It’s no news that, increasingly, business buyers want an ecommerce experience that matches the experience and ease of purchasing on a B2C site. The big story now is how industry pioneers such as Honeywell are making it happen—and the significant change that they’re betting will help them win online.
Online sales, especially with web-enabled pricing transparency, is something new to many legacy B2B manufacturers and distributors. For B2B sellers, online pricing transparency can be “scary,” says Lisa Butters, general manager of GoDirect Trade, a start-up marketplace organization within Honeywell Aerospace’s four walls, but well worth what Butters says is at stake: Keeping Honeywell relevant in aerospace.
In a panel discussion, “Building a Consensus in B2B Ecommerce, Vertical by Vertical” at B2B Next 2019, Sept. 20-Oct. 2 in Chicago, Butters will talk about industry-specific online marketplaces as a way B2B companies can grow their ecommerce business.
Q: What is driving manufacturers like Honeywell to expand online?
Butters: This is a critical moment in B2B ecommerce—eventually, buyers will demand a consumer-like experience in a B2B transaction, but that’s just the start. The real innovation is figuring out how to take the complexities that come with a true B2B transaction and couple those complexities with a true consumer-like experience. Honeywell is not willing to miss out on this opportunity—in order for Honeywell to stay relevant in aerospace, we have to enter the ecommerce game and be innovative in this space in order to earn our place at the table.
Q: What are the biggest challenges?
Butters: It’s dealing with the complex transactions that multi-million and billion-dollar enterprises take part in to keep their businesses running. The biggest challenge we’ve seen is ensuring that we can enable sellers with custom storefronts to have a true end-to-end solution. If GoDirect Trade provides the storefront that is their ‘face’ to the customer, then the storefront needs to integrate into their back-end operations. To do this, we’re looking at API integrations and even partnerships with leading ERP providers to build out the ecosystem.
Q: What are the chief gains you’re realizing?
Butters: GoDirect Trade is the only aerospace marketplace where a multi-million or billion-dollar enterprise can launch a digital/ecommerce channel within minutes. Literally minutes! You can post your listings and start taking orders, processing payments via credit cards, or other means such as paying by purchase order. But in our minds, we’re bringing digital to this very antiquated industry. There are 20 competitors in this space and not a single one requires price, images or quality documentation when listing product for sale. The level of transparency we’re forcing into the industry is a huge gain for the B2B buyer.
Q: What is the biggest thing B2B companies still need to realize about ecommerce?
Butters: That transparency is 100% required in order for ecommerce to work. An amazing customer experience depends on a consistent view of products—price, images, paperwork; that has to be there 100% of the time. If you’re missing any of those things, the customer experience breaks down. Furthermore, without price, you CANNOT have a true ecommerce site—because no one can check out!
Q: What is your most valuable piece of advice for B2B companies looking to add online sales or increase them?
Butters: Three things: For many of these aerospace companies, ecommerce has just never been done. You really need one dedicated person (even an intern) that nurtures, manages and gets your storefront up and running and always updated. Second, you must have quality listings and product. Sellers that want to put excess and slow-moving inventory for sale will get infrequent hits because there is little demand for their parts. It’s just like any other site out there—consumers want to see products that they want. Third, transparency in today’s world is absolute king. Bonus item: Just try ecommerce! Many have not started on this path and it’s so new to them but I promise that if you don’t start, you will get left behind.
Q: Can you recall from your own experience an example of how following this piece of advice—or even initially not following it—can affect B2B ecommerce?
Butters: There are times when we’ve struggled with publishing our own subscription pricing or being transparent about our metrics. But at the end of the day we remind ourselves that transparency is key. If we’re not transparent with our user community, we’re not setting a good example. But it is scary, believe me!Favorite