MSC Industrial Supply Co.'s Mark Pickett, vice president of cross-channel growth, says B2B buyers increasingly expect a fast, transparent and personalized online experience from suppliers.

Implementing an effective digital commerce technology strategy starts with realizing that B2B customers who shop on a company’s website are the same people who shop via other channels. That means B2B sellers need to have consistent messaging across all channels, according to Mark Pickett, vice president of cross-channel growth at distributor MSC Industrial Supply Co.

Mark Pickett, vice president, cross-channel growth, MSC Industrial Supply Co.

“It’s not up to me to decide how a customer engages us,” Pickett said during a June 9 general session presentation at the EnvisionB2B event held last week in Chicago.

Pickett added that B2B sellers must realize omnichannel has become the standard, not the exception, in the B2B ecommerce world. To underscore his point, Pickett cited McKinsey & Co. research that found B2B buyers like having the option of engaging across channels. They like using in-person, remote and digital self-serve options, depending on the situation.

Pickett said MSC’s customers expect the distributor of about 2 million industrial products to be available on several channels and offer a unified experience across them. That means it’s essential for MSC to present consistency in product displays, offerings and customer service.

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However, achieving that consistency does not happen easily, Pickett said. It requires breaking down silos, so all parts of a B2B seller’s organization are aware of what the others are telling customers and potential customers. It’s no longer acceptable, for example, for the marketing and sales departments never to talk to each other.

MSC distributes metalworking and maintenance, repair and operations supplies to industrial customers.

Quality online experiences matter

But just offering omnichannel options is not enough, Pickett said. Many of MSC’s customers are small businesses, Pickett said. And they expect their B2B online experiences to be as good as those they get when they shop online as consumers. That means, among other things, offering them online personalization to make their browsing more efficient and more enjoyable.

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Pickett said MSC’s ongoing digital transformation goals include driving decreased cart abandonment, improved lead management, increased cross-selling and upselling, increased customer retention and improved seller productivity.

Research shows suppliers that provide outstanding digital experience to buyers are more than twice as likely to become primary suppliers than sellers that offer poor experiences. Those offering exceptional digital experiences are also 70% more likely to become primary suppliers than those offering fair online experiences.

He added that customers want more: speed, transparency and expertise. He says B2B sellers must offer a full suite of communication options — including live chat — that the best B2C retailers provide.

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More about MSC

Earlier this month, MSC acquired Engman-Taylor Co., a Menomonee Falls, Wisconsin-based metalworking tools and supplies distributor.

Under the agreement, Engman-Taylor will continue to do business under its current name after becoming an MSC-owned company. The company’s president and owner, Rick Star, will continue to lead the approximately 90-employee business. The acquisition is expected to be roughly neutral to MSC’s fiscal 2022 earnings and slightly accretive to fiscal 2023 earnings, MSC reported.

In April, MSC hired its first chief digital officer. It named to the role John Hill, who most recently led digital transformation at workwear manufacturer Carhartt. He will lead MSC’s ecommerce and overall digital operations. Hill also served in executive roles at such companies as Grainger, General Motors and IBM.

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At MSC, ecommerce sales of $523.2 million accounted for 60.7% of total sales of $862.5 million for the fiscal second quarter ended Feb. 26, 2022. MSC’s corporate name is MSC Industrial Direct Co. Inc., but it generally goes by the name of its main business unit, MSC Industrial Supply Co.

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