Q&A: Steve Martinez, vice president, digital solutions at chemical distributor Univar Solutions, shares his insights about why it is crucial to be fast but thorough when expanding ecommerce.

It’s important to present product information clearly and effectively on an ecommerce site. Steve Martinez, vice president, digital solutions at chemical distributor Univar Solutions, shares his insights about why it is crucial to be fast but thorough when expanding ecommerce.

Martinez will speak at Digital Commerce 360’s EnvisionB2B conference on how to effectively use your company’s expertise to answer buyers’ questions that help lead to conversions.

Focus on the customer, identify key internal processes, challenge the status quo, then iterate, iterate, iterate! The best efforts start small with a focus on learning.
Steve Martinez
Univar Solutions

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

Martinez: At Univar Solutions Inc., our vision is to be the most valued chemicals and ingredients distributor in the world. We put the customer at the center of all that we do, and a part of our strategy is to meet our customers where they expect us to be. We are ready to service a broad array of customer needs from technical expertise through our chemists, consultation through our trained sales force, and transactional support through our websites. We’ve created a number of online channels to supplement this strategy – each with a unique value proposition.

  • ChemCentral.com, a no-frills self-service commerce feature that lets customers view pricing without logging in. ChemCentral caters to small and mid-sized businesses that may need to place occasional or one-time orders.
  • BeautyIngredients.com, a specialty site that displays pricing openly and caters to businesses and entrepreneurs involved in developing and selling personal care and beauty products. The site also provides Univar with additional market demand information on which chemicals companies are using in new products.
  • UnivarSolutions.com is our full portfolio and service offering.  This website provides a comprehensive ecommerce site where customers can purchase from more than 17,000 products. Customers can also access regulatory documents, and view invoicing and order status. Customers can view all web pricing or request a quote after logging in. New customers without an account can also view some pricing, or request a quote by inserting their contact information.
  • ChemPoint.com, a portal designed to foster connections between suppliers and buyers. For suppliers, ChemPoint is designed to help them find, engage and retain customers on a large scale through demand-creation programs. For buyers, ChemPoint organizes content on available specialty products and related technical and safety information to assist in formulating end products.

Steve Martinez, Univar Solutions

Online capabilities enhance and extend our ability to meet customers where they expect and need us. Whether it is through our traditional channels, or now through our expanded digital commerce footprint, we are meeting customers where they want to buy, how they want to buy and when they want to buy.


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

Martinez: Focus on the customer, identify key internal processes, challenge the status quo, then iterate, iterate, iterate! In my experience, the best efforts start small with a focus on learning. Successful teams are relentlessly focused on a key learning objective and build scope to eliminate distractions and edge cases. We have a phrase that serves us well “race to pilot.” This means that we identify a problem and use the most expedient way to test a proposed solutions. This is done prior to big investments in technology. It might now seem glamorous, but a “quick and dirty” pilot will help identify incorrect assumptions and highlight missed considerations. Be prepared to launch quickly, fail fast and adjust for success.

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

Martinez: Managing demand in times of constrained supply has required our teams to create new ways to service our customers. Our centralized business platform enables Flexible Order Fulfilment, which includes capabilities to optimize inventory and better serve customer demand. With the use of sensors – leveraging the Internet of Things – we are able capture signals in our network to provide real-time data and insights.

All of this data informs an Optimized Network that allows us to allocate product and inventory where it’s most needed and effective. That is a capability especially important during times of supply uncertainty. When we have transparency in operations provided by sensors, informed by artificial intelligence, and connected to partners through API’s, we are able to engage in collaborative relationships with our customers and suppliers, improving the data value chain from end-to-end.

DC360: Looking back over the past few years, is there anything you wish you had done differently in ecommerce? 

Martinez: We are proud and excited about the pace at which we are making progress in the chemicals industry. In digital, however, one can never move fast enough! Customer demand is a great sign that your efforts are working. We are continually learning about new ways to serve our customers based on their feedback. This feedback helps us learn about market needs and evolve our capabilities. Without a doubt the pandemic accelerated our efforts. The old Chinese proverb comes to mind: “The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. The second best time is now.”


DC360: What excites you the most in new digital commerce technology? 

Martinez: We serve very diverse markets. It is imperative that we develop experiences and content that are relevant to our customers and not cookie cutter. Relevant content is king in our interconnected world. Search engines results, what our smart home device tells us, or what is fed in the latest social media algorithm, often drive our actions. Digital commerce technology allows us to expand our reach.

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