How Machine Learning can be used in B2B eCommerce

How Machine Learning can be used in B2B eCommerce

How Machine Learning can be used in B2B eCommerce

I am writing one of the most exciting articles that I have written.  Within B2B E-Commerce, innovation has been a struggle as most organizations are working hard to cover the basics.

The key to E-Commerce in B2B is making a buyer or customer’s job easier.  If their job is easier done on your site, then they will come back.  Most B2B companies focus on the findability of their products, rich product information, and the shopping cart.  And that is an excellent place to start.  However, B2B buyers want to get in and get out, with the assurance that they are purchasing the right products.

As Sam Bayer articulated, “I wish I had a buck for every time I heard a user say ‘I hope you have a “quick order” feature on that new website of yours because that fancy catalog, while pretty…it’s just going to slow me down.’.  In fact, taking another page out of that aforementioned Accenture project, after 2 years of development effort, the majority of the website’s users still phone in their orders but love to go to the web to track them.  Why spend  [thousands of hours] delivering functionality that your regular users don’t want?  I’ll tell you why, because the Marketing organization thinks that the web channel is primarily going to be used to market to their customers.  Attract new business.  [However], the web channel is first and foremost a vehicle to become easier to do business with (ETDBW).  Focus on that first and good things will happen.”

JJ Food Service uses Machine Learning in B2B E-Commerce published an article on JJ Food Service and their use of Machine Learning in their E-Commerce program.  JJ Food Service is an independent food delivery company in the U.K.  with over 60,000 business customers.

About six years ago, JJ Food Service built a B2B E-Commerce Portal, and it now takes 60 percent of its 5,000 orders online.

But eCommerce Created a Challenge

Mushtaque Ahmed, COO of JJ Food Service explains, “Before we had the opportunity to talk to customers and do some upselling, cross-selling, soliciting of new products and telling them about the market segment they were in,” he says. “When we moved to the e-commerce portal, we lost that capability of talking to the customer. There was nobody to tell them about anything new that we were doing or to suggest some of the products they weren’t buying. We were missing out on those opportunities.”

That’s why they decided to do something about it

Knowing What Customer Want Before They Do

In his book, The Amazon Way, John Rossman talks about Amazon’s view of Customer Service.

the best experience happens when the customer never has to ask for help.

JJ Food Service took this to heart.  They implemented a Machine Learning engine that uses its analysis of past purchases to automatically pre-fill customer shopping carts with the items they intended to buy. Ahmed says nearly 80 percent of the items customers plan to order are already pre-filled in carts when customers call or log in.

The Results

From the article, about five percent of items recommended this way get added to customer carts. The important thing, Ahmed says, is that many of the products added in this way are products that customers didn’t know JJ Food Service carried.

“The wow factor is huge,” he says. “Customers are amazed that we can predict so accurately what they need.”

My Takeaway

First, what JJ Food Service is doing is way cool.  I want to hear more.

For you, take a deep look at your customers.  How can you improve their job?  The Holy Grail is being able to duplicate how your people (sales reps, customer service, inside sales) interact with your customers.  Or even improve it.  You probably have a lot of data on your customers, industry segments, buying patterns and behavior.  Use it to improve the experience, even by giving tools that are outside of the purchase funnel.