Union, New Jersey-based Kalustyan Corp. is known for using a subzero “cryomilling” process that retains volatile oils and moisture in herbs and spices to enhance their taste, texture and appearance.
But providing all the product specifications buyers need from multiple documents — including sources that verify the origin of the “ethically and sustainably sourced” products Kalustyan offers — has been a challenge for engaging customers.
In October, Kalustyan said it had opened an online storefront on the Knowde.com marketplace platform that digitized all its product data, making it more useful for the seasonings producer to effectively display images, details, and supporting documents for its herbs and spices; in turn, the storefront made product data more accessible for its customers to find what they need.
“Our Knowde storefront gives us new tools to reach and engage more effectively with current and future customers,” Serge Karakash, Kalustyan’s chief operating officer, said when announcing the storefront’s launch.
Since early September, 20 suppliers of chemicals, ingredients or polymers have launched Knowde storefronts, joining the more than 8,000 suppliers selling on the Knowde marketplace. The newcomers range from chemicals industry giant BASF — which has opened two storefronts, including one for its Europe-based specialty chemicals unit — to specialty suppliers like Ecomass Technologies, which develops, manufactures, and markets “high-density engineered thermoplastics” designed to provide the weight and physical properties of metal but with the design and production flexibility of injection-molded plastics.
“We are continuously collaborating with customers to develop high-gravity compounds for new industries, markets and applications,” says Robert Durkee, Ecomass’s president. He adds that the new online storefront provides Ecomass customers a better resource to “find our products, request documents, order samples, and connect with our experts to get answers to their technical questions.”
Searching among BASF’s broad product scope
BASF’s storefront features products for multiple industries, including:
- personal care
- food and nutrition
- health care and pharmaceuticals
- paints and coatings
- automotive and transportation;
- printing and packaging
- building and construction
- agricultural and feed
- household, industrial, and institutional cleaning products.
“Increasingly, customers are demanding a better online buying experience,” Tobias Dratt, president, Global Business Services for BASF, said in a Knowde press release. “One of Knowde’s key features is its powerful search capabilities, enabling customers to explore materials by chemistry, application, function, and technical properties, including a focus on sustainable ingredients.”
Paul do Forno, managing director at Deloitte Digital, says Knowde is set up to provide a unique way of looking at product information that helps buyers search among multiple chemicals and attributes to support product discovery. “It’s a unique thing they’re trying to solve,” he says. “If you combine these two chemicals, you create this product.”
Moving toward more online shopping carts
Knowde also provides software that lets storefront operators accept and process online sales transactions. But for now, only about 5% have activated that ecommerce option, Knode CEO Ali Amin-Javaheri says. He notes that the overall evolution of ecommerce in retail and other industries has been far slower in the industries Knowde serves, where buyers often must decide among chemicals and other products with an average number of 40 to 60 attributes.
He adds that many chemical companies — even if they expose their product catalog online — reveal “very little information about their products — so if as a customer you go there, there’s very little value.”
Amin-Javaheri says Knowde is getting chemicals suppliers and other sellers to at least go digital in how they present their products and engage customers. That kind of digital strategy, he adds, is the first step companies need to take to get beyond more traditional methods of doing business, including EDI transactions that many companies these days consider a form of ecommerce.
“What we’re trying to enable is true ecommerce, but it’s so new to this industry, most companies are not prepared to turn on the online shopping cart,” he says, adding: “So let’s start by just exposing your product catalog online. That’s a good step.”
He adds that by digitizing, organizing and indexing product data, companies have been able to increase exposure through Google to generate more traffic to their marketplace storefronts.
Knowde was founded in 2017 and has raised about $90.8 million in funding from investment firms, including Coatue, Sequoia Capital, Refactor Capital, Bee Partners, and Sound Ventures, according to Crunchbase.
Paul Demery is a Digital Commerce 360 contributing editor covering B2B digital commerce technology and strategy. [email protected].
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