aspects of doing business with a merchant, so we have to work really hard to keep pace. For example, we recently launched a much-improved version of the type-ahead treatment for site search, mirroring how the best B2C sites are doing it, and we’ve seen engagement with it rise more than 15% globally.


Q: What has been the biggest gain?

Clark: The biggest benefit of the work we’ve undertaken to improve our e-commerce offering and for our whole multichannel proposition is rising customer and team member satisfaction. Online options have allowed customers to self-service some of their research and ordering needs, freeing up their time; and they let our sales and service teams focus on more complex, larger opportunities.

Registration for B2B Next is open. Learn more at B2BNext.net.