To deal with the complex pricing needs of its customers, chemical manufacturer Wacker Chemie AG installed an artificial intelligence-based pricing engine to proactively provide customized price quotes across all its sales channels.

It is not uncommon for sales representatives to proactively offer a price quote when talking to a buyer about putting together a package that fits the buyer’s needs and budget. Once price negotiations begin, sales representatives can take the information gathered in those conversations and build personalized price quotes for buyers that seal the deal.

Our goal was to create the best customer experience possible in our digital channel by removing the barriers between the sales, pricing and ecommerce teams to create a seamless buying experience.
Markus Gebhard, manager of market and competitive intelligence
Wacker Chemie AG

In the world of B2B self-service ecommerce, however, sales reps are typically not directly involved in the buying process and may have no way to offer a price quote to complete the sale. Instead, many suppliers rely on applications that enable a buyer to request a quote when ready.

Looking for a way to bring automated, personalized offers not just to its ecommerce site, but across all its sales channels, chemicals manufacturer Wacker Chemie AG deployed artificial intelligence-based applications designed tot enable suppliers to price, configure and sell their products and services in an omnichannel environment.

The challenge for Wacker, a $5 billion, Munich, Germany-based company, was finding a price-quoting engine that enhanced the customer experience by providing, consistent, personalized price quotes, across all its sales channels. Wacker does not list prices for public viewing on its ecommerce site but develops personalized price quotes based on each buyer’s needs.

From non-digital to digital

“In the non-digital world, there is a lot back-and-forth phone calls and emails between the sales rep and the buyer that help determine a price quote, but that isn’t the case in the digital world,” says Markus Gebhard, Wacker’s manager of market and competitive intelligence. “Our goal was to create the best customer experience possible in our digital channel by removing the barriers between the sales, pricing and ecommerce teams to create a seamless buying experience.”

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The key to providing custom price quotes digitally is understanding the buyer’s needs so he can be guided to the right product, Gebhard says. Gaining that understanding typically begins at the first point of contact, which in the ecommerce world is when a buyer logs on and browses the site.

Once information from the initial contact online is gathered, Wacker’s price-quoting engine, from Houston-based PROS Holdings Inc., will cross-reference the buyer’s purchasing data in other non-digital sales channels to better understand the buyer’s needs, Gebhard says.

Wacker Chemie’s opportunity funnel

With that information in hand, Wacker will proactively contact the buyer to gain more insight on how to deliver a customized price. “Most of our products need some degree of technical explanation, which is why we gather as much information as we can about the buyer and their project at the first point of contact,” says Gebhard. “Our opportunity funnel has a qualification phase, where our teams of chemists help to develop and optimize the customer’s formulation for the use of our products.”

Wacker produces more than 3,200 specialty chemical products found in everyday items, including cosmetic powders, paint colors and even COVID-19 vaccines.

Using those insights, the PROS price-quoting engine will determine the combination of products the buyer needs, and their availability, before formulating a quote for individual products or a package of products. The PROS price-quote engine is a software-as-a-service-based application that leverages data from buyer interactions across all sales channels, including previous offers. It also factors other criteria such as the market price for raw materials needed to create the product the buyer seeks.

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Identifying past purchase patterns

“We can also identify a customer’s past purchase patterns [in other sales channels] to recommend products and identify at what stage of the digital sales process that churn may take place,” says John Bruno, vice president of commerce strategy for PROS.

That information helps Wacker identify cross-selling and upselling opportunities, Gebhard adds.

One indicator of a potential cart abandonment is if too much time passes after the customer leaves the site before returning or after receiving a price quote. Both are indicators the buyer may be considering another supplier.

The PROS pricing engine drives 80% of Wacker’s quotes, which in turn generate nearly 50% of the company’s revenue, Wacker says.

When the Covid pandemic hit and forced B2B buyers online in droves, Wacker found it was well prepared to handle the spike in online purchases.

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“We saw a significant uplift in the number of digital buyers during the pandemic and our digital platform helped to manage buyers’ changing purchasing habits and expectations during that time,” Gebhard says. “We don’t take a one-size-fits-all approach to pricing, and PROS helps to increase conversion rates by making use of the data gathered throughout the sales process to tailor pricing to their needs.”

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