6 examples of ecommerce success in manufacturing and distribution

Article updated on 6/14/21. Efficiency, customer engagement and revenue are three reasons manufacturers, wholesalers and distributors are finding that ecommerce can help grow and retain customers.

Author:

Optimizely Team

The truth is, most manufacturers and wholesalers have realized they have to evolve to survive. They’re just not always sure where to get started. So, we thought we’d share some stories of manufacturers and distributors who have made transformational changes within their businesses through ecommerce. But first…

Key takeaways:

  • B2B ecommerce is radically different from B2C – but manufacturers still stand to drive success and increased revenues with a robust ecommerce platform
  • Manufacturing companies of all types, from HVAC and auto parts to lumber and pet food, can leverage the benefits of ecommerce
  • Optimizely delivers a seamless digital experience platform that will give your manufacturing business a competitive edge

What is B2B ecommerce?

B2B ecommerce, or business-to-business electronic commerce, refers to online business conducted between two or more companies. B2B ecommerce occurs through an online sales portal or channel and involves the sale of products or services from one company to another.

B2B ecommerce is not to be confused with its distant cousin, B2C ecommerce. B2B is far more complex. A B2B site needs to accommodate the unique challenges of business-to-business selling, including complex workflows, customer-specific pricing, multiple personas and multi-site instances.

It’s more than just a website. It’s not just about shopping carts or online transactions. Given the areas of impact within your business, B2B ecommerce is transformational. It’s about bringing your company into the future.

The benefits of B2B ecommerce for manufacturers

Many manufacturers and distributors have been in business for more than 75 years. We have lots of conversations with companies that simply aren’t prepared for digital transformation yet. So we’re no stranger to hearing things like:

  • We don’t sell to consumers, so we don’t need to sell online
  • In our 75-plus years of business, we’ve never done it that way, and we’re doing just fine
  • Drive sales? That’s what our salespeople are for!
  • Our business is about relationships…websites take that personalization away!

When you’ve built a successful business that’s been around for decades, it’s understandable that you might not want to shake things up. But the businesses that are able to see where the industry is headed are the ones that will survive and beat the competition. If you’ve been in business for the past 75 years, think of ecommerce as the way to serve your customers for the next 75 years.

When we analyze the results that our manufacturing and distribution customers have seen since incorporating ecommerce into their businesses, we tend to see the benefits of ecommerce related to three overarching categories:

  • Efficiency
  • Engagement
  • Revenue

With the right ecommerce strategy and a strong B2B ecommerce platform to build that strategy on, manufacturers and wholesalers can see transformational business results in the form of higher efficiencies, more engagement and increased revenue.

Efficiency

It’s likely that your team is getting tied up completing tasks like checking order status or filing a PO for a new order. These are all tasks that could be automated by ecommerce for manufacturers. Your customers want and expect easy access to their account information, and your team wants to free up their time to focus on more consultative tasks and relationship building. With ecommerce, your team and customers have new tools and solutions to get their jobs done better than ever before.

Here are four ways you can drive efficiency with ecommerce:

1. Reduce your costs to serve your customers

By providing rich administrative tools and capabilities, your team is freed up and your total cost of ownership is lowered.

2. Reduce the cost of acquiring new customers

Ecommerce enables you to attract new customers through digital marketing and provide tools to channel partners in order to best identify new customers.

3. Increase customer self-serve activities

You can save your CSRs time and cost by enabling your customers to self-serve through customer portals. With ecommerce, they can check order status or history, complete payments, get quotes and have access to rich product and technical product content.

4. Capture higher margin product sales

Digital commerce allows you to provide a seamless and systematic method to market higher margin, broader catalog products that customers typically buy from other sources, or even your competitors.

Engagement

As we know, in today’s world, anything less than an Amazon-like experience is not going to cut it. Seamless digital experiences are the expectation. If you don’t deliver the experiences your customers want and expect, your competition will. With B2B ecommerce, you can deliver a better brand experience for your customers, partners and potential customers.

Here are two ways you can drive engagement with B2B Ecommerce:

1. Increase digital engagement

Drive persona-specific digital engagement across critical buyers, influencers and channels. Plus, reach them in their moment of relevance, whether they’re in the field or behind a desk, to drive more revenue and efficiency.

