The Hard Truth About B2B eCommerce

Agile B2B eCommerce On The Right Platform With Lori Mcdonald

September 16, 2020 Isaiah Bollinger Season 1 Episode 15
The Hard Truth About B2B eCommerce
Agile B2B eCommerce On The Right Platform With Lori Mcdonald
Chapters
The Hard Truth About B2B eCommerce
Agile B2B eCommerce On The Right Platform With Lori Mcdonald
Sep 16, 2020 Season 1 Episode 15
Isaiah Bollinger

In episode 15, we discuss why you need a mindset of constant improvement and agile project management to scale your B2B eCommerce business. Our guest, Lori Mcdonald, has been running Brilliance Business Solutions for over 20 years helping both manufacturers and distributors with eCommerce. In the beginning they focused on custom solutions but since focused on Episerver, Insite, and BigCommerce. In this episode we discuss why you need the right platform to scale and grow and how you can go about choosing that platform. 

Show Notes Transcript

In episode 15, we discuss why you need a mindset of constant improvement and agile project management to scale your B2B eCommerce business. Our guest, Lori Mcdonald, has been running Brilliance Business Solutions for over 20 years helping both manufacturers and distributors with eCommerce. In the beginning they focused on custom solutions but since focused on Episerver, Insite, and BigCommerce. In this episode we discuss why you need the right platform to scale and grow and how you can go about choosing that platform. 

Unknown Speaker :

Hey everyone, welcome to Episode 15 of the hard truth about b2b e commerce. I'm your co host, Isaiah Bollinger. I'm here with my other co host Tim, it's great to have you back. It feels like it's been a while since we've been on together. Yes, it's been on and off a little bit for us all kinds of crazy schedules. But it's great to be back as I am so glad we're already in Episode 15. I know. I know. It's weird to say that. It is it is but I'm glad we're here. We made it. So yeah, before we get started, Tim, you want to take it away with a sponsor, man. salutely. Absolutely. So what our listeners and our viewers are, are certainly familiar with punch out to go as our sponsor, but for those of you who are new to listening to the hard truth about b2b commerce Punch Out to go is a global b2b integration company specializing in connecting commerce business platforms with E procurement and E RP applications and punch out two goes I pass technology seamlessly links business applications to automate the flow of purchasing data. With their solution, you can immediately reduce integration complexities for punch out catalogs, electronic purchase orders, e invoices, and other b2b sales order automation documents. So, thank you once again to our sponsor, and we welcome other sponsors for anyone who's listening out there. Punch Out to go Thank you. Yeah, absolutely. Yeah, if you don't know Brady, he's the CEO of punch out to go and they're, they're great people and great company and they can work with you know, whether you're on big commerce Magento insight, which will hopefully talk a little bit about insight today with our with our guests, so you don't punch out to go can help you so I'm excited to introduce our guest Laurie Laurie McDonald. You've been in b2b e commerce for quite a while now. And I think you're you know, we met each other through LinkedIn from you know, you're low you're in Wisconsin, or you're in the Midwest and I, you know, I used to live there for four years so it's just kind of a funny coincidence. There's not a lot of people that I you know, truly specialize in b2b e commerce and you just happen to be there. So I was like, you know, we should we should talk and see. see where this goes. And then, you know, obviously wanted to get you on the podcast. So, um, you know, you went from it looks like you You worked at NASA and now you're a b2b e commerce. So can you tell us a little bit about your background? How I went from a space to to, you know, e commerce? Yeah, definitely. I'm so excited to be here with you today. Thanks for inviting me. Yeah. Yeah. So I went to Purdue in computer electrical engineering. And through an internship, I ended up at NASA Johnson Space Center where I eventually worked as a flight controller for the Space Shuttle Program, which was an amazing experience. I actually ended up meeting my husband at NASA. He also went to school at Purdue and engineering also was a part of the same internship program at NASA and was a flight controller there. Yeah. And he, when we graduated from college, he ended up going to work for Rockwell Automation. And we both we were living in Houston, Texas, and I was working at NASA. He was working for a Rockwell field office there. And he eventually had a promotion opportunity to rappels headquarters here in Milwaukee, which is how we ended up here. And I grew up in Michigan. He grew up in Chicago, so it was closer to home. And we relocated here in 1998. And I was trying to figure out what could be his coolest space. And the web was kind of in its infancy in 1998. And so I had to start a web development company. Yeah. So with my husband's experiences at Rockwell, where he managed their largest data warehouse Their point of sale database. He had a lot of experience working with distributors in the b2b space. And so as a company, we developed a niche in b2b e commerce and he left Rockwell nine years ago. And now he leaves our development team. Oh, wow. It's been a fun journey. I didn't realize so you you're essentially a family business from that person. Yeah. Yeah, that's cool. That's a you don't see as many of those these days, which is a kind of a sad thing. But one of the things that I find interesting about b2b e commerce is a lot of these companies are family, the last family, you know, those true family businesses that are still, you know, still alive, and most people haven't heard of them, because they're kind of like manufacturing and distribution. So they're not like a, a brand name that you might know. Right? Yes, definitely. So that actually kind of brings up our first you know, topic that we wanted to get into. So I'm, obviously in b2b, most of that is manufacturing or distribution, some sort of variation of that usually So, what are you seeing in those markets? You know, maybe let's, you know, talk about each one a little bit and kind of what are some of the things that you see if kind of happening in 2020? I think a lot going on in 2020. That's changed people's minds about how to approach these things. Yeah, it is so interesting. I mean, as you mentioned, you know, a lot of the companies that we end up working with have been in business for 50 or 100 years, and many of them either were family owned or our family owned. And so, you know, there are several instances of companies out there who already are doing digital commerce in some form. Many times it, you know, it may not be the best user experience and is in need of some improvements. What's interesting is a lot of companies that have made investments in digital commerce in manufacturers, distributors, they're seeing that's really their lifeblood. Oh, Right now that's that's what's saving them. And and that's where they're seeing growth for organizations that have something out there, but maybe it's in need of some some improvements. We're getting a lot of inquiries from companies who see that as a strategic path for them, that that's the way they're going to grow. There's just a lot of interest in recognition of that being important. There are still companies out there who haven't made that transition. And I'm sure you've experienced this job. So you know, that there's, you know, especially 10 years ago, there was an you know, even today, there's a lot of skepticism around our customers don't buy that way. there's typically a lot of priority on sales rep relationships, and the complexity of sales and how that maybe doesn't translate as well to digital. But I think more and more companies are