Pragmatic international expansion and improving efficiency within the entire company.
Joolz, a company that develops and sells strollers and relevant accessories, is growing internationally at rapid speed. An outstanding performance when you consider that their back office has only slightly grown in size. This week I had the pleasure of interviewing their Operations Director Ralf Lesscher on the exact impact B2B e-commerce has on their organization.
Michiel Schipperus: What specific goals did you set when adding an online sales portal for B2B customers?
Ralf Lesscher: “Our goal is to process 100 percent of B2B orders through our online sales portal by the year 2020. This might sound ambitious but we already have 40 percent of total orders running through our online sales portal, whereas two years ago we did everything through phone, e-mail and fax. We see ourselves as a real pioneer in our industry. We believe the online sales portal gives us a head start to our competition and we also believe we have the right product. Our stroller brand is popular all over the world. We realize that reaching an international B2B audience without growing our back office team can only be possible with an online sales portal.”
“Already 40 percent of total orders are running through our online sales portal.”
MS: What steps have you taken to actively achieve these goals?
RL: ”We want our existing customers to order online but you can’t just send a mass e-mail and tell them so. In order to be effective you need to have personal contact. Therefore, we ask each customer that calls us and places an order if they have considered ordering online. If they haven’t, we show them the benefits and offer to help them through the ordering process step by step, if necessary. We also call a small group of customers that place orders through e-mail every week and ask if they need any help ordering online. We chose this personal approach because we believe that when the customer’s first experience with the online sales portal is smooth, he or she will adopt the method faster.
It also helps that we only give new customers in recently connected countries the option to order through the sales portal. In this case, we get our orders directly the way we want and without any errors.”
MS: Efficiency sounds like an important goal of B2B e-commerce at Joolz. How have you evaluated the results thus far?
RL: ”With just one extra back office assistant, Joolz has grown at least 35 percent per year in the last 2 years. This is all because online ordering is a more efficient method of placing orders. For instance, our sales agents and back office assistants don’t have to process orders manually anymore. A huge time saver. Instead the customer places the order directly into the ERP system. We also get called less often because customers can see the status of their order and look up their order history online. Our office staff is especially relieved of extra work.”
“With just one extra back office assistant, Joolz has grown at least 35 percent per year in the last 2 years.”
MS: Joolz is a fast growing organization with an international focus. To what extent does B2B e-commerce help you to enable this international growth?
RL: ”As I mentioned before, we give all new connected countries only one option in placing orders, and that is through the online sales portal. Therefore, the new international sales we generate are instantly more efficient.
B2B e-commerce also bridges the gap between foreign countries. Our product and ordering information can be in their own language and customers can order whenever they want without conflicting time differences. Above all, we don’t need to have an office in foreign countries. We can outsource our back office so it all takes minimal effort. Expanding to the United States for instance will therefore take less effort than imagined. Also, Americans are already used to the benefits of B2B e-commerce and are familiar to our brands. We see great potential for us there.”
MS: So far, you have successfully implemented B2B e-commerce. What would you consider crucial to your success?
RL: ”I think what has made us successful is that we were result-driven from the start. We set our goals and divided each goal in smaller phases with specific milestones. We want all customers to order online by 2020 so we thought of ways to make them do so. New customers only get one ordering option so that takes care of itself. Once customers are used to ordering online and are enthusiastic about it, we think of ways to further improving our online sales portal. For example, we make sure all information is in the right language.
The next phase in operating more efficiently is adding the possibility of filling out a service request form through the online sales portal. Currently, customers still have to call or e-mail our service department when they need help. In the nearby future, customers will be able to see their pending service requests right next to pending orders right on the screen in front of them. As a result, customer satisfaction will increase. This will likely take place when we can upgrade to the newest version of Navision, so we are excited about that. In short, we constantly stimulate new and existing customers to place orders and retrieve information online. If we can make this a habit by 2020 we will have reached our goal.”
Michiel Schipperus is CEO of Sana Commerce. Sana is a B2B specialist and delivers a fully integrated e-commerce solution for SAP and Microsoft Dynamics AX/NAV.
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20 July, 2015