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Brian LittlefieldDirector, Marketing for the Industrial and Automotive Segment
Louis DeJianne (not pictured) Director, Consumer Goods, Apparel and RetailUPS
Customized pricing and in-depth product details are among the key elements of business-to-business (B2B) ecommerce experiences, and B2B players are differentiating themselves in these areas. UPS’ Brian Littlefield, director of marketing for the industrial and automotive segment, and Louis DeJianne, director of consumer goods, apparel and retail, spoke with eMarketer’s Maria Minsker about these unique challenges.
eMarketer: There has there been a recent surge in B2B organizations shifting toward ecommerce. What’s causing it?
Louis DeJianne: The main driver is the way people are buying in the B2C [business-to-consumer] world. They obviously enjoy it, they find it easy and they find it efficient. Now they’re looking for the same solutions in a B2B purchasing environment. From a B2B perspective, ecommerce frees up the sales force for new sales. Repeat purchases are very easy to execute on a B2B ecommerce platform.
eMarketer: What are some hurdles that B2B companies have to overcome when it comes to building an ecommerce platform?
Brian Littlefield: Say you have a business that has 100 employees. There’s a person there who is authorized to complete purchases and he or she wants to consolidate the buying process. Businesses want to see [personalized] prices and transactions consolidated to include everybody in the 100-person company that might have ordered something that day or that week. The number of SKUs in the B2B world is also exponentially higher than in the B2C world. The customization that’s required is definitely complex.
eMarketer: Do B2B organizations have different types of challenges depending on whether they’re manufacturers, distributors or wholesalers?
Littlefield: Definitely. Manufacturers have agreements with distributors that they don’t want to disintermediate, so manufacturers look at potential new product lines that aren’t sold through their traditional distributor channels.
Distributors, meanwhile, are all about having the right product portfolio. Buyers can very quickly look at three different companies that sell similar products and make a decision based on quality, availability and price. To compete, distributors have to maintain a broad array of products and provide visibility into these products online.
eMarketer: What are some of the key features that companies should be aware of when building a B2B ecommerce experience?
Littlefield: In the B2B world, there is a greater need for additional detail around product. In an industrial scenario, a company might be buying a component for a piece of machinery. They need specific product details about size and fit. They might need to see it rotate 360 degrees. It’s not just size and color. Back-end support is sometimes even more critical than the actual part itself—buyers need to make sure that it’s not only the right part but that there is also warranty information.
eMarketer: Where is the B2B space in terms of maturity of ecommerce implementations overall?
Littlefield: It’s very much in its early stages. I wouldn’t call it infancy, because there are B2B companies that have been transacting through ecommerce for 20 years now. As far as the mainstream goes, however, we are still in the very early stages. B2B ecommerce is growing exponentially year over year, and there’s opportunity for organizations to differentiate themselves by getting there quicker.
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