recognizing that it's that's going to be a critical aspect of how they grow. Yeah, no, I totally agree. So, so it sounds like, you know, you're seeing something similar to what we're seeing is really in the last six months, it's kind of gone from like, you know, you could call it almost like the last 10 years somewhat of people being early adopters, or being kind of a little bit ahead of the curve. And now it's like, well, it's no longer early adopter, you have you have to do this, like, you want to survive or not. And you kind of have to, it's more now necessity, similar to kind of what retail has been like with e commerce for a while now. So we had a guest a little while ago, Mark, I don't know if you know, Mark Brolin, but he's a great researcher in b2b commerce kind of like, feel like one of the only guys out there that's like really researching just this kind of stuff. And he feels like this is kind of this. This wave is where retail was maybe 510 years ago, where they were starting to realize like, Oh, we got to view this so we're not going to survive and now B to B's kind of at that point. Yeah, it is really interesting. Even organizations ones that are making cuts in other areas of their business are investing in digital. And because they see that as their path to future survival. So, yeah, ya know that that. That makes a lot of sense. Um, it's interesting, just for a second about what Mark Berlin said, because I sort of look at this as a pivot point, in the same way that omni channel became a thing for retail, right? Yeah, all of a sudden, it's struggling to find a word about breaking down all of those silos and figuring out how to address you know, back back of the house and the front of the house issues. You know, right now it's not omni channel it's not really the term that's appropriate for b2b e commerce but it's that kind of moment. It is exactly yeah. Yeah, it's it's definitely changing very fast right now. Things are things are a little crazy all around. So yeah, You, uh, you know, kind of, you know, playing off of that. What are you know, you you work for two platforms, or you specialize specifically in two platforms that we actually haven't talked a lot about. So that's one of the another big reason I really wanted to bring you on because we don't want to make this to bias on a certain platform or whatever it is, like, we want people to kind of figure out what's best for them. And what you know, it could be a different platform for every kind of company out there. There's a lot of options, but specifically, you know, you work with big commerce and a B server. So can you tell us a little bit about that? And it's also big timing. It's good timing, big commerce just IPO this week. So it was just a coincidence. coincidence that? Yeah. So So we've been around for 20 years, you know, we have over that course of time in the beginning. We were doing custom development for ecommerce, which isn't really a path that I would want to continue on at this point in time, I've obviously there just weren't the software platforms out there 20 years ago that there are, yeah. But so but we built our business originally the Microsoft technology stack. And so as a result of that, and many of our customers actually also, there are a lot of manufacturers who standardized around Microsoft in different ways and found that to be a good fit. And through that process, one of the challenges that we identified several years back was that, you know, organizations would implement a digital commerce solution. And separately, they would have content management solutions on that. And they'd be maintaining these different applications. And that created all sorts of challenges where we were trying to create user experiences that would kind of streamline the experience between the two sites and and so what drew us to EPA server back in 2013, was the fact that they have a framework that supports real content And commerce. And they also have some really great personalization capabilities that was really attractive. And on the dotnet technologies back they weren't so well known back we started working with them, because they were more that, you know, they they are founded in Sweden and they were more well known in Europe than they were in the United States. Really strong platform. They've grown quite a bit. They've had several recent acquisitions one last year that's very pertinent to the b2b space is insight as a as a platform, and and so insight has a lot of strengths. And now insights been rebranded recently to be the episode for b2b commerce cloud by insight. So the rebranding that under the EPA server name, and now there's a lot of shared capabilities that are on that that are both Some are already available and others on the roadmap between how some of the functionality is being shared between the insight code base and the standard classes. Pick up a server codebase. And, but you know, insights, capabilities. Where insight is really strong is that it has this great wealth of pre existing pre built b2b e commerce functionality that's already there. It's also on the dotnet stack that really is configurable. Like, you can set up the site through configuration. And EPA server has a lot of strengths, but can be pretty labor intensive in the beginning when you're setting up an EPA server site. Gotcha. So EPA server has stronger content management features and personalization features, then insight. Insight will get you up and running faster with more b2b e commerce functionality than in the classic episode. Chris, can you talk a little what, you know, for people that because I think that's one of the things that a lot of people don't know and even people in b2b don't know is like, what does that actually mean the difference, you know, these b2b features? Sure, obviously, we'd like a Shopify even, you know, big commerce, historically think about, you know, consumer login decarb by pretty, pretty straightforward stuff. Yeah, definitely. Um, so I mean, where b2b features. And when you think about insight and the power that's there. So I mean, for one insight has some really strong, they have an integration framework that has pre built integrations with several grps. And integration can be a real I know, you're, I'm sure you're familiar with those can be a really expensive piece of an implementation for sure. So to have those up, yeah, especially in b2b. So to have those pre built, that's amazing. You know, and they also have great functionality. One of the b2b requirements that we frequently run into that can be a challenge on platforms that are really have been classically set up more for a retail is around having multiple users per account that can login and have different roles and permissions. So you may have a user that can add items to an order but can't actually submit the order until someone else approves it. Yep, um, or you may have in b2b, it's not uncommon that you may have, like multiple users who can log in and see each other's orders once they're placed or have shared shopping list. So those are the types of features that are already pre built in insight. Um, and and then you don't have to, and while those you can accomplish those features on other platforms, but it'll often take more labor to get there. Yep. Yeah, so a lot of the more that corporate accounts, yes, funnel functionality is what I call it, you know, that, you know, approval workflow budgeting, you know, more of that corporate buying experience is built into insight. Whereas, you know, consumer platforms like Shopify, probably, you know, don't don't have that, right. And, you know, like, big commerce, which we'll get to that, like they've been growing and some of that feature set. It's through different apps in there. You know marketplace. And so you can get there, but it becomes a little bit more limited when you think about how all of the apps are going to work together. So it can be more difficult to whereas all of that is already built