Ensuring the Adoption of a B2B Commerce Portal

A customer-centric approach to B2B commerce portal development

As a consultant for The Reference, I worked with a global industrial manufacturer that wanted to launch a B2B commerce portal for its North American distributors. The client’s goal was to improve efficiency and reduce costs. However, the client was unsure about customer adoption, as distributors were accustomed to traditional ordering methods and had varying levels of digital literacy.

My Approach as Strategy Lead

Customer Understanding: Before collaborating with the client’s internal teams, I contacted distributors to understand their current ways of working. This crucial step ensured the we could assess the feasibility of our ideas for the launch within the distributors’ context and even come up with new ideas to address their pain points and preferences.

Collaborative Strategy Session: Together with the client’s marketing, sales, IT, and manufacturing teams, I did a one-week session focused on:

  • Aligning team goals and challenges;
  • Brainstorming potential portal features;
  • Prioritizing ffeatures based on their impact on internal goals.

Validating Features with the Kano Model: I re-interviewed the distributors, using the Kano Model to assess their perceived value of the proposed features. This led to these insights:

  • Distributors valued human interaction: They desired collaboration with the client’s sales team for advice and preferred a semi-automated ordering system, avoiding complete automation due to the perceived risk of impersonal service and potential system errors.
  • Marketing collateral access was crucial: Distributors expressed frustration with the manual process of requesting marketing materials from the client. Providing access to marketing collateral directly through the portal incentivized adoption.
  • Sharing sales data was beneficial: Contrary to internal expectations, distributors desired the ability to share their sales data through the portal, showcasing their eagerness to be advised on their market position and performance.

The Result

The B2B commerce portal, launched after incorporating these insights, achieved significant success. Distributors readily adopted the platform due to its focus on their specific needs and preferences.

By prioritizing customer understanding and validation throughout the process, the client and I ensured the portal’s functionality resonated with the target audience and delivered substantial value to both the client and their distributors. The client handled subsequent releases with the same methodology to even greater success.