As vice president of cross-channel growth at multibillion-dollar distributor MSC Industrial Supply Co., which does more than half of its sales through electronic commerce, Mark Pickett is responsible for leading and driving a consistent brand experience for customers across all of MSC’s platforms and marketing and sales channels. He will address how B2B companies can provide an excellent cross-channel customer experience at the online event “Fast-Tracking B2B Ecommerce Sales & Expansion,” which Digital Commerce 360 will present on Aug. 12.
We caught up with Mark, who has also worked in cross-channel operations at Staples, Walgreens, Sears and JP Morgan Chase, to get his views on trends in digital commerce.
DC360: What is driving B2B companies like MSC to expand online?
Pickett: Customer expectations are driving our digital transformation and online expansion. Our customers expect us to be available when they want and how they want to engage with us, whether it’s mobile, chat, phone, and so on. They also expect a unified experience regardless of channel. Our goal is to create less friction and build loyalty to drive cross-channel growth.
DC360: What are your biggest internal or and external barriers?
Pickett: Although there are always a variety of challenges when you undertake a strategic transformation, the biggest barrier to success is how well we align as an organization to deliver against our goals and objectives. We have a strong commitment for this effort from our board, our senior leaders and our teams, so we are confident that we’ll be successful in our ability to deliver a world-class experience for our customers.
DC360: What are the chief gains you’re realizing?
Pickett: Although we are in the nascent stages of our digital transformation journey, we are striving to deliver a seamless and consistent connected experience. By making it easier for customers to conduct business with us, we are realizing greater levels of digital engagement and increases in basket size. While those gains are important to measure and track, our focus is on ensuring that we consistently deliver value through our people and technology to help our customers succeed. If we do that, we know that we’ll earn their trust and business.
DC360: What is the most valuable piece of advice you have on how to launch online B2B sales or increase them?
Pickett: Although it may seem cliché, my advice is to be “customer-led” in your approach. It’s important to not let other stakeholders’ views of your customers’ priorities dictate or drive your engagement strategy. You must be focused on your customers’ needs and meet them where they are.
DC360: Regarding COVID-19, what is the biggest adaption your company has made?
Pickett: The global pandemic created a sense of urgency and gave us permission to accelerate our digital transformation and strategy to meet customers’ expectations. Investments we were planning to make in the future were sped up because our customers needed that access and functionality in a remote-working environment.
DC360: What existing trends will the pandemic accelerate?
Pickett: As a result of the global pandemic, many companies moved to remote work environments. Now that we’re emerging from the pandemic, many of those companies have elected to continue to work either remotely or through a hybrid approach, in which associates will work remotely part of the time and in an office part of the time. With that in mind, it’s going to be important for Sales, Marketing and other functions to remain engaged as they work remotely over the long term. It will be critical for teams to stay connected so there’s strong planning, coordination and execution in serving customers.
DC360: What new ideas will become trends?
Pickett: While it’s not new, “video-everything” will remain in place, including video conferencing and video messaging (instead of email). Video formats for all communications will continue to grow, disintermediating the need for face-to-face meetings and richer asymmetric communications.
DC360: What post-pandemic needs will become opportunities?
Pickett: At the risk of being repetitive, we need to be available to our customers in the way that they want and when they want, respond to their evolving needs, and deliver value. If we’re very good and consistent at delivering that, we should continue to be successful.
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