within insight on the same platform, you know, they they also have requests for coding functionality, a lot of other really great tools, insights done a great job of listening to their customer base, you know, they you know, their focus is all is totally b2b e commerce, and so they have a really high customer retention rate, and I listened to those customers in terms of adding new features. Are you watching me one thing I would add to, you know, in my experience, and this I think, is the again, people are familiar with b2c Don't think about this as much but just the idea of having different payment types from different sources within one order because the order could be what say it's hundreds of thousands of dollars and having multiple layers. And layers payment, but also just, you know, instead of the addition of like buy online pick up in store or pick up curbside, you know what you can do through so many people now, instead of just getting something shipped to a location, you're picking up from a distribution center, or you're having your own trucking company somewhere, get in the middle of this and bring split orders into variety of places. So you really have no way of doing that easily through something like a Shopify, right? I mean, it's very important for people to keep that in mind. Yeah, and you know, other things that are more challenging and platforms like, like Shopify or even big commerce is displaying orders that have been placed not through the digital commerce site, but offline, but you still want to show customers their total order history, those things can become more challenging. And that's where you know, having platforms like insight and APA server can, you know, are better in terms of enabling a more fulfilling full picture view of that customer's experience with with the company. Yeah, no, totally that those are these are this is great insight for for our listeners into, you know world that me and Tim don't have quite as much hands on experience. So yeah, I'm glad people get to to hear from from a true expert in this space. So I'd love to hear more about your opinion on on big commerce. I'm really kind of bullish on them excited about the IPO actually bought some of their stock, because, you know, with Shopify, so I was like, I can't miss out again on this. I did a little while with Shopify, but you know, I don't think anyone saw that coming where if you bought it 510 years ago, you'd write great. Yeah, I'm really, really excited about big commerce. And I'll tell you, I was a skeptic a few years back from the standpoint that what I had found, you know, historically Was it was really hard to accomplish some of that, you know, every b2b customer that I've run into always has something where they're like, well, we're, you know, we're different than everybody else. Like you can't we have our own goals, you know. And in some aspects there, there often are some things are the way customers currently buy from them are very different and unique. And so it's either a matter of figuring out how to help them change their processes, so they can be a little bit more standard, or figure out a way to recreate that. And so it is very common that we end up customizing platforms, or extending platforms up servers were extendable. You know, there are ways to extend inside. And so it was very common that we would end up creating really specific code and development for customers. And I was skeptical if you know us as platform like big commerce could enable the same thing. And what I've been impressed by is big Commerce has really done work to both expand their b2b feature set. So they do some some things that, you know, are really important from a b2b perspective in terms of, you know, enabling customers to see their specific price point per product, you know, per account and having that same experience, or you can use the same site for your for retail and b2b. And having different customer levels, you can set up, you know, draft orders that can be sent out to a customer that they can approve and check out with. They've got some really nice apps around request for quote with quote, Ninja, and bundle b2b for the multiple users per account. And so they've just really been building up their ecosystem around b2b and made that a priority as an organization. And they've also worked to be really open and flexible with their API's, you know, enabling you to further code Their checkout API, they're really enabling you to further customize the experience, which I think I'm really impressed. And so they won me over. Yeah, you know, I think they're in a unique position because one of the challenges that we see in b2b e commerce is, you know, typically, a thing like Shopify doesn't work. I mean that we actually have some customers that are actually pretty successful with Shopify that do b2b, but they have a pretty strong b2c component. So that's why that makes sense for them. Um, but, you know, a lot of your, you know, typical b2b customers haven't really worked very well with a with a sass platform. So they end up going with, you know, the APA servers Magento is hybris is pretty expensive and time consuming and costly for them, and then they struggle because they just struggle to get over the hurdles. And bigcommerce is a true SAS platform. So if they can kind of give you this SAS value plus the flexibility that they need to come To customize and meet their, quote unquote, very unique needs. And they really are in a unique position to be pretty valuable in the market. So it's gonna be exciting to see how they continue to improve now that they hopefully that they should have a lot more money after this IPO. So definitely, well, and you know, the one area where, you know, to me big commerce isn't as strong is in terms of content management. And but they have released some new page builder functionality that really helps in terms of a dragon creating drag and drop content pages, which is, which is nice. I would say, you know, it's still not as strong as Apple server, by by any means. But on the flip side, they're they're very different price points to to your other points. And now bigcommerce does have a lot of capabilities in terms of headless, you know, to implement with others CMS is the challenge there is when you're looking at headless implementations with another CMS that can get pretty costly to for sure. Yeah. So those are all just trade offs to consider in the process. But what I love about big cars is for a company that might be looking for a lower cost entry point into e commerce, it can be a really good way to get started and grow and scale over time. Yeah, absolutely. Tim, so we've talked a lot about some of the details of the platforms, but, uh, I know you like to get into the what, what actually matters, you know, and that I want to talk about what matters. Well, the end of the day, a platform is just a vehicle, right? And we need examples, right? Exactly. I mean, and, you know, or listeners know this. But I'll say this, you know, to as well as, you know, a core I think all of us really have to be marketers and salespeople and all of these things. And in it no matter how technical we are, you know, and implementations or all of the risk, because if you don't understand what the big picture is or what people trying to accomplish, it's just Not going to, it's not going to help, you know, you could be a half million dollar bandaid on a, you know, on a problem. Right? So, absolutely. So we're I'd love to go with you just for a few minutes. It's really about successes and failures. You know, what, what helps a b2b e commerce venture be successful today? You know, and other than just money, let's say, right. But just money what what helps them be successful today? Yeah, I think that's a great question. And And to your point, regardless of platform, there are absolutely some things that are important. One is really I think, mindset around continuous improvement, you know, ongoing investments, I