2. Drive online channel migration

With a new channel, you and your team are now able to serve as strategic guides to assist with channel migration from offline to online while reporting KPIs to measuring success and identify areas for improvement.

Revenue

Finally, there are a number of benefits B2B ecommerce can have on your bottom line: revenue. Moving your business online means you can meet your aggressive sales goals by opening new channels, addressing new markets and providing data-driven recommendations to your current customers. Here are four ways you can drive revenue with ecommerce for manufacturing:

1. Retain customers

Make it easier for your customers to do business with you, and enable them to engage with you in new ways across new channels and devices.

2. Increase and acquire new customers

With ecommerce, you can find customers like never before. When you are present and findable online, and you deliver rich product information and compelling content, new customers can find you – and you can grow your market share.

3. Increase revenue per customer

Beyond new and retained customers, you can also grow wallet share by providing intelligent merchandising and search capabilities, personalized experiences and tools to increase conversion rates, quick order, repeat orders and cross-sell, upsell.

4. Increase revenue per product

In addition to increasing revenue per customer, you can also get more out of your products by providing superior merchandising and data-driven recommendations for next-best product, and for configuring products online.

B2B ecommerce is simply big business. In fact, according to Statistica, business-to-business online sales are expected to reach $1.2 trillion in the U.S. in 2021. It’s clear there are benefits far beyond a simple website when it comes to B2B ecommerce. But how should you approach such a huge business transformation? The best way to learn is by example…

Examples of ecommerce success in B2B

Cleaver-Brooks puts customers at the center of their universe

Founded in 1929, Cleaver-Brooks is a complete boiler room solutions provider that helps businesses run better every day. Cleaver-Brooks develops hot water and steam generation products aimed at integrating and optimizing the total boiler/burner/controls system to maximize energy efficiency and reliability.

By listening to the market and their customer base, Cleaver-Brooks knew they needed to get more solutions and tools in place to take their business into the future. With ambitious aftermarket growth goals and a dedication to going the extra mile for customers, the company voyaged into ecommerce.

Prior to ecommerce, Cleaver-Brooks’ rep network was their sole channel for parts sales and estimates. While the reps were doing a great job, Cleaver-Brooks recognized that they were only addressing about 25% of the addressable market. They wanted to incorporate new channels that would allow them to target more prospects.

To grow their aftermarket business, beat the competition and meet the needs of a changing buyer, they needed a robust ecommerce website.

Cleaver-Brooks’ ecommerce site enables customers to:

  • Find specific part numbers
  • Access inventory, custom pricing and other information
  • Easily order products online
  • Leverage “Find a Representative” tools to identify the closest Cleaver-Brooks representative partner
  • Quickly filter through product information on product detail pages

Since incorporating ecommerce, Cleaver-Brooks has seen a steady growth of adoption and an increase in returning customers to the site. Customers are far more efficient now that they have access to tools that enable them to self-serve.

Amerhart goes beyond the order

Family owned and founded in 1940, Amerhart is a Midwest wholesale distributor of lumber and building materials, including decking, engineered wood products, plywood and siding. Amerhart goes beyond the order by delivering exceptional customer service every step of the way.

Amerhart realized their customers’ expectations were changing, the workforce was getting younger, and competitors were investing time and resources in ecommerce. The company set out to enable their customers to easily access their account, order and invoice information.

Amerhart’s site includes:

  • Customer-specific pricing
  • Promotions engine
  • Personalization
  • Multiple delivery location capabilities
  • Intuitive admin console
  • Account access

For Amerhart, ecommerce isn’t just a project. It’s a paradigm shift. Before incorporating ecommerce, Amerhart lacked visibility into how customers engaged with them online. Now, the Amerhart team is empowered to make data-driven decisions based on self-service events and transactions. 

Beyond the sales team, ecommerce impacts purchasers, buyers and operational staff. Every person on the team is able to do their jobs more efficiently. Since incorporating Optimizely’s Digital Experience Platform, Amerhart has deployed about 50% of their product catalog online with more than 880 registered users.

