For established B2B companies with deep roots in traditional offline sales, the benefits of ecommerce for their product lines might not immediately be clear. Take the beer industry, where B2B ecommerce is relatively new. “Investing resources in a new, unproven initiative was challenging,” says Rence Winetrout, global vice president, digital and data science at Molson Coors Brewing Company.
Yet results such as improved operational efficiency, reduced cost to serve customers and top-line growth are proving it to be a risk worth taking, he says.
Prior to joining Molson Coors, Winetrout held leadership roles in digital transformation at Apple and Adidas in addition to consulting on B2B for Fortune 1000 organizations around the globe. He’ll be a speaker at B2B Next 2019, to be held in Chicago Sept. 30 – Oct. 2, where he’ll present a case study, “Going Global with Ecommerce,” on how to optimize results when launching B2B ecommerce internationally.
In an interview with B2BecNews, Weintrout talked about the two biggest challenges in getting B2B ecommerce off the ground and how to approach them.
Q: What is driving manufacturers like Molson Coors to expand online?
Winetrout: We view the online channel as a key way for us to improve the overall experience for how customers do business with us. At the same time, having an online connection with our customers creates new opportunities to deliver value-added services and solutions designed to help our customers run their own businesses better.
Q: What are the biggest challenges?
Winetrout: Our two biggest challenges have been getting started and getting the broader organization to adopt B2B as a new way of doing business. Initially, getting started required stakeholders to take what we refer to as a “smart risk.” While our leaders were well aware of the benefits other industries were experiencing from B2B, given that B2B is relatively new in the beer industry, we were not certain B2B would drive a material benefit for us. Investing resources in a new, unproven initiative was challenging.
Additionally, as we continue to expand our B2B functionality, the other big challenge has been needing to revisit both systems and people processes that haven’t been touched in years. Given the size and maturity of our global organization, many of the processes we’re integrating into B2B have deep roots, technically and psychologically speaking. Organizational adoption and change management continue to reveal opportunities for improvement.
“If you’re able to elevate how your customers do business with you, there is a real opportunity to drive market share gains.”
Q: What are the chief gains you’re realizing?
Winetrout: The gains we’re realizing include improved operational efficiencies and reduced costs-to-serve customers, as well as higher NPS scores and incremental sales revenue.
Q: What is the biggest thing B2B companies still need to realize about ecommerce?
Winetrout: Understand that B2B can and should be seen as a strategy to drive top-line growth and not just operational efficiencies. If you’re able to elevate how your customers do business with you, there is a real opportunity to drive market share gains. I would add the companies need to think about B2B as much more than a transactional channel, and more as a modern customer relationship channel.
Q: What is your most valuable piece of advice for B2B companies looking to add online sales or increase them?
Winetrout: It is crucial to position B2B as an integrated, commercial program within your organization and not a standalone technical solution. If you build it, they will not come. Understand that the value you get from your B2B program will depend on your ability to drive your business KPIs. Therefore, make sure you invest up-front in the right front-office resources to continuously drive business value.
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?
Winetrout: As a former B2B consultant, I worked with many organizations who were looking to accelerate growth in their B2B channel. For most of these organizations, what they commonly lacked was a clearly defined set of growth KPIs and commercially oriented talent that were focused on driving top-line.
The danger is in failing to invest in front-office resources, such as B2B marketing specialists, user experience specialists, and customer loyalty specialists; without these investments, companies can fall into a self-fulfilling prophecy where they don’t see incremental sales and therefore don’t see the value in making these critical investments. My advice is to revisit your B2B business case, model out incremental sales targets based on the leaders in your space, and make sure to include a strong commercial team in your resource planning.
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