think organizations that think we're going to invest in this one and we'll do this project and we'll be done and we'll have accomplished our e commerce, you know, that's, that's the project we're going to accomplish in, you know, this quarter or you know, in the next two quarters, that's just not a great way of envisioning Because you're you're competing against, you know, Amazon business and Granger and you know, I'm sure I'm sure you've had this experience where someone called I it's frequent in our world that we get a call and someone says, I don't need anything all that difficult. I just want the same thing Amazon has, like, what do you realize how many like resources $1.5 trillion. And we'll be good. But But in addition to the investments that have already been made by those organizations, in their experience in that online experience, they're also continuously rolling out new functionality, testing and measuring. And so to me, one of the aspects that that really lines an organization up for success is just an expectation that we're not going to do this and be done with it. We're going to we're going to start it and then we're going to have an ongoing an ongoing process to continuously improve I would just echo that, you know, in the number of people I've worked with in recent years. Yeah, I've actually trained myself to go in and bring that up very early in the process now. So it could be like, I need x and I come in and I say, Okay, everyone, take a deep breath. Because, you know, let's, let's talk about what that means. And the pace of change. And, you know, it used to be we'd go in and talk about, like, a three to five year window for something right, you know, but now that's, that's not even really a good model, like say, Oh, this is good for five years. It really is the idea of a continuous, ongoing, you know, plan for innovation. Just keep going at all times, and just really understand what, you know what you need to change and how, yeah, and I think that could be really freeing. I'm sorry. Yeah. No, no, I just I totally agree with you. And that's why I think we wanted to talk about this because regardless of platform, yeah, if you don't have other aspects to the way that you You approach these things, you're gonna really not not succeed. And I think that kind of it ties into also that kind of MVP approach where if you see, see, this is one big one monolithic project, you probably and we've had this conversations with previous guests, it's hard to be successful because you do a two year project, something's gonna break down in two years, or some of the things that you thought were a good idea probably aren't a good idea. And yes, you can break things out into continuous improvement, maybe six months, get something up, and then, you know, start to improve every two months or one month or whatever it is, you know, you can definitely. And what I see is oftentimes organizations will go through a process internally before they reach out to us where they kind of and it's a good process where they brainstorming around all the things they want to be true for their new experience. And then they come with this huge list of, you know, features functionality they want, which is great that they're thinking through their vision, but trying to really get to an MVP is really can be really challenging for people to think through, like what they're willing to, to not have initially. But to your point Isaiah like, you know, it's best to keep it as you know, first, the faster we can get something out there, the faster you can be making more money. And also you learn once you get it out there, you get feedback from your customers, and there's also new new technology out there, you know, constantly, so there may be better ways to implement something six months, nine months from now than there would be today. And what I would what I would say too, and I think you just alluded to this is really the How is this done? Right? I mean, how is this done with this continuous you know, improvement this on? It's not just the internal discussions, it's where people get, you know, that information so of course, you know, as they and I are out here trying to be a source of information. Thank you, Laurie, for being here for that. But But really, how are people getting you know, more information like how are they learning best practices? In order to just keep going, I think that's so interesting cuz i think i think it's actually really challenging. In some cases, I mean, so. So we, we work with Gartner research to get information around, like what platforms, what technologies, what best practices, and we have some of our clients also engaged with organizations like Gartner and Forrester to get information. I know a lot of companies value. You know, you mentioned Mark Breaux, hand like digital commerce 360. Some of the publications that are out there practically e commerce is another organization that I that I am a contributor with. There are conferences like, you know, b2b online and b2b next that, you know, I think many manufacturers and distributors value getting information from other companies like them, and versus, you know, necessarily hearing from consultants or agencies they like to hear from other companies who have been through this journey. Can I'll make one quick pitcher you mentioned forest or even if Isaiah says I'm on the force or a global marketing research panel, so I contribute information to, you know, their reports on a regular basis and say, here's what I see, you know, from the clients, I work with the people I talked to, as you know, trends one, two, and three, and then they collect all of this from, you know, other members of their various panels in the way the gardener does, too. So you're constantly updating and saying, here's what's new. Here's what works. Here's what's fresh, and it's great stuff. It's absolutely right. Yeah, it is. And, you know, I've talked with some people who say, who kind of have the feeling that that's all really theoretical and like why spend time with that level kind of information. I find the analysts information and feedback to be so beneficial in terms of understanding where they're seeing organizations get the most benefit from different types of technology and Yeah, I just think it can help you to ask and consider really good questions. When you think about the fact that the field that we're in is constantly changing. You know, everyone is learning. We're all learners in this process. Absolutely. I thought you said something really interesting. And actually, our previous guests, Justin Finnegan, who is a, just a really smart guy, he built he built guerrilla group, which is arguably one of the most successful b2b e commerce agencies in the world. He recently moved on to to actually on the software side, and one of the things that he said and I really kind of really resonated with me is that you know, b2b agencies, like you know, trellis and and, and, and you guys, brilliant, like we we should be helping them with their processes and thinking through, like, not just the platform and the tech side, but, you know, helping them maybe, you know, reset expectations on scope or simple Flying their MVP or maybe helping them adjust processes. But one of the things that I thought was that I thought is a challenge is that like you said, Sometimes these manufacturers distributors don't want to listen to people like you and me because I think there may be a cultural thing or they're still not used to listening to the E comp provider as someone that might influencing processes because typically, they're used to talking to maybe their DRP provider, or a different kind of consultant who's helping them with their processes. And now it's like, hey, you're just my econ guy, like, how do you know run? Um, so I think there needs to be kind of this, like, you mentioned the cultural shift with MVP continuous improvement. I think there also needs to be kind of like a culture