B2B Marketplace

From ERP to B2B Ecommerce: Q&A with Isaiah Bollinger

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Q&A with Isaiah Bollinger

We sat down with Isaiah Bollinger for ‎Navigating Commerce Magazine to discuss how B2B companies are transitioning to ecommerce, the biggest challenges they face, and ways they can leverage marketplaces. 

Isaiah Bollinger is the CEO and founder of ‎Trellis. He started the agency over a decade ago when he saw a gap in the support offered to small businesses. He quickly realized there was an even bigger gap in ecommerce support, with few options available for small and mid-sized businesses. Today, Trellis has evolved into a full-service ecommerce agency supporting B2B and B2C businesses with strategy, creative, technology, and performance marketing. Over the course of his career, Isaiah has consulted hundreds of companies and has developed deep expertise in ecommerce disciplines, technologies, and best practices. Isaiah shared what he’s currently seeing in B2B ecommerce and where marketplaces fit into the mix. 

What do you see as the biggest challenge for B2B companies in ecommerce today? 

Alignment with sales reps is a major challenge. 

When a company has a very traditional sales organization mindset, it can be hard for the sales team to see the value in moving to digital. You often see a disconnect between the wants of sales reps and the executives or ecommerce champions. 

Recently on The Trellis Podcast, one of our guests mentioned a successful strategy they implemented. They recommended giving sales reps higher commissions on orders placed online than on orders taken directly by the reps.

The thought process behind that is two-fold. One, there’s operational efficiency gained by moving everything online and having fewer manual processes. Two, it’s a way to incentivize sales reps to get on board with ecommerce. I think it's an effective way to speed up adoption and enable the organization to embrace digital transformation.

What are some of the key features you recommend B2B companies look for in their technology stack? 

It’s easier to understand what the right technology solution will be based on what the business already has in place. There's usually a limit to the appetite an organization has for change. So often it comes down to where a company is at in their digital transformation journey and what's realistic for them.

Most of the time we work backwards and ask questions like:

  • What are your current processes? 
  • How do you do pricing? 
  • How do you do inventory? 

A lot of it starts with the ERP. A significant reason B2B commerce is so much more complex than B2C is that a large portion of the business is driven by ERP processes. Given this, it’s essential to start by looking at the ERP and figuring out how you’ll integrate that data into your respective commerce platform. 

At the end of the day, you need to look at your technology stack holistically.

On that note, let’s talk about data. What kind of data do companies need to succeed online? 

This is a big area for improvement. 

One of the major gaps we often see is between the data currently in the ERP (what is an ERP?), like price and inventory, and the robust data required for an effective digital experience, like images or specs. Often, the categories that exist in the ERP don’t make sense for ecommerce, as they don’t take the user experience into account. 

There's a lot of maturity that needs to happen when it comes to data management. For many organizations, the mindset shift alone is a major feat. All of a sudden, organizations are going from relying on a sales rep for all the information to the idea that data is a critical aspect of their business. 

How should B2B companies be thinking about the marketplace opportunity?

The most successful companies have a multi-channel strategy. 

Think about your day-to-day life. You can see a product in-store, decide not to buy it immediately, but buy it online later. The more places you see a brand, the more likely you are to trust the brand. This is especially true in B2B, where the cycles of ‎building trust take even longer. 

I think the reason that people don't embrace multi-channel enough is that it can be hard to quantify—and businesses want to invest in tactics that are highly trackable. But, in a way, that mindset can hurt marketing. 

How do you recommend B2B companies approach building their own marketplaces? 

In ecommerce, your customers are doing the work for you. They go online and make a purchase rather than your salespeople having to take a call or input all the information manually. This allows you to sell at scale. 

A marketplace is similar, but you're also getting other businesses to help you sell more products than you can on your own. 

When you think about distributors, they already operate as closed marketplaces. They can curate information from hundreds, or even thousands, of suppliers. So the question is, how do they take that a step further? With an online marketplace, they can automate their process in terms of both how they collect existing supplier data and speed up adding new sellers.

Marketplaces are the next level of ecommerce.

Watch the full interview:

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