Q&A: B2B sellers must find that one digital commerce feature that resonates with change-resistant customers and gets them to buy online, says Gene Carbonara, vice president of ecommerce and digital at US Foods. He will speak on engaging online customers at EnvisionB2B in Chicago in June.


Gene Carbonara, vice president, e-commerce and digital, US Foods Inc.

As vice president of ecommerce and digital at US Foods Inc., Gene Carbonara manages the digital commerce strategy for a company that provides more than 400,000 food stock-keeping units, plus non-food items, sourced from approximately 6,000 suppliers. The company, which posted $34 billion in 2022 revenue, has 70 distribution facilities and a fleet of 6,500 trucks.

Carbonara will speak at the “How We Upgraded Our Tech — and Made Gains” session on June 21 during the EnvisionB2B Conference & Exhibition in Chicago. Here he shares some of his insights on ecommerce and how it fits into US Foods’ overall growth strategy.

DC 360: What is driving B2B companies like US Foods to expand online?

Carbonara: For US Foods, ecommerce is less of an expansion and more of a continuation of our go-to market strategy. MOXē is our latest ecommerce platform and is helping accelerate our ecommerce penetration faster than ever before. Another area where we are seeing rapid expansion is our endless-aisle program called US Foods Direct. Customers have really embraced ordering these unique products, and we’re seeing material growth and operational savings.

DC 360: What are your biggest internal and/or external barriers?

Carbonara: The biggest opportunity for us is to get customers to reconsider digital. Many customers and sellers are resistant to change. I believe there is a value proposition for all of our customers. Whether it’s cost control with our inventory, bill-pay or simple ordering and delivery visibility, it’s just a matter of finding that one feature that resonates with them.


DC 360: What are the chief gains youre realizing?

Carbonara: We have several features that facilitate a complete and accurate order every time but also drive market-share growth. We’re seeing a significant number of cases being added from our merchandising efforts. As it turns out, when you have the easiest ordering experience, people order more.

DC 360: What is the most valuable piece of advice you have on how to launch online B2B sales or increase them?

Carbonara: Organizations need to develop comprehensive journeys that engage customers wherever they are and make conversions easy. Engaging a customer on any one channel will not move the needle consistently.

DC 360: Regarding COVID-19 and supply chain disruption, what is the biggest adaptation your company has made?

Carbonara: We’re more transparent than we have ever been about our inventory levels and supply chain disruptions. Customers appreciate it when you share information with them as soon as possible because it gives them time to react.

DC 360: Looking back over the past few years, is there anything you wish you had done differently in ecommerce?

Carbonara: As ordering plummeted in the pandemic, we took the opportunity to focus on developing our long-term strategy. Some of the key business elements needed to bring the strategy to life have taken longer than expected to deliver, and it would have been beneficial to start them earlier (e.g., product content).


DC 360: What excites you the most in new digital commerce technology?

Carbonara: Our new ordering platform MOXē stands for making operator experiences easy. We have more real-time customer feedback and analytics than ever before, and we are using that to feed our agile product teams. Those teams are innovating on features and delivering real value faster than ever before. In addition, we continue to build AI and automation into ecommerce. We are making great strides in complete and accurate orders that will act as a lead-in to predictive ordering, which will help us protect and gain market share.

DC 360: Going forward, what do you see as the most significant commerce challenges and opportunities?

Carbonara: In our industry, the technology landscape is crowded and complicated. One of our biggest challenges is to make it easy for our most straightforward customers while having robust capabilities for our largest, most sophisticated customers. The biggest opportunity for us is to service this wide range of customers in an elegant way that feels accessible to everyone.

Jim Daly is a Digital Commerce 360 contributing editor covering B2B digital commerce technology and strategy.  

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