Our Methodology: The X eCommerce System

While there’s plenty of jargon, complexity, and hucksters, there is a proven method for running your DigitalBranch. We’re calling it the X eCommerce System – it’s a detailed, sales-focused approach to driving a sustainable, digital business.

“I Don’t Know What I Don’t Know”

Digital is a huge challenge and opportunity for industrial distributors – but where to start? After we kept hearing “we don’t know what we don’t know,” we developed a system that every distributor can put in place. Built on our years of experience of building profitable digital businesses, the X eCommerce System is a seven-point approach to creating an exceptional digital experience. It covers the information and resources you need to drive your DigitalBranch – from your website technology, product data, design, and analysis – all centered around providing a great Customer Experience.

XES

All work that we do follows this methodology – this systematic approach to building and driving your DigitalBranch, ensuring that each component is addressed and optimized.

Roadmap: Launching Your DigitalBranch

Phase 1: Priorities, Plans and Roadmap

Define your business and technology needs for the site. B2B organizations are complex as a result of customers, ordering processes, product mix and internal systems. As a result of this complexity,B2B companies need to build a digital customer experience that includes:

  • ERP Integration: this will likely represent a significant cost, both initially and in the long run. Tight integration between your eCommerce system and ERP is necessary to ensure real-time inventory availability across warehouses, pricing per customer contract, order status, order history and more are presented accurately and consistently for each customer.
  • Simplifying complex products and product relationships
  • Translating complex customer ordering processes online
  • Extending the sales and service relationships online

Phase 2: Technical Selection

If you visit each of the leading vendors’ websites or listen to their webinars you will realize how similar the vendors sound. You might be confused at the end of those presentations. Most of the enterprise eCommerce vendors have been around for a while and have robust capabilities. However, there are some essential differences between the vendors that could affect your decision. First, understand what out-of-the-box is and what is customized. Often, the system demo-ed is a sales tool that has been heavily customized. After that, you’ll want to understand the key differentiators:

  • Technology / Architecture:
    • Java versus Microsoft
    • ERP integration (do they have experience with your ERP?)
  • Search and Navigation
  • Personalization / Segmentation
  • Product Information Management (PIM / PCM)
  • Business Tools
  • Time to Market
  • Roadmap / Innovation
  • My Account features and functions
  • Ability to implement your technical, UX and designs requirement
  • Price

Phase 3: User Experience & Design

Start creating the user experience and design of your site. This should be a data-driven exercise, drawing from what you know about your customers and your business objectives and the capacity of your selected platform.

 

If you have the time and capability, now is a time to do a Journey Mapping exercise to articulate who your customer personas are and how your website can best serve them. Apply knowledge you have from your current site, competitive analysis and best practices to create a customer-centric UX and design. Strong technology and tight ERP integration is important; however, it must work hand in hand with a clean and intuitive UX and design.

 

Take the time to present your customers with a strong B2B online experience around the following areas of your site:

Methodology color info chart

Phase 4: Implementation

After you’ve selected a platform vendor who is experienced and understands your business requirements, then you begin what will be a lengthy and expensive phase: implementation. You will need to have resources dedicated to project management of the site implementation and to test the site. This can be internal or external, but it should be in addition to the actual implementation partner(s).

Phase 5: Testing

Before your site is ready to go to the public, now is the time to test your site. With a small group of users – from your internal team, with select customers, or with a hired pool of testers, you can reveal usability issues and opportunities to provide clearer pathways, better design or clarifying information. You will want to watch as your users complete some of your site’s key tasks. This includes:

  • Search and find products
  • Checkout process
  • Product detail page
  • Registration

Phase 6: Launch

Now that you finally have the site implemented, how do you get customers adopting (using) the site? As they say, this is not: “if you build it, they will come.” For this phase, you will need to give people the information and reason to be excited to visit your site. This includes:

  • Internal training and communications
  • Sales staff incentives
  • External communications and promotions
  • PR and marketing
  • Customer service (e.g. email, phone and live chat).
  • Start Search Engine Optimization to drive organic search traffic to your site

We outline a framework for customer adoption in the Analytics chapter.

Phase 7: Ongoing Website Optimization

The benefit of your DigitalBranch is you can see in real time how your business is performing and why. Looking at your business plan, how is your site lining up with expectation? Looking at your scorecard (in the next chapter) how is the site performing? Drawing from customer testing, surveys and analytics, where can the site be improved?

  • What tools can be implemented to support an excellent customer experience? For example: live chat, email marketing or onsite notifications
  • What user experience can be tweaked to make it easier for customers to find products and checkout? (We go into this in more detail in the Product Content chapter)
  • What design changes can make your site easier to scan quickly for information?
  • What content and marketing campaigns (email, print, SEO, social media) can help educate, inform, delight and drive your customers to purchase?
  • Create a calendar to plan marketing and content activities
  • Test and learn from new campaigns and initiatives

Phase 8: Driving New Business

We think of this like building a house before inviting new guests in. Once your house is built, the trim is done, the fixtures are installed, the floor is finished and the pictures are hung, then you invite new people over. Having implemented, launched and optimized your site, now you are ready to start focusing on driving new traffic to your website. Start with a plan: define your target audiences, budget and ROI. From there, create audience-specific content (webinars, landing pages, email and ad campaigns). Then develop creative ad campaigns (PPC, media and social media). Finally, launch, manage and monitor your ad campaign.