shift with like, bringing in the e commerce consultant as part of the process decision maker consultant. So that, you know, it's all unified with e commerce. It's not just like putting old processes into a new technology. Right? Yeah. And where I so I, to me, I think that comes down to, like trust. In some sense in a best case scenario, we want a situation where the customers that are working with us, the companies that are working with us, trust us as a almost a member of their team. You know, and vice versa, where we both feel like we're working towards our own like, you know, shared best interest. And if when, when I run into situations where companies may be unsure about how much to let us give input into what may be in their MVP, I think it can be helpful to give examples of how we potentially can help save them money or time by looking at things a different way. And, you know, ultimately, those things tend to get people's attention, but I think it can be hard. You know, the reality is, and I'm sure you've experienced this as well, we've inherited and taken over private checks that were started by other agencies. They don't go well. And so I think it can be hard for companies to trust an agency or a vendor. Because a lot of them have some experience in their past a project. Yeah. And you're, you're oftentimes not their first or even second vendor. Right. I've already kind of spent money and they've already struggled, and they haven't seen a lot of success or sure else, and so they're kind of skeptical start their relationships already. kind of skeptical to begin with. So yeah, it can be very hard to to win that trust. Yeah. Oh, I agree. I completely agree. One of the things that I came up in a conversation with a client recently was, you know, even just the term agent is something that are for agency is really something that probably has changed because you know, think of real estate agent, insurance agent, you know, all of these different type of agents that are intermediaries instead Being like in the weeds, right? There's something about that. The idea of agency, right? So, you know, you have to say no, we are, in fact experts, and we have experts on our team. And we've been there done that. Right. So yeah, it's not like there's this layer and layer and layer, I will hook you up with person x, who is a contact, right? It's a very different experience today working with a great agency like trellis or like brilliance, right? It's just, it's not the same. So those terms are kind of like we're stuck with them. Right? Kind of like being you know, blacksmith shop or something. Yeah. I think it maybe it probably came back to the early days of when they would be agents for media spend on like TV. Yeah, and we're not no one's really doing that anymore. Because you're really in the weeds like we're doing the work. We're literally in the systems, programming or whatever it may be. We're basically part of like, the way we kind of pitch ourselves we're, we're like an extension of, of their team. Like we're, a lot of times we know more about what's going on than than they do. Yeah, yeah, yeah. And Isaiah with one of your earlier points about helping them rethink their process. You know, several, many years back one of the one of the manufacturers that we worked with pretty sizable organization, and they were tracking some of their inventory was still being tracked on effectively, like index cards. So, you know, we had challenges where we, they wanted to be able to display an availability online, but like, they just didn't really have it and anything that we could integrate and look like. So, so many times and and that's a pretty extreme example, but there are others where the conversations that we're having around digital commerce influence conversations around how do things need to change internally, and where we can say, Hey, here's how we've helped other organizations who, like maybe you don't have the time or money to totally solve that problem right now. But what are some other workarounds? Yeah, that's a great great example of like, sometimes the problem are expensive to solve, well, maybe there's a workaround, or there's a short term solution that that'll get them started the MVP, and then they can do the long term solution later on. Right, ready to afford it? Yeah. Like in their case, we basically said, Okay, we're going to assume things are in stock, except for the things that, you know, they basically developed a process to figure out how to mark Linden Tory that was low and integrate that with the e commerce site, and that was how we needed to start. But but it drives conversations about process improvements internally. So as a segue from what we're talking about here, and success and failure, you know, we're talking about again, learning from others, right, learning from your what works so so what can be to be learned from B to C? Or aside even still a valid topic? I think it is, but what do I think it is to? Yeah, I mean, um, so I think there are so many so the great news is that b2c has been around for a while and has been developing a lot of best practices are Around, you know, marketing and you know how to how to have a strong conversion rate. And I think in some cases, b2b can be like, well, that's not how we do business. So that's not us. But there's so much they can learn. If you go to Etsy, which you know, is very consumer focused, they have a great use of product reviews, they have product overlays that say FREE SHIPPING AND bestseller, and they even have, you know, notes that say only two available and you know, it's more than 20 people's carts. Which may be that might be a step too far must be to be organizations I think might not think that's their style. But um, you know, new pig is an example of a b2b site that I love as an example I love to look at because they incorporate many things that you might classically think of as a more b2c experience. They do a great job of using reviews and product overlays and abandoned cart emails and subscriptions. And all of that, I mean, ultimately really gets to helping people make decisions quickly about what they want to buy. Yeah, and and just making the experience easier. So it's not really inherently a consumer feature. We're just more used to it in a consumer experience. Well, even the LLN ization continuous because I think he was about to say something. I think that the big thing that can be learned is that they're setting the expectations b2c. So because people think oh, b2b is different. It's like we're still every b2b buyer is a consumer right like everyone bought and brought people out, especially I think with Coronavirus. What did I forget what the numbers are, but they say like it went from like 15 to like 30% in e commerce for retail. So something some massive jump, right where, oh, you know, it used to be a fraction of orders. And now it's like, we're approaching what I call like, almost half once you get to, like half of orders are online for b2c? That's like, that's just what you expect. And if that's what you expect, and then you go To b2b and it's like, Oh, I got a call this guy, we, like call me back because he's like, not available and then like, tell him what I want or he has to like go research to tell me like what they have. That's such a different experience than just being able to go in and like punch in your orders or quickly order online. And I think that what b2b needs to realize is b2c has set the expectations and now that's just ingrained in people and you can't be can't go backwards like, yeah, yeah. Yeah. And what I was just going to have to that too, is that it comes it does come from weird angles, sometimes places you don't suspect so of course, you know, the COVID-19 crisis has changed everything for people in b2b and b2c but, but even you know, I was saying before we started recording articles, you know, I was through this tropical storm that came through recently, I live in the New York area. And