Carrie Lathrop, a veteran of both B2B and B2C ecommerce, is the director of ecommerce capabilities at Essity, a brand manufacturer of hygiene and health products. At the EnvisionB2B Conference & Exhibition in Chicago next month, she will speak on a panel covering how manufacturers and distributors collaborate online.
In this Q&A article, she shares her views on critical trends in B2B commerce.
Digital Commerce 360: What is driving B2B companies like Essity to expand online?
Carrie Lathrop: Our customers — we need to meet our customers where they are, when they want, and how they want. It’s all about evolving to meet their needs and make it easier than ever to engage with us, both online and offline.
DC360: What are your biggest internal or and external barriers?
Lathrop: Breaking down silos and traditional ways of working in both. Internally and externally, you need to be open to change and being flexible – there also has to be some level of ‘smart risk-taking’ because you might not have all the answers, but by the time you feel 100% comfortable, you’re behind.
DC360: What are the chief gains you’re realizing?
Lathrop: We are gaining sales and efficiencies by strengthening our distributor partnerships with ecommerce expertise and leaning into an omnichannel approach to drive our mutual business. We do this by delivering personalized, consistent, and effortless experiences that are holistically coordinated, ultimately providing the end customer with a seamless and integrated path-to-purchase throughout all offline AND online touchpoints.
DC360: What is the most valuable piece of advice you have on how to launch online B2B sales or increase them?
Lathrop: Always keep your end customers’ needs at the center of your approach – as a manufacturer, this will keep you aligned with your distributors’ needs as well. It’s also important to understand that the lines between B2B and B2C have been blurred for quite a while now – what someone expects in their personal omnichannel shopping journey, they now expect at work.
DC360: Regarding COVID-19 and supply chain disruption, what is the biggest adaption your company has made?
Lathrop: Agility in our forecasting and responsiveness. We have all learned a lot over the past two years and the big takeaway is you need to plan for the unplanned/unexpected. Plan B is no longer good enough – you need Plan C, D, etc.!
DC360: Looking back over the past few years, is there anything you wish you had done differently in ecommerce?
Lathrop: While I wouldn’t pinpoint one single thing I should have done differently, the main thing that keeps me up at night is speed and staying ahead/on top of emerging technologies – and doing so without going after every “shiny penny” out there. There needs to be a healthy balance of exploration and optimizing the foundation. If anything, I would say years ago I probably leaned a little too hard into those shiny pennies vs. staying focused on fundamentals.
DC360: What excites you the most in new digital commerce technology?
Lathrop: Exactly that – the newness! Every day being challenging in a different way. Ultimately, I thrive when building new capabilities, forging new paths, integrating new tech, and defining new ways of working keep me enthusiastic and engaged. What makes me the most excited is bringing technology and people together. New technology means nothing if you don’t have the structure and resources to adopt and integrate!
Carrie Lathrop will speak at EnvisionB2B on Friday, June 10, during the panel, “How Manufacturers and Distributors Collaborate Online.”
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