How Turtle & Hughes Launched a B2B Ecommerce Platform in 4 Months
As consumers have grown used to seamless, Amazon-like personal shopping experiences, expectations are raised for B2B brands to create ecommerce buying experiences that match up. After all, B2B buyers are consumers, too - so why shouldn't they expect a consumer-like experience when making purchases for their business?
According to Sana Commerce's B2B Buying Process 2019 Report - which polled 560 buyers who purchase from manufacturers, wholesalers, and distributors - B2B buyers now purchase on average 75% of their products online. But they want more. In fact, nearly a third (30%) of those interviewed for the study want to purchase 90% or more of their products via online channels - but less than a fifth (19%) are able to do so. The reason is simple - many B2B vendors aren't doing enough to meet the growing demand for B2B ecommerce.
(Image source: sana-commerce.com)
Turtle & Hughes
Leading independent electrical and industrial distribution company Turtle & Hughes is determined to buck this trend, and over the past three years has taken extensive measures to ensure it is ahead of the curve when it comes to delivering outstanding B2B ecommerce experiences for its business customers.
The journey began in 2016, when Co-CEO and Chairman Jayne Millard recognized the growing appetite for seamless consumer-like experiences in the B2B space, and foresaw the imminent digitization of the industry set to disrupt the whole B2B buying process. The realization prompted the 95-year-old company to embark on a digital transformation of the whole business, with a keen focus on putting customer experience at the fore. As Ajay Kamble, CIO at Turtle & Hughes puts it: "Our CEO envisioned a digital transformation that would be the next wave of Turtle & Hughes' 95 years. Digitization of the entire business was our top priority."
While the company's existing website was already highly regarded in the industry - consisting of a high-quality marketing brochure and weekly blog - Turtle & Hughes wanted to maximize both ecommerce and SEO strategies, and so took the decision to build an entirely new ecommerce site from scratch, install automation tools, and deploy analytical solutions so it would be much better equipped to engage customers on all fronts. The goal was to launch the new digitized offering by April 2018.
Forming Strategic Partnerships
Looking for external help in creating and implementing its vision to become a digital leader, in December 2017, Turtle & Hughes onboarded four strategic partners - AD Ecommerce Solutions, Unilog, MindTree, and TopSpot - to build the new website and digitize its systems within an aggressive timeline of just four months. "We went full throttle on all aspects of the business because we wanted our customers to be able to interact with us at any touchpoint," said Kamble.
With Turtle & Hughes' internal teams driving the change management and creating marketing content for the new site, Unilog was tasked with providing the content management system (CMS), product information management (PIM) system, and search platforms. Meanwhile, AD Ecommerce Solutions provided a library of enhanced stock keeping units (SKUs), TopSpot provided creative, designs, SEO, and web analytics, and MindTree managed the project and made sure all teams were working in sync.
Turtle & Hughes was aware that its site suffered from a number of inconsistencies in existing product content. To solve the issue, the company ran its catalog offering through Unilog and synced it with AD Ecommerce Solutions' library before uploading it onto the new platform. (Unilog Content Solutions develops robust content - detailed specifications, marketing descriptions, images, and manuals - for AD Ecommerce Solutions' data service platform, giving AD members such as Turtle & Hughes access to millions of enriched product items). As such, Turtle & Hughes was able to ensure that any missing information - such as product specs, images, and content - was now included in the new ecommerce site's content. In all, Unilog supplied nearly 300,000 enriched product SKUs through its partnership with AD. "A great-looking [product] photo does nothing for a buyer if there's no content with it," said Kamble. "That's why we value the AD/Unilog content partnership."
Digitizing the Business
The new site went live within Turtle & Hughes' time-to-market deadline, and in January 2019, AD Ecommerce Solutions revealed some early results of the project. For starters, over 80 customers registered with the new site and service within the first two weeks of launch - without being prompted or onboarded - showing just how keen B2B buyers are for enhanced ecommerce experiences.
There were also around 400,000 SKUs - up from 300,000 at launch - on the new site, and Turtle & Hughes aims to have over 1 million fully-enriched SKUs by the end of 2019. The new site also has a responsive design, allowing buyers to shop and transact from any device, anywhere, at any time. There are robust content pages with comprehensive overviews of Turtle & Hughes' multi-faceted services and solutions, and on-site search and filtering ensure easy and efficient product shopping. In addition, a quick order pad allows registered customers to re-order items in just a few clicks, and personalized punchout catalogs enable easy transactions through buyers' e-procurement systems.
AD Ecommerce Solutions says customers are welcoming the new initiative and are driving engagement with data insights, which will help Turtle & Hughes' sales teams improve their service levels both online and offline. Now that customers have a more efficient way to shop and order products, Turtle & Hughes expects to gain at least 50% efficiency through this internal and external engagement.
Looking forward, Turtle & Hughes aims to continue to grow its online catalog with more online SKUs and continue to build new features into the site to maintain its competitive edge. For Kamble, the digital overhaul is not only instrumental but imperative for meeting the demands of today's B2B buyers who increasingly expect simple, convenient, and consumer-like experiences when making business purchases. "Unlike competitor sites that are product-heavy, our ecommerce site makes us a differentiator in the marketplace because it provides a good balance of our services and products," he said. "We need to be where the customer wants us to be, and digitizing our business is helping us do that."
Developing consumer-like ecommerce experiences is set to be a hot topic at B2B Online Miami 2019, taking place this November at the JW Marriott Marquis Miami, Fl.
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