one of the things that came out of this I was specifically talking about this morning with a client is that You know, like a tree trimming service or, or a generator business, you know, the a lot of these businesses that do a lot of B to B, you know, how are they found, right? I mean, how are they found and it's it's no longer just even the simple like Angie's List, like, look around and see if you could find it or the home advisor, it's really is getting more and more sophisticated to doing the matching so that they're pushing. So I actually got emails saying you're in an affected area for the storm. Here are three different categories of service provider. Are you interested in is the are these things that you need right now? And as such a great b2b application when you think about this, like how does it work? And so anyway, I just wanted to bring that up, because it's hot is happening with this minute. And this is the kind of stuff you can pick up on and make it work for you. Yeah, yeah. I mean, to that point, I think many b2b organizations really underutilized. Email Marketing. You know, they have over the one of the benefits there are a lot of things b2b companies have that b2c companies don't have as much of which is b2b companies tend to have a lot of information on their existing accounts, like this wealth of past history on their accounts. And they can use that information to, to communicate with them in ways that are really relevant and and bring them back to their site to place more orders. So yeah, and Isaiah, back to you had made a comment about how, you know, b2c experiences set expectations for people. Some of those expectations that you were commenting on are related to how quickly I can place an order. Yeah, what one of the dangers I see. I don't know if dangerous, I would, but like downsides, a lot of b2b organizations want to have a process where for a new customer, because they're used to having a process to intake a new customer where they approve an account, and they assign them a sales rep and they give them special pricing. Where they won't allow people to place an order until someone reviews the account. And so you know, someone will come to the website, they need to fill out a new account registration form and wait a few days until somebody gets back to them. Like that's not a great experience for people who are used to being able to place an order right away. Yeah. And I think, Tim, you you've brought this up, I think a lot of the b2b b2c companies that are doing b2b have kind of an advantage here and companies like wayfair Amazon Lenovo is actually a great example we have an apple but but I really liked the Lenovo experience, because we, you know, or a few years ago, we started buying more laptops for employees. Obviously realize, like, Hey, we should probably get a b2b like get a discount here. And Apple has kind of more of that order of like, kind of more than traditional experience. You have to like talk to someone and get like a corporate account. But Lenovo, what they did was was pretty cool as I think. I don't know if they really do a real time Look up. But basically, I created an account online, a b2b account, like there was a forum like, are you a business and they verified me online like instantly and I got a discount and bought instantly. So like, literally instantly I was able to get that discount. Yeah, yeah, I've seen organizations, we have some of our clients who use an API lookup to basically do an initial, you know, set of pricing and approval, and then maybe they get a sales rep involved later to figure out if there's any further, you know, work that can be done to customize the pricing or approach for that client, get them in and allow them to start placing that order right away. Yeah. What's also interesting and again, these are things that I think are just happening very, very recently but for American Express business cards, right. And a lot of businesses you know, use those and American Express now has all of these programs were that's all you need in order to like get listed as a business. This to get a business account set up, you know, for a bunch of b2b providers is, you know, it's like, the first question is do you have an American Express, you know, business account and fill that information? Okay, you're set. Right? And then you just continue with the next steps. And I think that's also a nice simplification. Yeah, yeah. There's also organizations like approve that Do you know credit approvals in real time for organizations and will automate the accounts receivable and b2b So yeah, there are a lot of really great technology. It's so funny, you just mentioned them, because we really need to get them on. And as a sponsor, hopefully, well, hopefully, they listen to this. And we actually know their CEO, because I remember when they first started out, and you know, I think they've done a great job evolving, and, you know, they're really in the right space. And I think they're really underused platform like, Yeah, not very many businesses. You know, obviously they're growing and they've, you don't want to discount how well they're doing. But I think there's a lot of people that should be used them that are not using them right now. Yeah, I agree. Well, you're right. And also in the consumer side, you have a firm and you have afterpay. And you have klarna. And all these great resources, but on the b2b, not quite as much. And that's, that's something that's got to change. Yeah, yeah, absolutely. Well, that's why I approve is, is out there and in a great position. Great. I approve. So, you know, before we run out of time, I want to talk a little bit more about the differences. So we talked a little bit about what b2c b2b can learn from b2b. But what are some more of the common? I think that we're, you know, from my perspective, you're starting to see some sort of commonalities in b2b e commerce that are different from b2c like this corporate accounts or approval. Multiple payment methods, like Tim mentioned, where like, maybe someone wants to do a purchase order or they have like a credit limit, but not everyone has that same credit limit. So it's personalized, a little bit. Yeah, what are some of the b2b features that you see are, you know, common that, you know, aren't this? I'm different from everyone else in b2b? Yeah. Well, so some of them, I mean, you hit on some of the big ones in terms of, you know, that account structure and hierarchy. What can be really interesting about that is it can have different levels of complexity depending on the organization. So sometimes even beyond just multiple users for an account, sometimes, you know, there are different, they may have different divisions or departments, like there's this hierarchy within an organization that has to be managed. And you may even have a corporate level that needs to be able to be reports on all of the orders being placed. So the more I mean, that's one of the things that Amazon business and Granger like that they do really well is that they enable they make it easy for you to gain reports and information at a corporate level that helps to manage you Your buying process and and why you know your sponsor punch out to go I think punch out is a great also solution in the b2b from a b2b perspective in terms of effectively just making it easier for, for purchasing departments to buy, yeah, and so that's really where things get important in the b2b space getting rid of some of that double entry. I just had a conversation the other day where it's, you can build a great site, but companies might not want to order because if they have to go back and put it into their systems a second time, like oh, this is kind of like annoying and not really saving me any time. So yeah, definitely. And, you know, other things I would say, you know, search and how products are displayed. To your point. I think there is a lot of growing commonality in you know, like faceted search or reductive navigation