For DuPont Mobility & Materials, which delivers a broad range of technology-based products and solutions to the automotive, electronics, industrial, consumer, medical, photovoltaic and telecom industries, the decision to open an ecommerce store on the Knowde.com marketplace for plastics, elastomers and polymer additives was a no-brainer.
Like many manufacturers, DuPont’s Mobility & Materials division knew it needed an ecommerce store but lacked the in-house expertise to build and manage one. The division’s website, for example, was developed to serve as a tool to educate customers about its products.
As a flagship seller on Knowde’s marketplace for plastics, elastomers, and polymer additives, DuPont offers branded compounds, specialty polyamides, high-performance polyphthalamide, polyoxymethylene, and polyester resins. Brands DuPont makes available through its storefront on Knowde include Delrin, Zytel, Hytrel, Crastin and Rynite. DuPont started selling on Knowde early last year.
“Our company website is non-transactional because customers need product knowledge and technical expertise, but when it comes to ecommerce, we want them to be as comfortable purchasing as if they were buying through Amazon.com even though business-to-business purchases are more complex than business-to-consumer purchases,” says Randy Stone, president of DuPont Mobility & Materials. “The Knowde marketplace provides the ecommerce expertise to safely and efficiently enable us to set up an online store, help manage leads and attract more eyeballs.”
Given the complexity of the B2B sales process, one aspect of Knowde’s marketplace that grabbed DuPont’s attention was the availability of a personal concierge service that buyers can access in a single click. The service is intended to manage buyer’s requests for product samples, find the product information they need, answer technical product questions, and help find the right materials or ingredients for their next project, just as they would if they interacted with an in-person sales rep.
Because many plastic, polymer and chemical products are discovered online by searches using qualitative criteria, such as certain properties within a material, Stone says DuPont found it helpful to have Knowde concierges who are just as knowledgeable as DuPont’s sales reps about the chemical manufacturer’s products.
Shortening the purchasing cycle
“B2B ecommerce is expanding, but many of our products are designed for specific uses and need technical support,” says Stone. “Our sales reps can answer buyers’ questions, but we aren’t set up do that online.”
Since it can take plastics buyers as long as 24 months of searching to find the right materials for their project, Knowde’s approach to building marketplaces is centered around providing access to the information they need to understand a product and offer tools and workflows specific to their needs to help shorten the purchasing cycle.
“There is a lot of qualitative criteria used to find plastic products, and a lot of buyers don’t always have access to the information they need to purchase online,” says Ali Amin-Javaheri, CEO and co-founder of Knowde. “If you don’t know the kind of information buyers need, you can’t build a marketplace that meets their needs.” (Amin-Javaheri will speak on B2B marketplace trends during the June 12 virtual event, “Breaking the Barriers to B2B Ecommerce Success,” which will be hosted by Digital Commerce 360.)
One feature Knowde recently added to its marketplace platform is a MegaMenu that provides an overview of trends, technologies and concepts for each of the markets that Knowde serves. Other features intended to enrich the buying experience include filters that allow buyers to search using such criteria as chemistry, application, function, and technical properties to identify products relevant to buyer’s interests. Buyers can also personalize and save searches.
“We are not purely a transactional marketplace, but rather a customer-centric marketplace designed to give sellers the tools to reach new customers at a lower acquisition cost and that enables buyers to find suppliers that meet their needs,” Amin-Javaheri says. “We will also push buyers marketing messages during their search process.”
Showing buyers how chemicals work together
Knowde’s focus beyond just facilitating a purchase is a key point of differentiation from competing marketplaces. “Knowde targets buyers in ways that are not obvious, such as showing them how chemicals work together—that’s their secret sauce,” says Paul do Forno, managing director, Deloitte Digital. “This kind of approach is not common to other marketplaces.”
In addition to richer search filters and communications with buyers, Knowde also provides sellers with analytics, such as pages viewed, how long a buyer spent on a specific page, products they showed interest in and what links they clicked on to find the Knowde marketplace and a seller’s store within it.
DuPont’s Stone says such information is important to its digital strategy. “We are a data-driven company, and we use that kind of data to operate more efficiently,” Stone says.
Looking ahead, Stone expects storefronts within marketplaces to play a bigger role in the plastics industry. In meantime, DuPont is getting its feet wet as an early seller on the Knowde marketplace and learning everything it can about marketing to buyers through the channel and how to make them comfortable purchasing.
“DuPont may say that they don’t have an ecommerce store in a traditional sense, but a company its size is going to invest in tools to sell digitally,” says do Forno. “Joining a marketplace that services a specific piece of a market, as opposed to general marketplace, is a decision to broaden their sales portfolio and see what lessons they can learn, and how those lessons can be applied to their long-term digital strategy.”
Indeed, Stone says he believes that marketplaces are the wave of the future in the plastics industry because they can turn visitors into strong sales leads and convert those leads into sales quicker than traditional sales channels.
“We are glad we got in early on Knowde and are confident our investment in it will pay dividends in the future,” Stone says.
Peter Lucas is a Highland Park, Illinois-based freelance journalist covering business and technology.
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