The Power of B2B Digital Commerce with Steven Javor at Schneider Electric
The B2B eCommerce Podcast
The winners of tomorrow are the people capturing data today. This is the one thing I would suggest to any B2B customers wondering what to do first.
To really jump on to digital, the most important thing is governance. You need to have a CEO who has vision and is able to remove the barriers.
People think B2B is the slower dinosaur. No, it's not. And people who are purchasing for B2B are people who are using all these online tools, so they're expecting their B2B platform to deliver the same experience to them.
You can't be traditional anymore. You need to move digital, you need to make sure that you are part of the conversation with the new millennials and Gen Zs coming onto the market.
The Power of B2B Digital Commerce with Steven Javor at Schneider Electric
Daphna Andrews: Hi, everybody, and welcome back to B2B Commerce UnCut. And we are very lucky today to have an excellent guest, Steven Javor. He currently serves as the Global Director of eCommerce for North America at Schneider Electric, which is a Paris headquartered multinational known for its expertise in energy management, automation, and sustainability solutions that span various sectors, which include residential commercial data centers, infrastructure, and industrial applications.
Steven has a rich professional journey spanning over two decades in the digital business sphere. His leadership roles have crossed geographic boundaries, which in Canada, the United States, and the European Union. And his strategic prowess has been instrumental in developing both B2B and B2C digital strategies for a number of high-profile national and international brands, which I’m sure everybody has heard, Amazon Granger. Walmart, among just some of the few. In addition to this, he has helped to choose startups in the online retail and digital services sectors.
Steven, thank you so much for being a part of this discussion today, where we’re going to be talking about B2B digital commerce, and why you should be implementing it if you haven’t yet. And if you have ways that you can realize more benefits, hard and soft benefits, and what does a B2B digital channel bring to your company. And we’ll be talking about all of that and more. So let’s go ahead and get started.
Steven Javor: Thanks for inviting me.
Daphna Andrews: So I’m very curious about everything that you have done in your career, which is very impressive. What do you see as some of the main business opportunities that arise from enabling a digital channel across the whole customer purchasing journey, because a lot of people think it’s just for the purchase, right? But, there’s a lot more to it. It’s when customers are starting to research information, it’s across the entire journey. So I’d love to get your opinion and thoughts on how it impacts that whole journey.
Steven Javor: And customers are loyal to the entire journey. Right now, though, the discovery, the purchasing the delivery, the after-sales service. And so a company should start if they have not started to realize this already, they need to understand that the best way that they can continue to grow is to understand that their target market is changing, and that they’re looking at their interactions with the company in multi-dimensional frames, especially when it comes to business to business.
In B2C, we may be satisfied to go look for something and then decide whether we want it or not. Next week, we’re not under any pressure. But in a business environment, where you’re buying for a company, you’re buying on behalf of somebody else that you’re going to be doing business with, that purchase may be your job, you may have people in the field, they are waiting for the parts to come by and for you to use them. And if you’re not being able to provide a great service to that customer, then they’ll choose someone else.
This also comes back down to understanding the impact that your online presence has in 2023, which is so vast considering that everyone needs to have that leverage of understanding what you’re selling. There are still many businesses that I work with, that have a lot of products that they’re not actually focusing on online. And the basic mantra for most people today is if they’re gonna go to your website and see a product and not find it, even though you may have it, they’ll assume that you don’t have it. If it’s not online, they’re not going to assume that you have an offline Google just with one click and find it someplace else.
So it’s multi-dimensional when you try to understand all the business opportunities that exist for businesses in the B2B space today, to understand that to more effectively be that choice for their customers, they need to be present online, and being very interactive in the way that they approach their customer relationships.
Daphna Andrews: And it’s very interesting. I think a lot of companies don’t realize the impact that digital channel has on even other vendors that they’re working with. So I had a consulting opportunity to help with the digital transformation of a major tool manufacturer, and they had all the syndication of all the content to say all the retailers like Lowe’s, Home Depot, and everybody else. And what you can find is that when you have a PIM to syndicate content, you can leverage that, not only for your own website, but when you have an ecosystem that is clean and robust, you can scale very quickly. And I’m sure you find that because you guys must have a lot of resellers.
Steven Javor: Yes. And scalability is key. Not only do we scale our product information to our PIM through our syndication platforms, but we also syndicate our marketing content, so that we make it easier for our resellers to get access to the content that they need, whether it’s on social or email marketing, or search, marketing, and be able to place and personalize that content that aligns with our and their calendar.
So we’re promoting a certain product or certain solution to a certain segment over a certain time period, that they can align with us because people are going to be hearing about it through all the work that we do on social media, they know they’re not going to buy it from us, we’re a large manufacturer, we go through resellers, they want to be able to connect the dots go to the retailer and see that the offer is consistent. And so we spend a lot of time working with our distributors to make sure that they’re aligned in the calendar with us and have access to all of these easy-to-use tools.
One of the things that we found is that everyone’s a resource star. There’s never enough people, there’s never enough time to get everything done. So we do everything we can to make that path easier for our distributors to be more effective online for their customers. It makes the journey for the customer all that more seamless.
