Ali Amin-Javaheri is co-founder and CEO of Knowde, a diversified B2B marketplace connecting thousands of buyers and sellers in markets ranging from chemicals to food and nutrition. Prior to Knowde, which Amin-Javaheri and his partners launched in 2017, he served in senior management positions in marketing and technology at ChemPoint, a unit of Univar Solutions involved in digital sales and marketing for multiple industries.
On June 17, he will discuss the rapid growth in B2B marketplaces on a panel during the June 17 online event “Breaking the Barriers to B2B Ecommerce Success,” which will be hosted by Digital Commerce 360.
We caught up with Ali to get his take on trends in B2B ecommerce.
DC360: What is driving B2B companies like Knowde to expand online?
Amin-Javaheri: Knowde is putting the power of chemistry to work in a way that’s never been done before. We’re the first digital platform to enable research and development (R&D) and procurement professionals to search, learn, engage, sample, quote and purchase from every major chemical supplier on earth, all in one place. Knowde’s proprietary search functionality gives these buyers the ability to explore by chemistry, application, function, technical properties and more in order to find the right product quickly.
For R&D professionals, this means shorter time-to-market for new product development. For buyers, the task of finding adequate supply in the event one producer can’t deliver products is now much easier. For chemical suppliers, we’re providing the technology required to move online quickly to meet the new needs of customers who want a better online buying experience, and the opportunity to expand their market reach.
DC360: What are your biggest internal or and external barriers?
Amin-Javaheri: For Knowde, the biggest challenge is re-shaping the way marketing and sales are done in the chemical industry. Every industry in the world depends on chemicals, and while these companies have increasingly conducted business online for several years, chemical suppliers have not evolved as quickly. Business in the chemical industry has traditionally been conducted through field sales teams, product catalogs and brochures, face-to-face meetings and trade shows.
Even before the pandemic, that way was no longer working. Customers have been telling suppliers they want greater transparency, easier access to information, and a better way to purchase what they need online. When the pandemic hit, the situation was magnified because many chemical companies were not equipped to move to an online model. Suppliers who embrace these changes the soonest, and adapt to a new model the fastest, will be rewarded. They will become tomorrow’s winners.
DC360: What are the chief gains you’re realizing?
Amin-Javaheri: This has been a year of rapid growth for Knowde, and we have become the go-to platform for ingredients, polymers and chemistry. We now have more than 2,000 storefronts and 100,000 products—more than any distributor, marketplace or middleman organization. On average, one sales lead is generated every five minutes. We’ve significantly expanded our presence in the Food & Nutrition and Plastics & Elastomers industries, and we will continue to expand into other markets during the year. We have also announced the addition or expansion of storefronts for eight major producers and many more will follow soon.
DC360: What is the most valuable piece of advice you have on how to launch online B2B sales or increase them?
Amin-Javaheri: The best advice I can give to a supplier that is considering an online launch is twofold: move fast and adjust based on what you learn. We see so many suppliers who spend several months studying and analyzing online opportunities. While they are busy studying and analyzing, other suppliers are getting online quickly. That second group decides strategically that they need a strong online story, so they launch with us and then we work together to optimize their usage of our platform. Those suppliers who move fast establish and maintain competitive advantage, and they learn a lot in the process.
DC360: Regarding COVID-19, what is the biggest adaption your company has made?
Amin-Javaheri: Knowde’s biggest adaptation driven by COVID-19 has been the speed at which we are launching new features because the pandemic drove customers online at a very rapid pace. For example, we recently added a MegaMenu that provides an overview of trends, technologies and concepts for each of the markets that Knowde serves. We also added a link that enables buyers to communicate directly with sellers to ask technical product questions, talk to sales representatives and inquire about pricing.
This was a great supplement to the traditional in-person sales interaction that was happening less frequently due to travel restrictions. Another example is that customers wanted a richer selection of filters, the ability to personalize and save searches, new collaboration tools that facilitate information sharing among buyers from the same company, and access to every product in a supplier’s catalog in fewer clicks. We added those features and created the most comprehensive product collateral in the market: the Knowde Enhanced Technical Data Sheet (TDS). All of these new features enhanced the online experience at a time when in-person interactions were very restricted, and now they have become the new normal.
DC360: What existing trends will the pandemic accelerate?
Amin-Javaheri: We met recently with one of our suppliers, who told us that when the pandemic first hit they had been expecting a massive increase in traffic to their website. When that didn’t materialize, they did some investigation and learned that their customers were using Knowde. The leads generated by their Knowde storefront were being converted into sales, which helped contribute to a successful year for that company despite the pandemic.
DC360: What new ideas will become trends?
Amin-Javaheri: Data-driven decision-making will become increasingly important as more business is transacted online. Knowde gives suppliers proprietary analytics, including a dashboard with key performance indicators for their storefront, an overview of the sources that send traffic to their storefront, and activity details for their market and product pages. Suppliers can view details for each metric for a range of dates (e.g., a week, three months, etc.) or for a particular date (e.g., to measure the impact of an email campaign or social media post), giving them insight into their storefront’s performance and customer behavior that can lead to better-informed sales and marketing decisions.
DC360: What post-pandemic needs will become opportunities?
Amin-Javaheri: Utilizing an online marketplace like Knowde will help chemical companies accomplish three things. First, it can help them lower selling and marketing costs by reducing the size of their sales staff. Second, it can help them expand their market reach. There are more potential customers than chemical providers may realize—and they spend more than 60% of their time online searching for products. Finally, they can achieve ecommerce transformation more quickly and less expensively than any individual company could accomplish by itself.
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