Selling multichannel in B2B requires a strong mix of both new and old commerce technology. For high-performance automotive lubricants brand zMax, that mix is opening up and expanding markets.
A little more than half of zMax’s customer orders—mostly from larger retailers—run through electronic data interchange, but it recently began building out its digital channel to deploy more effective marketing and selling operations to better attract and engage a wider range of both B2B and business-to-consumer customers, including retailers, auto dealers, engine builders and consumers involved with motorsports. Its roots in lubricants for race cars, zMax maintains affiliations with eight major speedways but now also sells lubricants used in aviation, large trucks, firearms and homes.
EDI, of course, is a proven technology for B2B suppliers and buyers to transact with one another, especially for large recurring orders. One of the drawbacks to using EDI, however, is that when a customer doesn’t have an EDI connection, ordering becomes more labor-intensive.
To support clients that do not have EDI connections, many B2B suppliers like zMax recognize they need an ecommerce channel to better serve this customer segment.
But that does not mean that EDI and ecommerce are mutually exclusive; the two technologies can co-exist as complimentary channels. EDI is an excellent channel for buyers that know exactly what they want before ordering, while ecommerce is a channel that B2B marketers can leverage to attract new customers, cross-sell and upsell buyers, and communicate with buyers throughout the purchasing process.
Integrating order data from multiple channels
ZMax set out with a two-part goal for a new ecommerce platform. It wanted a digital sales channel that would provide a rich user experience for auto dealers, engine builders and other motorsports customers—and that would exchange data with its EDI platform and order processing systems for other customers. —zMax worked with TrueCommerce, its EDI provider, to deploy its Nexternal ecommerce platform.
“Our long-term goal is to integrate order data from multiple sales channels, including ecommerce and EDI to create a one-stop-shop to place orders for our dealers,” says David Coughtry, production and operations manager. “TrueCommerce Nexternal supports that long-term vision. Plus, we are a long-time TrueCommerce EDI customer.”
ZMax uses EDI to receive purchase orders from 12 of its largest customers and to send them advance shipping notices (ASNs) and invoices. ZMAX processes 30-50 inbound purchase orders per week and sends out about 50 to 85 invoices and ASNs. ZMax’s EDI platform can scale to handle any jump in sales.
Automotive and general retailers such as Walmart, Menards, AutoZone and NAPA sell zMax products, which include aerosols, sprays and racing oils.
Some big buyers prefer ecommerce over EDI
While about 60% of the company’s B2B transactions are completed through zMax’s EDI platform, several large retail chain customers, such as Pep Boys and Auto Zone, do not use EDI, which prompted the need for an ecommerce store.
“Our goal is to make it easier (for non-EDI customers) to order,” Coughtry says. He adds that auto dealers are also not interested in ordering through EDI. “When there is no compatibility with our EDI platform, these customers order manually.”
In addition to B2B, zMax also sells to consumers.
One advantage of adding TrueCommerce Nexternal is improved reporting capabilities that simplify analysis of ad campaign results. That information can then be used to tweak existing ad campaigns. ZMax advertises to consumers and professional mechanics on network television.
A dashboard to track sales and marketing
“The TrueCommerce Nexternal dashboard allows me to quickly see what was sold and where, and identify our top-selling products,” says Diane Mohundro, art director for zMax. “We use TrueCommerce’s MailChimp integration to send out email blasts with coupon codes and other offers, and the dashboard shows us at a glance how these offers perform, which determines what our next coupon code or product giveaway will be.”
For example, the marketing department can use the dashboard to track different versions of offers, such as one for a free product and one for 15% off, and see which performed better and by how much. “That data can help direct our marketing for months to come and is key to driving our advertising campaigns,” Mohundro says.
In addition to seeing what products are selling and how marketing offers are performing, the Nexternal dashboard also displays items frequently searched for on the site, which allows zMax to develop ads for those items. The company also uses search results analysis to determine if it needs to add more information to a product description to improve search results and rankings.
“I can also change featured products on the website to keep our search rankings up and the website fresh,” says Mohundro.
Improving shipping and inventory
Since installing Nexternal, zMax has improved its shipping process, typically shipping orders now twice per day. “Our shipping desks check for new orders in the morning and in the afternoon,” Coughtry says. “We batch process the orders, then batch print the labels and the packing slips.”
Inventory reconciliation has also improved. ZMax checks inventory against ecommerce transactions at the end of each month, then performs one batch order labeled “ecommerce” to update inventory in their Traverse ERP system.
In addition, zMax is using TrueCommerce Nexternal’s built-in subscription features to offer customers automatic replenishment on some products. “This makes reordering very easy for customers and helps increase sales,” Mohundro says.
Peter Lucas is a Highland Park, Illinois-based freelance journalist covering business and technology.
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