What Goes Into Launching a B2B Ecommerce Storefront? The Why and the How Answered.
6 Min Read
-How to drive innovation and champion future-oriented technologies in a large B2B organization & the lessons learned from launching transactional commerce.
-The impact enabling transactional ecommerce has had on the B2B sales process.
-The best project management approach for complex implementations.
-What questions to ask when vetting a SI or ecommerce partner.
-Vision for future strategy guidance and website enhancements with Corra’s TotalCare program.
Could you introduce yourself. Tell us about the company and your work there.
My name is Kara Graml and I’ve been with ASSA ABLOY for four and a half years. I started off as the PIM specialist. As my role evolved into additional marketing technology platforms, my title changed to Marketing Technology Strategist. My work is about the integration of systems, how we’re using existing systems, and how we’re putting new systems in place to gain efficiencies.
ASSA ABLOY is a very large organization. We’re a global manufacturer of Access Solutions such as door hardware and accessories. So anything that would secure a commercial building—ID cards, mechanical and digital locks, access control items, and electromechanical hardware like electric strikes and magnetic locks. My group in Phoenix is specifically focused on electromechanical hardware. We are a small chunk of the global business of ASSA ABLOY.
The electromechanical solutions group manufactures five brands—Adams Rite, Alarm Controls, HES, Securitron, and our most recent acquisition, Lifesafety Power, which is power supplies.
What project did you work on with Corra? What were the goals of the project?
Our parts tend to get complicated with lots of different options so customers need some assistance on how to order. My group had been building one off configurator tools which allowed the user to configure part numbers, but these tools were dead end experiences. Once the user configured a SKU, there was no ability to purchase online. They could only take that configured part number and manually send it on a purchase order through email or fax.
When we started this project, we wanted to bring those configurator tools into a single universe. We wanted the brand websites to be the configurators. We wanted the whole sales loop under the brand website. And after some analysis, we landed on the fact that we needed an ecommerce tool. When we analyzed the ones that were available, Adobe Commerce was the front runner.
How did you go about selecting a solution partner to bring this vision to life?
After we realized that we were going with Adobe Commerce, that’s when we needed to select a partner. What really made Corra standout is that you all were very educational. You shared your expertise with us, and helped guide us from the very beginning. When it came to analyzing who we were going to choose as a partner, there was one option that was extremely expensive and we didn’t feel like we were getting the same level of knowledge as we were from Corra. There was one option that was extremely inexpensive, but again, we didn’t feel like we were getting that level of knowledge. Corra was right in the middle of those and had the most knowledge to share. We knew we were going to get our money’s worth.
What were the driving factors behind your group deciding to go headless?
Flexibility. Scalability. And a seamless experience.
We wanted a seamless experience for the user. For example, if they’re on the brand website, we didn’t want it to then switch over to a shop.hes.com to continue the purchase process. We wanted it to be continuous and for AEM to be entirely the frontend. We also talked about the potential future of having Adobe Commerce integrate with other systems. For example, bringing our brands together with other ASSA ABLOY brands where a user could purchase multiple brands in one checkout experience. With our headless Adobe Commerce build, we can plug it into other systems with minimal development work and still maintain that seamless CX. And so these were the biggest driving factors for us going headless.
What aspects of this project were either new to ASSA ABLOY, or new to your division within ASSA ABLOY?
From the commercial side, we’re the first group that has taken our entire product catalog and put it into an ecommerce store. There are other ASSA ABLOY webshops that bring multiple brands in, but they’re not offering full product catalogs. So, it’s a very disjointed experience for the user to go in and want to buy one thing and not be able to buy another. This is the first time that ASSA ABLOY has really brought entire brands online in the Americas. The intent is that we be the guinea pig and let’s see what we can learn. I think eventually we’ll get to a point where our direct customers can purchase all SKUs from multiple brands under the same site.
What have you learned from this migration? Have there been any specific advancements in how you understand your customer base?
So far, so good. It’s funny, because we’re finding out that our biggest adopters are not our core business. Our core business is a group of customers who we call wholesale distributors. Something like 70% of my group’s business is through those large wholesale distributors. What we’re finding is that people purchasing on the websites are contract hardware distributors, think designers and architects, which is a small percentage of our business today. So the fact that they’re adopting it quickly, hopefully means that that’s going to be a big segment that we’re going to be able to connect directly with and grow over the next year.
What would your three pieces of advice for someone beginning a first time transactional website build for a large B2B organization be?
The first thing I would say is plan for continuous evolution of your solution.
We went into this knowing that we weren’t building a 15 year tool. It’s going to need to evolve. And that was really hard for us to swallow. I think a lot of other B2B companies are in the same boat. They expect that when you put something in place, it should be in place for decades. I had a real challenge of trying to convince the organization that this is a starting point, and it’s evolutionary. It’s not going to be a “set it and forget it” tool. You’re always going to be learning and upgrading and updating based on changes in the world and changes in customers and changes in how we do business. It’s important to remember that this is a tool for a few years and we will continue to reevaluate what our priorities are. It’s not that we’re going to kill it in five years, but who knows, we might want a PWA in the future.
Second, I would advise anybody who’s looking at implementing anything that you take a look at planning your HAG, or Highly Achievable Goals. Think about what you plan to achieve with this tool in the short term and throughout its lifecycle. Have a roadmap of what you’re going to do to achieve these goals and stay nimble so you can pivot when needed.
And the third thing that I would say to someone starting on this path is to choose your partners well. Project management is a huge challenge when you’re talking about these types of implementations because we not only had the Adobe Commerce piece, but we were implementing AEM at the same time.
There were two different agencies working on this implementation with Corra leading the commerce side and another agency working on the AEM aspect of the implementation. We were trying to manage both of those teams with me being a pinpoint between them.
The fact that Corra worked in the agile approach is a huge benefit to the way this project turned out. The AEM team worked in Waterfall approach where everything was defined upfront. So when one task slipped, subsequent tasks slipped as well. We frequently had to adjust on the Corra side by pulling tickets that didn’t have dependencies on the work that was being done in AEM. The weekly story grooming and sprint planning sessions were imperative to the overall success of this project.
Last question—what are you excited about for the next year? I know ASSA ABLOY is enrolled in Total Care, but what else are you hoping to achieve in the next year?
We’re doing the CX audit right now and we should be getting those results soon. I want to see what our customers’ biggest pain points are. We’ve made some minor tweaks here and there, and we’ve heard through the rumor mill what the pain points are, but I really want to see where all of our different customers are experiencing pain points. What do they expect from our site?
For 2023, our primary goal is personalization. Not to the extent of when “Bob” logs in, he gets “Bob’s” view of the website, but more so by profession and role. When you come to the site and you have identified in your profile that you are this user type and your role in your organization, we want to present you with the content that you need most. 2023 is all about personalization.