Ash Trasi is director of information technology, digital experience, for web and ecommerce at Illumina Inc., a life sciences tools manufacturer focused on sequencing- and array-based products and services for genetic and genomic analysis.
Trasi is a speaker in the “Why We Chose Headless” session on headless commerce technology June 21 at the EnvisionB2B 2023 Conference & Exhibition in Chicago.
DC 360: What is driving B2B companies like Illumina to expand online?
Trasi: Digital transformation is a key factor and a driver in our world today. Digital transformation may mean different things to different companies and leaders, but in the world of B2B businesses it means opening avenues to customers and making it easier for them to do business. To some, online expansion may mean having a website through which customers can transact, but online commerce is way beyond just a direct site to transact through.
Opportunities such as e-procurement (including punchout, hosted catalog), vendor managed inventory, or even point of sale systems are some other channels through which customers can and may even prefer to interact with us.
DC 360: What are your biggest internal and/or external barriers?
Trasi: To achieve channel adoption to a level that we want is a very hard task. Many of our customers have adopted our online channels quite organically. Some of our other customers still prefer calling in and talking to a real person in customer service or sales. It’s a shift in mindset, and to create that kind of paradigm shift our omnichannel experience has to be spot-on and geared in every way to make our customers’ job easier and create a delightful customer experience.
We are getting there.
DC 360: What are the chief gains you’re realizing?
Trasi: Mainly operational efficiency for our internal customer care and sales team. Since a lot of transactions have shifted to our online ecommerce channel, our very talented internal teams can now focus on their real jobs instead of being order-takers for our customers. Self-service is another win for us and our customers, since they can now find all their information, from orders to upcoming shipments to invoices and quotes, all online without any kind of hand-holding from our internal customer service teams.
DC 360: What is the most valuable piece of advice you have on how to launch online B2B sales or increase them?
Trasi: Prior to even selecting and launching an online sales channel, first know your customers. It is important to understand what kind of service they would like to get from you. What are their pain points? Do they want an omnichannel experience to do business with you? These are some of the critical questions one must answer before embarking on the journey of creating any kind of a B2B online sales channel.
Also, you should know your products and offerings. Can you bring your entire product portfolio online? Or are there more opportunities to transact low-dollar, high-volume products online while keeping a more personalized, white-glove experience for high-dollar, more expensive products via your sales force. These considerations will drive what kind of online experience you will end up offering your customers.
DC 360: Regarding COVID-19 and supply chain disruption, what is the biggest adaption your company has made?
Trasi: The supply chain disruption caused during the pandemic is truly an unfortunate sequence of events that no company has control over completely. However, through our ecommerce channel we have been able to take a few measures to build customer trust by providing robust and valuable content. We provide accurate information via our “Available to Promise” capability so that customers can make quick decisions about their inventory and purchasing cadences — self-service capabilities that again build customer trust and confidence and provide them with information that helps them make smarter and better purchasing decisions.
These are just some of the capabilities that we have made available to combat the disruption caused by supply chain issues.
DC 360: Looking back over the past few years, is there anything you wish you had done differently in ecommerce?
Trasi: If there is one thing I would change, it would be going to headless commerce earlier. Although we have implemented headless commerce far ahead of 90% of the companies in our space, we struggled a lot with monolithic systems that could have been avoided by earlier adoption.
DC 360: What excites you the most about new digital commerce technology?
Trasi: The modular nature of these latest software tools that provide ecommerce capabilities is by far the best thing that digital commerce has finally adopted. Headless, RESTful application programming interfaces have been there for decades. This architectural shift from monolithic systems to modular, API-first, composable and headless constructs is very exciting now for any professional in the ecommerce space.
DC 360: Going forward, what do you see as the most significant commerce challenges and opportunities?
Trasi: Channel adoption by customers remains my No. 1 challenge to solve for. It’s not easy to bring about a mindset change in people who are used to conducting business a certain way and ask them to completely abandon their old ways and adopt new ones.
But with this challenge comes the opportunity of creating and implementing technology that delights customers, wins their confidence and trust, and provides them with content that is meaningful and actionable. Introducing artificial intelligence and machine learning in our systems is the next frontier in providing that customer experience, which will pull our customers towards digital commerce like a magnet.
That is easier said than done, but I like the challenge, so let’s go!
Ash Trasi will speak at EnvisionB2B 2023 in the session, “Why We Chose Headless Commerce,” Wednesday, June 21.
Jim Daly is a DC360 contributing editor covering digital business technology and strategy.
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