Episode 4: Introducing the FIRST B2B eCommerce Framework and System

Episode 4: Introducing the FIRST B2B eCommerce System

Episode 4: Introducing the FIRST B2B eCommerce Framework and System

In this podcast episode, Justin King introduces the X eCommerce System (XES), a new system and framework for looking at B2B eCommerce.

XES helps distributors and manufacturers understand the eCommerce ecosystem to grow their business and stay relevant in a digital market, identifying best practices and opportunities, so you have the power to make fast, clear, and forward-thinking decisions to drive your own digital business.

B2B eCommerce System (XES)

  • XES was developed by reverse-engineering what large distributors do.
  • It’s a system that enables you to think through how to build and operate your own eCommerce site.
  • The seven components critical to a successful digital business are: a plan, people, technology, product content, user experience, analytics, and operations. At the center of this system are your customers.
  • There are five stages in XES’ maturity model, enabling it to apply to every stage of your business: foundation, adoption, reposition, acquisition, and innovation.


Driving your own Digital Branch is critical for your company to stay relevant, and yet companies often don’t know where to start to embrace digital strategies and eCommerce. Through the X eCommerce System, you can identify the seven components critical to a successful digital business, and recognize at which stage in your digital journey you fall, while ensuring that your customer’s needs stay central to the process. Learn more about the XES in our new, free book, Digital Branch Secrets.

Full Transcript

Hey, this is Justin King, today we’re gonna focus on our new system and framework for looking at B2B eCommerce. It’s called the X eCommerce System (XES), and I hope you enjoy it. I’ve spent the last ten years working with some of the largest distributors and manufacturers in the world. But, I missed working with actual owners and decision makers, so I struck out on my own and created my own eCommerce agency. Now, I get the opportunity to work with actual owners of distributors and manufacturers, and we are doing amazing things together. Join me and follow along as I share eCommerce strategies to grow your business. My name is Justin King, and welcome to B2B eCommerce Secrets.

So, I can remember where all this started very clearly. I had just got done speaking and keynoting an association – an association of distributors and manufacturers. It was awesome, it was really amazing, I love speaking. The owner of a distributor approached me after I was done and said, “Listen, Justin, I believe you. I believe that to survive, we have to embrace digital, we have to embrace eCommerce. However, we just don’t know where to start. We don’t know what to do when, what technology to select, whom to hire, and how to manage this new channel.” He said, “I just don’t know what I don’t know about this stuff. I mean, I know my business, but when it comes to eCommerce and digital, I just don’t know what I don’t know.” And that simple phrase started a quest for me to build a system and a framework to help distributors and manufacturers understand this whole eCommerce ecosystem and to really help them through their digital transformation.

At B2X Partners, when we talk to distributors, we talk about the digital experience as a digital branch. Like your brick-and-mortar branches, your digital branch requires planning, resources, technology, and products. Unlike your physical branches, your digital branch can be the scalable growth engine to your business. The digital branch opens opportunities for optimization, analysis, marketing, and it can be fast and responsive. It can be constantly moving forward. Beyond that, opening and driving your own digital branch is critical for your business to stay relevant.

I had the opportunity to work with all these distributors and all these manufacturers, and do strategy projects. Every time I got done with a strategy project, I came back and said, “Man, we have to make this simpler. We have to put this is in some kind of context of something that’s constant for these distributors and manufacturers to understand. We need a framework or a system or something to be consistent and stay relevant with these distributors.”

So, we started building our own framework. In fact, as we watched distributors and manufacturers, we realized that they weren’t trying to build this for customer acquisition, they were trying to build this for customer adoption. So, we created what we called, “the Customer Adoption Framework.” One of the big problems, though, is that there are no systems out there for distributors and manufacturers. I mean, in the retail world, in the B2C world, there are tons of systems, tons of frameworks to be able to look at. It’s a framework, a system, it’s not software, it’s just a way of thinking about your eCommerce business in a very systematic way.

But, there was nothing out there for B2B, so we built our own first framework. We called it the “Customer Adoption Framework.” It was to help distributors and manufacturers think through how their customers would use and adopt their new eCommerce site. And it really was cool and very effective, and it really helped distributors and manufacturers understand all the different pieces and components and KPIs (Key Performance Indicators). It got executive teams all on the same page, they were all using the same language and semantics when they talked about eCommerce, and that really really was incredible.

However, it really only addressed part of the eCommerce journey. It didn’t really talk about people and what technology they should buy. It didn’t talk about product content. It didn’t talk about customer experience and user experience. It didn’t talk about how they were going to operate their digital branch, how they were going to operate their eCommerce site. So, we went back to the drawing table, and we literally scrapped the entire thing, and we started reverse engineering what all the large distributors out there were doing. Grainger, MSC, Ferguson, Platt, WesCo, Amazon, Motion Industries, I mean all the big guys. We reverse engineered what they were doing.

I’ve had the opportunity to work with many of these guys in the past, and we used that knowledge – we used the reverse engineering – and we combined it with the best practices that we had developed for these distributors, and we created something brand new. We call it, the “X eCommerce System.” It is a way to systematically think through how to build and operate your own digital branch, or how to build and operate your own eCommerce site. This system has transformed how distributors and manufacturers understand and implement their own digital business.