Daphna Andrews: That’s a great point. Because you’re not just scaling but you’re standardizing and ensuring that your message is consistent. And your customers are getting the messaging and any of the content, any of the branding, etc, you are putting out that standardized, is that correct?
Steven Javor: That’s correct. And we’re even extending it now to the shop experience. A lot of our resellers’ stores where we’re putting on QR codes, we’re putting up posters with AR, so that we’re digitizing the in-store experience to match the online experience.
Because of the omnichannel world today, people are interacting and not just online, it’s not the pandemic time anymore. They’re going into stores, they’re interacting with people through their mobile devices. And you need to take advantage of the fact that they’ve got the world at their fingertips, and be able to syndicate that information as well.
So we’re trying to capture that information, not only online, but offline as well. And connecting it to the online experience, because it’s all about data. The winners of tomorrow are the people that are capturing the data today. And this is the one thing that I would suggest to any of those B2B customers that are wondering about how to get online or what to do first, that is going to revolve around data. We can touch upon what’s happening in the future with generative AI. And now that’s also going to change the reality as we know it today.
Daphna Andrews: One of the things I see that are big challenges with B2B customers is they think that they can just put up a store, get some content out there, and they’re done. But what they don’t realize is one of the biggest challenges is the data, like you said, has to be clean. And one of the biggest challenges I see is the catalog. So you can’t have a catalog with random data and random information and just expect your store is going to solve the problem. The data needs to be in the source systems and be accurate as you’re saying.
Steven Javor: We know we have our set of data, we spend a lot of time making sure our catalog has all the right content and keywords and photos and 360s videos and all that great stuff.
And then we syndicate it and our partners take it in. But as a result, you’ve got the exact same content as everyone else. So you’re not super standing out, you have to do a better job at SEO to get at it, or you have to do a better job of marketing to your own customers and hopefully trying to find new ones.
At this point, you need to start thinking about personalizing that content for your customers, being able to get information from different personalization platforms. We work with a few that are able to find those customers in your geographical base that will help you succeed, and by giving you leads that you may not be able to find on your own.
We’re seeing that all of that comes down to the capabilities that you have from your data side. And content data is just table stakes. You need to start getting into the customer data, your segment data, geographical footprint, the types of customers.
Most B2B companies do understand this, especially the ones that we work with. There’s a difference between those companies that existed before the internet, and the ones that started after. The ones that started after, they don’t think about the ROI of their eCommerce solution. It’s just part of their DNA, they existed because they started off with an online solution. And that’s just table stakes to go forward.
However, if you’re a business that existed before the real push, you have to make a decision about a business case, I need to go and figure out which platform you’ll buy, resources for that platform, content for that platform—all this is going to cost money, so you need to build a business case, and the business case is going to have an ROI. And that’s a different mindset than a lot of digital companies have.
When we see traditional businesses taking on this new digital step, they need to look at investment a bit differently than those digital native companies. And that’s a barrier.
Sometimes what we find is that for a company to jump on to digital now, it starts off with three things. The most important thing is governance. You need to have a CEO that has the vision, and is able to remove the barriers, so that you can move forward because there will be barriers and resistance.
Now I talked about all of my experience in B2B eCommerce over the past 20 years, as much as I like to call myself a digital expert, I consider myself more to be a change manager. Because transformation is about change management. And it starts with understanding that you need to have that kind of visionary leadership at the top. It’s going to help you break through some of the questions that you’re going to have from the teams about how they’re going to be able to move forward.
You also need to have a good integrator, that has experience working with B2B companies that are able to help you put those platforms into place. And then thirdly, you need to be able to train your staff to actually run it. When the project finishes and the integrator leaves you on your own, you’ve given birth to this baby, now you’ve got to feed it and keep it alive, make sure it’s breathing.
And you need to have all that in place at the same time. And that creates a lot of barriers. So you need that leadership, it starts up there. If you start in the middle or at the bottom and try to grow it, I have found in my experience, it takes a long time. You need to have the governance in place, you need to have that visionary leadership at the top, with the Board of Directors, making sure that this is part of their strategic plans going forward.
Daphna Andrews: Great point. B2B digital commerce is not easy. But here’s the thing, the reward is extremely large. If you nurture it like a baby, if you treat it like an ongoing living, breathing thing, where you have a roadmap and you have a backlog and you have a rolling strategy, that you’re constantly looking at.
B2B eCommerce is amazing and empowers your employees to make a lot of decisions based on data that they didn’t have before. That takes down walls of bureaucracy. So what you were saying is that it is absolutely critical that you go into this as seeing it as an ongoing living breathing part of your company. And while it’s very difficult, I have to say there’s a reason I’ve been doing this for now going on 23 years, because B2B commerce is so exciting. And I think you can also share that.
Steven Javor: Yeah, it’s the early days of B2B eCommerce. And it’s going to go exponentially fast with the way technology is changing, especially as we talked about before with the impact of generative AI and we aren’t sure how that’s going to change things, but it will change the way search is conducted.
The other point I wanted to make is that right now, you’re being judged by your online presence. As a B2B company, if people come to your website, and you are not giving them the information that they need, but your competitors are, there is an implication for the rest of your service.