is something that you see that in b2c as well for sure. But how it's done in b2b, you know, you usually will have different A very custom attributes, you know, in terms of, you know, it'll be different for the products that you're looking at, depending on how you want to narrow those products, you know, if you have 40,000 skews, and you need to help your customer find the right one quickly. It's really important to have a great search experience. Yeah. Are you still seeing product data be a pretty big issue, like how big of an issue Do you see that? Oh, yes. I mean, it's a huge issue. And I think and our customers have told it, we have a customer advisory board. And that's one of the things that we talk about is, you know, I think many times organizations think their product data is in Ok, shape, and then and then get to the point of implementing their e commerce site and realize it's not nearly as good shape as they thought it was. And specifically, one of the issues that can be a challenge in b2b is around like product images. And one of the things that we see you know, we work with a fair amount of industrial suppliers. And you know, if you've got, if you sell a bunch of screws as an example, you know that the image for your quarter inch screw is not going to look any different than your image for the three eighths inch. Yeah, so the same images across 50 rocks. Yeah, right, you don't want to have a search that shows a page, that all has the same picture. That's just not a really great experience. And so I'm thinking about then how you're going to organize the product data for it to be and that might either be just changing how it's displayed, or it may actually be at a data level, you're changing how it's organized. Yeah, that's a great point. Um, one thing I would just add to and I'm really gonna forget the name of the company that I heard of the first did this, but it's kind of a real size technology for that was made for b2b. So as you're saying, You have all of these things like pieces of hose and screws and wires that often look the same, but there's no perspective so that It's almost like all of those programs for home design and for art, where it says like, here's the person next to the art hanging on the wall. So you see the perspective, they do that. And they put it basically next to rulers if it's small or next to something larger. So everything has an image, but it's just shown in real size. So you can just, it's an easy way to solve this this problem. I think it's pretty great. Yeah, yeah. Which reminds me of I mean, we see more and more companies moving towards creating configurators of different, you know, different arms. And in some cases, those configures creators can have a visual element to kind of building an image around what someone's purchasing. The other thing that we see is when customers have like parts diagrams that they may have had for years and their manuals, giving a process where someone can like click on the part that they need to reorder and purchase that. Um, so yeah, yeah, there's definitely some kind of Cool, you know, b2b stuff coming out there with these like things that you could integrate into your site like these part finder solutions or diagram type solution like interactive diagram, part finder solutions that we've been finding that companies are starting to find. And then they're like, Hey, can you integrate this into our site? Yeah. So it's still kind of new, but it's, it's getting there. I wanted to just touch on the integration side, because we talked a little bit about that, um, and some of the challenges of of platforms and why, you know, insight can be really valuable because it has some of these pre built integrations. And I think I think that's been a big hurdle for a lot of companies. And there's still a lot of companies that I think are still on. We work like quite a bit with the infor community and they had their own infor econ platform that's now kind of discontinued. And companies would have a hard time making the switch because they might have been on a system that's built into their GRP. And now it's like you have to it's a whole different matter. They have a separate ecommerce platform that has an integration. Because this real time integration, I think, is a lot more complicated than people think. Yeah, yeah, it can be really complicated. Um, yeah. So I mean, the reality is we've seen integrations that are approached in many different ways. So and it will depend on the capabilities both of the ER p or n or business software comm customers using and of the e commerce site. So, you know, they can be API driven. You know, that's, you know, a lot of, you know, more modern systems, they're, they're leveraging API's as a part of the integration. Sometimes that's not possible for certain earpiece systems and things are more like batch file. A. One of the considerations that I think is important is and you reference it is like how, how frequently does the data need to be updated Is it real time and that has implications not just in terms of how the integration is an approach but it can have implications for the performance of the digital commerce site, like how quickly a page loads? If if it's pulling data in real time from the eirp? Well, for one, if your er P is offline, what happens? You know, I mean, you want to have a plan for what's going to occur, but also it can slow down the user experience, depending on how the integration is set up. You know, in an ideal world, those are considerations that are a part of the planning for the integration and thinking through like what actually needs to be loaded in real time, how quickly does this data change? Could it be updated nightly, and there are some things that you likely you know, you may want to have as a part of the real time experience or validated within check out. But just thinking through how that's going. I think it's a great point, that real time experience because a lot of a key data like pricing, or the it might be you know pricing is a big one because I think a lot of times it's too difficult to have pricing synced in both systems, or it could be like kind of a nightmare to sync if they have really complicated pricing, right. Um, so you might want to just display pricing or show real time pricing. But if they're on a really old system, and they don't have good API's or the ability to display that quickly, then you can't do that. So I think that that's a very like kind of under appreciated or under thought about problem where a lot of these companies think that oh, you know, we need to catch up. So let's go build a new e commerce site. But it's like, well, actually, your eirp is 10 years old or 20 years old. And if you don't solve that problem, or figure out some ways to modernize some of the key aspects of that, you're never going to get have a good ecommerce experience, because you can't get the data in there in real time or there. There's going to be some issue there where they might be thinking about the problem the wrong way, and they might actually be better off focusing on the DRP side first, what do they do the econ project? Yeah, the challenge that I see is that we have organizations who like recognize that issue and say so what do you think should We do our SRP upgrade first and wait until later. The reality is that sometimes any RP upgrade can take years. I know. And so do organizations have the luxury of waiting years to improve their digital experience? It's a great point. We we've been in part of situations where we will build a digital commerce site with an era with their existing RP, knowing that your pay is gonna change in the next year, but building the integration in a way that it's easier to change that the system is integrating with. Yeah, good point. You're right. It could take years to upgrade and it can be so expensive and painful. So there's probably that just comes back to the setting expectations or thinking through maybe there's a more MVP