Q&A: Klaus Werner, the chief marketing officer of Systemax Inc. will discuss how online B2B companies can better engage their digital customers during the June 17 virtual event “Breaking the Barriers to Ecommerce Success.”

As senior vice president and chief marketing and digital officer of billion-dollar industrial distributor Systemax Inc., ecommerce veteran Klaus Werner plays a critical role in enabling Systemax to do more than half of its sales through ecommerce. He will address how online B2B companies can use the latest digital technology and techniques to better serve digital customers during the June 17 virtual event “Breaking the Barriers to Ecommerce Success.” The event will be hosted by Digital Commerce 360.

We caught up with Klaus to get his insights on trends in B2B ecommerce.

The customer comes first. Deliver an exceptional B2C experience with a B2B twist.

DC360: What is driving B2B companies like Systemax to expand online?

KlausWerner-Systemax-GlobalIndustrialCompany

Klaus Werner

Werner: The customer. They are top of mind, and every Systemax initiative revolves around the customer—we look to meet them where they are. Nowadays, this means increasing our capability and improving the user experience with a focus on mobile. Ecommerce accounts for about 55% of our sales transactions, it is a significant part of our business.

DC360: What are your biggest internal and/or external barriers?

Werner: Time is our biggest barrier. We strive to move as fast as possible while maintaining a thoughtful and disciplined approach that keeps customers at the epicenter of every business decision. We invested a significant amount of time and effort in the recent rollout of The Knowledge Center, which provides a high-level resource to our customers with very accessible and digestible content that is important to them. And, there is so much more we want to do.

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DC360: What are the chief gains you’re realizing?

Werner: We have really seen an immense uptick in customer loyalty, a more satisfying customer experience, and improved relationships with our customers—ultimately driving our sales.

DC360: What is the most valuable piece of advice you have on how to launch online B2B sales or increase them?

Werner: The customer comes first. Deliver an exceptional B2C experience with a B2B twist.

DC360: Regarding COVID-19, what is the biggest adaption your company has made?

Werner: The pandemic allowed us to think on our feet while always remaining focused on the end-goal. We realized how important it was to stay nimble, creative and aggressive in sourcing the right products for the right customer at the right time. We were able to move extremely quickly to secure the products customers needed, and we are very proud of our success during the last year.

DC360: What existing trends will the pandemic accelerate?

Werner: First and foremost, the rapid embracing of ecommerce within the industrial distribution marketplace—it’s here to stay. Furthermore, QR code adoption has become a seamless no-touch process for the customer, which is a priority after the sanitation protocols that have arisen as a result of the pandemic.

DC360: What new ideas will become trends?

Werner: While not a new idea, the adoption of QR codes has become new again and will expand beyond the restaurant table menu. The hybrid work environment will become a permanent part of work-life balance as we transition back to the office. Also, the last year has created a new generation of germophobes and will result in a much higher standard for sanitation and cleanliness.

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DC360: What post-pandemic needs will become opportunities?

Werner: The continued focus on our core business as companies rebound and grow, and need our core product offerings in warehouse, distribution, manufacturing and other key segments of the economy. Ultimately, we have to learn from the pandemic, channel the skills and strategies that we adopted in the past year-plus and continue evolving as a company.

(Systemax plans to change its corporate name on June 21 to Global Industrial Company, reflecting the name of its flagship B2B ecommerce site, GlobalIndustrial.com.)

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