The XES is about shining a light on your business: best practices and opportunities, so you have the power to make fast, clear, and forward-thinking decisions to drive your own digital business. In describing this system, we break out the seven components critical to a successful digital business. While it’s not easy, it’s very doable. More importantly, staying relevant and competitive in a world that’s become more and more digital is extremely necessary.

In the episodes that follow, I am going to walk through many of the elements of the XES, but I just want to quickly go through them.

First, you have the plan. The plan is the business case. It’s your plan, right? It’s something you should use,  pull out, adapt, and change. You need a plan for your digital business.

Number two is people. You need good people to staff your new digital business. Instead of asking, “What should be done?” or “How should it be done?” we should be asking the question of, “Who could we get to do that?” and, “Who can we get to answer that specific question?”

Number three is technology. We all know that this internet thing is based on technology that a lot of times in our companies, we don’t have a really good grasp on. So, we need the right technology manned by the right people to be able to implement inside of our digital businesses. That technology often is eCommerce systems, content management systems, product information management systems (or PIMs), digital asset, marketing automation, and the list goes on.

Number four is product content. If I could make this a huge element of XES, if I could highlight it somehow, I would. Product content is so critical. So often, distributors or manufacturers go into their eCommerce process and get a way through it, and then realize, we don’t have the product content to even serve our customers decent information about the products that we carry. It doesn’t matter if you’re a manufacturer or distributor, most still struggle with product content.

Number five is user experience: how the site looks and feels, and how it addresses the job that your customer is trying to do in a simple and intuitive way as possible is a critical part of user experience or also called UX or customer experience (CX).

Number six is analytics. Listen, the beauty of building a digital business is you can track everything. You can test things out to see how they work and then track to see how they are working, and how it affects sales, conversions, lead generation, the list goes on and on. Analytics is a critical part of your digital business.

And lastly, operations, number seven. Now, operations is just one small little bucket, but it encompasses so much. It encompasses how we’re gonna get your internal people to adopt your system, market externally to your customers, and fulfill orders. It also includes things like human resources, how we’re going to procure the right people to be a part of our digital branch. Operations and how we actually run our business is a critical part.

And at the center of this system, not to be forgotten, always there, we’ve gotta put our customer front and center. So often, in distribution and manufacturing, we build a process, and at the end of building a process, we somewhat at the end of the time say, “Hey, I wonder how our customer feels about this,” right? We don’t want to do that. We can’t do this when we’re building a digital business. The customer has to be part of everything we do. Our customer has to be part of our plan, the people, technology, product content, user experience, analytics, and operations. The customer is truly at the center of everything we do.

Now, within the XES, we’ve realized that every company is at a different point in their journey, right? They’re at different points. Some are further along than others. Some of you are just starting in the process. Some are just learning enough from this time, just to build your own digital business. And so it’s important that we understand, and have a maturity model, that describes how the XES applies to every stage of our business.

So we’ve laid out the five stages of our maturity model: the first is foundation. Foundation is building the foundation that allows you to build on top of it for all the other stages. Typically, a customer is 0-10% of the revenue and foundation. Which means that for many of you, you realize the foundation is not a six-month process. Foundation can often be a three-year process or a four-year process. For those who have adapted to some of our best practices, that process can be accelerated, but foundation is so important to get right. The next stage is adoption: getting your customers to adopt and use this platform. The next stage is reposition. We’re repositioning for stage four which is acquisition: where we move beyond adoption into acquiring new customers and scaling this business like you’ve never seen before. And the last and final stage is innovation.

Now, the beautiful part of this is there are some distributors that are looking not to go stage-by-stage, but, “How do I go from foundation to acquisition? How do I accelerate this process to achieve more results?” They’re not asking questions just about, “How do I get 10% of adoption?” or, “20% of business through eCommerce?” They’re saying, “How do we double my business using eCommerce? How do we triple my business using eCommerce? How do we go from foundation quickly through acquisition?” This is one of the key reasons I’m doing this podcast with you: is to encourage you that this is all achievable. It takes a brand new mindset. We have to shift from our legacy process, our legacy thinking, and sometimes our legacy people, but it is all achievable.

The XES is an amazing tool that you can use inside your business, and we’re going to address many of these components. And listen, the XES, what we’re calling Digital Branch Secrets, it’s all laid out in a brand new book we have coming in September of 2018. We’d love for you to get your hands on this book. It’s going to be a free book, but it’s going to be a real book. Like, it’s not going to be a PDF eBook, it’s going to be a real book that you can have delivered to your house. If you want to get on that mailing list, go to digitalbranchsecrets.com/XES, and we’ll make sure you’re notified. And don’t worry, we’re going to address many of these topics here on this podcast as we move forward.

Hey, we have a new book, it’s called Digital Branch Secrets, it’s coming out in just a few weeks, and it’s all about the XES. If you want to get early access to that book and get on the list, go to digitalbranchsecrets.com