If B2B e-commerce were a chess game, a Chicago distributor’s redesigned website just might keep it two steps ahead of the competition.
Berlin Packaging, a supplier of packaging products and services to companies in multiple industries including food-and-beverage, personal care, pharmaceutical, and industrial coatings, is no newcomer to B2B e-commerce. The company, with about $2.6 billion in annual sales, has been in the packaging materials business for 100 years—and selling online to business buyers since 2005.
But the time has come to make an even bigger commitment to B2B e-commerce, and Berlin Packaging is now putting “millions of dollars” into a major website update and digital brand marketing makeover, says vice president and general manager of online business Chris Hiller. “This project is the single highest company priority we’ve set in recent years and as big as our earlier priorities on mergers and acquisitions,” he says.
The U.S. rigid packaging market generates more than $80 billion in annual sales, according to recent reporting by Grand View Research. This includes rigid plastic, glass, metal, and paperboard packaging.
But the market is also a highly competitive one, where Berlin Packaging goes head-to-head with such bigger rivals as Sonoco Products Co. and Bemis Co. for more market share—and e-commerce ties to customers purchasing packaging materials, according to business forecasting platform provider Owler.com.
At Berlin Packaging, the company has completed the first phase of a multi-year, five-part e-commerce, digital marketing and website redesign to roll up all B2B e-commerce and online branding under its main corporate banner.
What that means for its B2B customers is that the company has commerce-enabled its former static corporate site, BerlinPackaging.com, with a slew of new sophisticated self-service web tools and combined it with its self-service e-commerce site for Freund Container & Supply on a single digital platform carrying more than 11,000 products, the packaging materials company says.
Freund specializes in supplying containers ranging from glass jars to storage drums made of plastic or metal, along with maintenance, repair and operations products. It first launched an e-commerce site about 11 years ago. Today, about one-third of Freund’s sales are generated online, although the unit does not break out specific sales.
The Freund B2B website has offered sophisticated such e-commerce features as an online bargaining tool, called Deal Room, that enabled customers to make offers on particular quantities of containers, view a curated list of available products, check any discounts and see prices for wholesale and bulk buys. But the Berlin Packaging site with its strong brand had a much higher level of awareness among customers and prospects, Hiller says.
Now the newly relaunched BerlinPackaging.com—with Freund’s popular features as well as Berlin’s brand image—will give Berlin Packaging new ways to attract, engage, customers of varying sizes, from startups to Fortune 500 enterprises, Hiller says. “This isn’t just a mash-up of two websites,” he says. “We now have a single site with our recognized name to engage customers and offer them better e-commerce tools.”
The first phase of the redesign took about nine months and included the hiring of about two dozen web designers, programmers and digital marketing specalists. The initial focus of the redesign was to introduce even more self-service e-commerce tools that deliver personalized ways for customers to research and purchase new and replacement packaging materials.
In addition to the new deal room, other new tools include an online custom label creator that lets customers select from professionally designed templates or provide their own artwork to design and purchase peel-and-stick sheet labels.
Business buyers also wanted faster ways to manage their account and more options to purchase and ship products. That’s why the log-in portal now features customer account information and tools including order and shipment status, order history, one-touch re-ordering and the ability to enter future orders and see credit details and technical drawings.
A revised shipping tool also gives new and returning customers the ability to better track shipments with such metrics as when the order was shipped and expected arrival date among other metrics. The shipping tool now integrates order shipping from a range of major carriers and freight companies. “Buyers of packaging can easily browse and purchase a wide selection of containers and closures, request samples, or request a quote or meeting with one of our packaging consultants,” says Berlin Packaging CEO Andrew Berlin.
Each year Berlin Packaging ships about 4.6 billion items, many of those orders from its 305,000-square-foot facility in Lockport, Ill., a suburb of Chicago.
A big goal is driving more existing business online. For example, today only about one-third of the 48,000 customers that make at least one purchase annually do so online, the company says.
To generate more e-commerce sales, Berlin Packaging has lowered online prices as much as 30% below what was shown on the former FreundContainer.com. The product catalog, which Berlin Packaging has been publishing for more 80 years, also now features updated and lower pricing along with lots of new copy about the benefits of ordering online.
Berlin Packaging isn’t saying much about its existing B2B e-commerce sales—or what type of increase its projecting from its newly rebranded and retooled website.
But B2B e-commerce is now among the company’s highest strategic priorities. “We want to be the one-stop shop for packaging materials for any size customer,” Hiller says.
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