Consolidated supply humanized ecommerce

Established in 1928, Consolidated Supply Co. is a family-owned plumbing, heating and water works wholesale distributor headquartered in Portland, Oregon. Consolidated Supply serves professional plumbers and utility contractors via 17 branch locations in the Pacific Northwest.

Consolidated Supply recognized that without a digital branch, customers would gravitate to competitors that had ecommerce websites. They also considered the generational impact on purchasing. Customers were getting younger. They wanted to make it easier for customers to do business with them and aimed to improve their own team’s productivity.

On consolidatedsupply.com, customers can now take advantage of 24/7 access to the catalog and have access to specific pricing and inventory availability. Less than one year after launch, Consolidated Supply doubled the number of online registered users. In order to ensure success, Consolidated Supply hired two digital engagement specialists committed to improving the online experience.

Behler-Young builds a strong future

Family-owned since 1926, Behler-Young is a wholesale distributor of HVAC/R products. The company represents hundreds of manufacturers and serves thousands of customers throughout Michigan and Northwest Ohio, with 18 branches and a 140,000 square foot distribution center in Kensington Park, Michigan.

Behler-Young set out to give customers more capabilities to serve themselves, integrate technology systems and generate new leads and new business.

The Behler-Young website features ease of access to account information, enhanced search functionality and online ordering. The site is fully integrated to Behler-Young’s ERP so the company can deliver a seamless user experience. Customers can order products, create lists, cross-reference their order history with their invoices and register for training, all in the same place.

Macpek drives digital engagement

Founded in 1974 and based in Quebec, Canada, Macpek is a leading heavy-duty parts and car wheels distributor. Macpek has more than 400,000 feet of warehousing space and inventory to keep customers on the road. With highly qualified staff at 15 locations, Macpek is in constant pursuit of delivering the highest quality customer service possible. In order to continue delivering highly satisfying customer service, Macpek transformed its business with ecommerce.

Macpek invested in ecommerce for many reasons. A shortage of talent meant the company needed to find a way to augment its teams’ processes and make employees more efficient. Customers wanted to research and make purchases on their own time. The Macpek team was spending hours cold-calling to attract new business and completing mundane customer tasks like checking order status. Finally, they had aggressive goals to create better brand awareness and attract new customers.

Their ecommerce website features an intuitive, modern customer experience with responsive design for mobile devices and tablets. The site handles quantity pricing with more than 63,000 price matrix combinations.

Overall, Macpek was looking to see its customer base grow and provide current customers with the digital tools that would enable them to do their jobs more efficiently. Since implementing Optimizely ecommerce tools, the company has seen an 86% increase in online revenue. Today, Macpek is opening three to four new accounts per day and sees an average of 8,000 website transactions per month.

Royal Canin builds a robust online presence

Royal Canin is a global pet food manufacturer established in 1986 and headquartered in southern France. They are just as obsessed with your pet as you are. This passion drives them to create highly nutritional food that’s formulated to make pets healthy.

Royal Canin knew that providing a robust, digital ecommerce platform was essential to growing their business. Customers were shifting to online purchasing, and they needed a better way to support their referral and direct sale business.

The company’s website handles B2B ecommerce requirements like complex pricing, integration with their existing CMS system, and a robust promotions engine, to name a few.

After one year of implementing Optimizely’s ecommerce solutions, Royal Canin saw a 54% increase in orders online. Ease of placing orders improved, order count increased, and the majority of orders shifted from phone to online. In fact, 70% of Royal Canin’s orders are now placed online.

B2B ecommerce for manufacturers: your solution is here

Can your manufacturing business benefit from making the move to ecommerce? Absolutely. But if the task of incorporating successful ecommerce into your company seems daunting, we’re here to help. With the digital experience platform from Optimizely, your B2B company can connect with more customers than ever before, delivering seamless, personalized experiences that attract and retain customers, and boost your bottom line.

Manufacturers and distributors like Cleaver-Brooks, Amerhart, Consolidated Supply, Behler-Young, Macpek and Royal Canin chose Optimizely as their ecommerce platform because it is built to handle the complexities of B2B. So, what can we do for your business?

Contact Optimizely today to learn more about our ecommerce solutions for manufacturers.