or a different strategy for e commerce while while they're doing the upgrade and you're focused on maybe awareness or marketing and getting new customers to find you. And then when the integration gets better with the RP, you can do like more Yeah, so I totally, totally agree with you there. I think one of the things that's, that's changed and, you know, the 20 whatever years, Laurie, you and I've been, and it was that it really feels like, it used to be more of the switch where, you know, we're, you're preparing something and preparing something and then it's like, when will it go live? Right? Yeah, that thing. And and now it, you know, we still use terms like go live because there's, you know, it's important. However, it's layers, you know, there's this layer that's getting done, and it's complete. And then there's this layer, it's getting done, it's complete and this layer, and you know, you turn on all of these different things at different times. So the end consumer b2b or b2c doesn't necessarily think that oh my god, the world has changed today, but every you know, something behind the scenes change this week, two weeks from now something else changes behind the scenes, then there's something that's happening on the, you know, the layer that you know, interacts with the consumer. And you might notice that Right, right. Yeah, just so so different from it was earlier. Yeah. Yeah, I think that that, to your point like, they're going back to continuous improvement. That concept of kind of like agile development is still not, I'm still not seeing it as much as I'd like to in b2b e commerce where, like, literally you could be deploying new changes every week or two weeks and slowly be iterating on these things. Yeah. I think a lot of companies just don't really understand how development is done today. And how that works. So maybe there's just needs to be more education on Hey, look like we can literally add new things every week or every two weeks or every month or whatever it is. Yep. We don't have to wait two years to launch. A new Right. Yeah. The challenge for organizations comes around like budget like understanding what what is it going to cost me? And so then coming back to that idea of MVP, you know, we have a process where guarantee we have a fixed cost once we go through a scoping step to guarantee the project cost for that MVP, and then normally our we encourage customers to do is to be on an ongoing contract for a certain number of hours a month to do those ongoing improvements, then people can plan for what that wall cost then that's where sometimes people get nervous about agile as they see it as like, something where they can't control the cost. Yeah, that's a never ending cost. And what am I gonna get? What am I getting three months or six months? Like, what's the outcome? Yeah. And that's where I think you need to just get more granular and have someone that takes ownership over. Okay, here's the little features we're going to focus on. And then just, there's specific outcomes that they're just focusing on every, every month or a couple of months. And I agree, I think it's it's fine to have kind of like a fixed cost approach for maybe an initial projects, but I don't necessarily think that's a good approach forever. Like, no, I agree. Yeah, right. worth it. Maybe some of these companies go wrong as they think I just want to do everything as a fixed cost. And it's like, yeah, that might work for maybe one initial project, but it's not gonna work for the continuous improvement, you're gonna move too slow, because you're gonna spend three months trying to figure out what that fixed project is, right? It could have already done stocks, slow things down, because you have to have a team that analyzes the requirements and figure out what it will cost before they can actually do any work. Yeah, and so if you want to be in a mode of like, quickly moving and making improvements, it's better to get to a point where you've got a solid base, and then you can kind of trust your team that to iterate on it. And I think just just one additional point on this is that to me, I get the way I put this into conversation now is that, you know, ecommerce is no different from anything else that you do. So if you have creative resources just or people who work on branding or get pick anything, right pick anything at all. It's Not like creative is done once, and then they go and leave. And five years later somebody comes back. I mean, that never ever happens in a real live active business you, you just have to think a little bit differently, you know about how things go. And then it works exactly as Isaiah seven exactly, as you said. Laurie that really it's it's that ongoing, you know, if you just have to build it in, it's not always going to be a $300,000 expense or what have you. It's going to be something and you have to make sure that that's always there. Definitely. Yeah, well, this is this is so great. I, you know, we always learn a lot. And it's really good to hear the insight that you have no pun intended with an epi server. And, you know, I think we're both on the same page around big commerce. So hopefully more people at least look into them and see them as in the market because I think sometimes they're kind of overlooked or nonsense. seriously enough, so really appreciate having you on. Before we wrap up any, you know, I'd love to hear just kind of your last you know, little, you know, insight into what what do you see coming down the road in the next five to 10 years? Um, you know, for for our listeners, you know, give them last piece of wisdom wisdom. Well, yeah, my piece of wisdom would be, I mean, you so we are you know, when we talk about what happened in the b2c space, you know, we have seen Amazon dominate that space. Yeah, and I think and you know, obviously there are other entities out there as well. But But you know, Amazon's investing an awful lot and b2b as well as our other organizations. And I think the challenge that exists for smaller manufacturers and distributors, which that would pretty much be everybody. Yeah. 99.9% of Amazon, right is, is like how do you compete with with, you know, all of that has huge investments and team that they're able to put into it. And to me, the way you compete is is figuring out what your niche what your area of expertise is that you can do better than anyone else. And, and developing content on your site and, and products and an experience. It's not going to be as great as Amazon because the reality is, you're not going to have that same budget. But I think you can get close by demonstrating how you can solve customer problems and give them information that's helpful to them. The reality is Amazon has a huge number of products but isn't nearly as good at the specifics of solving a problem that a certain customer has. And so that's that's how it goes. When Yeah, yeah, and historically they've been doing that, but I think now it's like This decade instead of doing it on the phone, or via fax, how do you do that online for that specific niche of problems? Yeah, that you're going after. And I think as a part of that, like there's machine learning technology coming out to personalize experiences for customers, you know, Apple servers made some really interesting acquisitions there from like content recommendations and product recommendations. Those are the types of things that I think are going to increase in importance for organizations. Absolutely. Well, thank you so much. I hope that gives some people some inspiration, you know, there's hope against Amazon out there. Yeah, you gotta develop your niche. And thank you. Thank you so much for coming on. How do people find you before we, before we wrap up? Yeah. Well, brilliants web.com is our website and you can find me on LinkedIn at Laurie McDonald. So awesome. Thanks so much. And thank you. Thanks, Isaiah. Thanks, Tim. It's great to spend time with you. Yeah, absolutely. Thanks, everyone.