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Consider these common issues for B2B product retailers:

  1. You have a fantastic B2B product or range, and it’s sold through a network of wholesalers and marketplaces, but you don’t own your relationship with your customer.
  2. The trade margins are wafer-thin and are being pressured by your resellers for a better deal.
  3. You work with Amazon and eBay, but they are slowly taking away any contact with your customers, increasing their marketplace and transaction costs. Even worse, they are buying or parallel marketing your product! Your sales flat-lining.

The solution?

You need to take your B2B product direct to the consumer so you can create sustainable margins and build a relationship with your end customers!

Some mini case studies

In this article, I have pulled together some mini case studies to illustrate varying scenarios encountered when you take your B2B product direct to the consumer.

I will then highlight some common things to consider in your approach that, in my experience, have been invaluable to factor in for success.

Building materials

Working for a Top 350 Global multi-national business, there was a desire to launch a multichannel brand in London with an ecommerce fixed price frontage.

This sounds straightforward for a business with the resources that scale brings, but there were many challenges along the journey. Opening a store was a tried and tested formula but building an integrated ecommerce solution on an enterprise platform was a whole new ball game for them!

Against the requirement to optimise conversion and give customers the basic multichannel functionality – progress was glacial! Common barriers included internal politics, conflicting priorities, and inflated egos – all adding to the daily challenge. But the basic requirement always remained the same; give the customer what they expected to find and a great ecommerce experience.

So, although ‘underwhelming’ functionality and progress were being made, I pushed for MVP (Minimum Viable Product) and a ‘get it live’ approach and sprint through the requirement so we could develop on the go whilst actually making some cash!

While this project was evolving, I was always taking a multi-brand approach as we were on an enterprise platform and working with multiple frontages with one of the largest building supplies brands going live on the same platform.

Integrating tiered trade pricing and having a fixed price for the ‘everyday tradesman was the elephant in the room and needed solving! A competitive visible price was agreed upon, and a tiered price would be worked back from there.

Working with digital teams across Europe meant it was vital to recognise each territory was unique and would need a bespoke approach for the solution to be delivered, overcome barriers, and create harmony across the buying channels.

This was a complex initiative in one of the largest organisations in the world with a lot of moving parts, delivered and a positive digital transformation for that business.

Health & Beauty

This scenario outlines building a health and beauty ecommerce proposition from scratch using store only products – another tough challenge.

This is a great example of dealing with tight margins and very low-price products. Setting up the website was relatively easy (it’s what I do!), along with the internal infrastructure. But the instore range, product and low price-points were the challenges. We needed more channels and profitable web-only products.

We created product ranges that were unique to the web and could be used as specials and promos for stores and more channels. At the time, eBay and Amazon were the channels even though Amazon had some challenging T&C’s!

With a little software integration, recruitment of a marketplace channel manager and a lot of hard work, we were live! The results were unbelievable, literally within an hour! There was an x 10 increase in sales, not 10%. Exactly what we’re looking for!

Garden Buildings

I got the call from the CEO of the leading Garden Buildings manufacturer in the UK. We had a challenge – they needed an outlet and quick!

The business was about to lose 80% of their business when the largest DIY chain in the UK was going to pull their range, and the other largest customer was going to switch manufacturers!

All your eggs in 1 basket, I hear you say! Well, yes, but it was a perfect storm to transform. On understanding the requirement, finding a great ecommerce partner, and smashing six months of work in six weeks, we were live? What about the independent trade outlets? Wouldn’t it be unsettling and disturbing for the network of trade outlets and sellers? Yes, it was, of course, and needed some sensitive PR with the independents and some careful product channel management.

Focusing on a higher quality product, we carefully channel managed, and the consumer-friendly price competitive product made available direct. As a manufacturer, you can build what you want, so we started with the proposition and worked backwards. We had SKU’s that were loss-making, so my solution was to set up a supply chain and outsource to Eastern Europe. The manufacturers were better equipped to make this type of product and closer to the timber!

A great project to lead with outstanding results secured the businesses future and many local jobs.

B2B product – what I have learned along the way

Although I have worked for many different businesses in diverse sectors throughout my career, I have recognised they have all had similar barriers to overcome when it came to taking their B2B product direct to the consumer.

  • Leading teams through very unsettling and frankly scary, changing times requires positivity and common sense. You need to be as straightforward and honest as you can.
  • You must remain focused. Compromise when needed and be relentless in revisiting the strategy (make sure you have one and everyone in your business understands the ‘why’!).
  • Don’t keep changing the goalposts; it is the worst thing you can do.

Adapting the strategy – yes, of course!

Having to accept MVP – yes, of course!

But going backwards or, worst still, not having a digital frontage is the wrong move! Covid has simply accelerated the need to adapt and press on.

All the examples above (and more) were business transformational, involved mass upskilling at all levels and building new ways of working across all departments. Being clear and consistent in my approach with all stakeholders built confidence, and then the numbers started to show that we had done great work as a collective.

Key Takeaways

Whether it be building a multi-million online business in year one or delivering triple digital online growth YOY or MOM – people love to be part of success.

Good • Unified Culture • Great product • Accurate Data

Great • Unified Culture • Great product • Accurate Data • Team Alignment to common goals

Explosive • Unified Culture • Great product • Accurate Data • Team Alignment to common goals • Entrepreneurial Attitude

  • Start with culture
  • Be consistent & clear
  • Common sense commercial approach
  • Follow the data
  • Don’t be afraid to fail
  • Lead the team – don’t expect them to sort it out themselves
  • Always remain entrepreneurial
  • Treat the web as a store (it is usually the largest)

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Andrew Salmon