For most B2B companies, it isn’t the online transaction that happens through the shopping cart that’s the important part. Your larger customers are going to be paying you through a system-to-system EDI methodology. But they’re still going to be doing all their discovery and research online with you.
So the ROI of your website should not be focused just on what goes through your webshop, but the impact that it has on all the different ways of buying. You need to differentiate the shopping experience and the buying experience, and how both are coordinated through your online presence or your website. And nevermind that you should get into composable commerce and headless commerce and connect all the data points that you have on your shop stores and things like that I spoke about before.
Daphna Andrews: So one thing I do want to say is other than the fact that we are seeing a very clear indication of the workforce is becoming more and more digitally native. And you and I’ve talked about this before about, people who are coming into the workforce, and the B2B buyers are people who are used to having information at their fingertips at any second.
So other than that indicator of the workforce driving the need for change, what other indicators do you see a company should look for when thinking about implementing a B2B digital commerce channel?
Steven Javor: Just think of the people that you want to hire over the next little while. They’re going to have expectations that you have a certain technology stack that they’re able to effectively do their jobs. We see a lot of movement from one company to another, especially with the millennials and Gen Z. They’re not native to a lot of the B2B concepts. They’re going to expect you to understand what are your going to need to do marketing more effectively. How can you do customer service more effectively? On the logistics point? Are you up to date with what’s going on? And are you able to satisfy your customers with the right context and the right information at the right time when they absolutely need to make decisions?
So it’s not just your customers perspective, you need to be aware of it’s your employees’ perspective, it’s the health of your company going forward that you need to understand that digital is a table stakes, at the end of the day, especially from the workforce perspective.
Daphna Andrews: Can you speak a little bit to the fact that it’s not just about the eCommerce store, but then you have to also transform your processes, how people are doing their jobs? If you’d like to go into that for a moment, that’d be great.
Steven Javor: What we’re looking for in our day-to-day work life is the ability to be effective, efficient, recognized, that we’re actually moving the ball forward, and that we’re not running at the same spot, doing the same things over and over again.
What we’re going to start seeing is creativity come more to the forefront. Ten years ago, we were told login one, jump into step two, you’re gonna need to learn to code. Now we’re hearing, Hey, you know what, ChatGPT can actually improve the code that you have, they can actually go through all your contracts and point out where you could be better and where you can become more efficient.
So we need to learn how to use this new technology and understand that there’s as many negative impacts of it as well as positive impacts, but the short term will focus on the positive. But I think, understanding that, it’s going to be a very competitive future. People aren’t going to wait for you to catch up.
We’re climbing a ladder right now to success, and there will be a point where that ladder gets cut in half. If you’re on the top part of that ladder, with the right technology stack, with the right view of your employees, with the right view of training and the right leadership, you’ll succeed. But if you’re on the bottom part of that ladder, you will always stay on that bottom part and you may actually fall off of the bottom part, as people on the top part of that ladder will dominate your industry and you’ll have a harder time of it. We have to remember that Amazon is a technology company. They’re not an eCommerce company. They’re a technology company that just happens to do eCommerce.
Daphna Andrews: It’s interesting also because if you look at when the pandemic hit, the companies that were having digital channels, how much better they fared. When the pandemic strikes and people cannot find PPE, but if they go online at Home Depot, it was already omnichannel all the way and their inventory was spot on.
You need to be in this digital channel to future-proof your business. And I don’t want to say the next pandemic, but whatever is coming, we don’t know, so we need to be as prepared as possible. And digital channels are obviously like you said, table stakes.
Steven Javor: You and I have been around long enough to remember when the internet came out. And I was writing code we’re using Tim Berners Lee HTML 1.0. Sun Microsystems and IBM were the biggest companies back then. Then 2003 comes along, with social media, and B2B didn’t understand it. B2C just tried to figure it out. And all of a sudden, we got companies like Meta, we got companies like ByteDance. And all the rest of us have YouTube came into play as MySpace exactly, then the smartphone in 2007, no one understood the impact of that, that completely changed the world with the distributed apps going around. And now everyone had the knowledge of the world in their pockets. And you need to have your feet on the ground, you need to have a play in your company involved in this in some way. Because I fear it’s a bulldozer.
Daphna Andrews: In some countries, up to 80% or more transactions are performed on their smartphone. Now, a lot of people say, Oh, that’s B2C. Actually, no, it’s very much B2B. In fact, when you have workflow that’s very complex, and say you’re bordering half a million dollars in server infrastructure, there are going to be a lot of approval points on that. You’re going to have your IT person, you’re going to have your CTO that whatever, and people are on the go. And if they can’t approve that order on their mobile phone, it’s going to be a real problem.
People think B2B is the slower dinosaur. No, it’s not. And people who are purchasing for B2B are people who are using Amazon. And they’re using all these online tools that they’re expecting their B2B platform to deliver to them.
Steven Javor: I was at the B2B online conference recently in Chicago. And there was a great debate by the Masters of B2B if Amazon is going to replace traditional distribution. And they had a great debate. It was funny, he was very thorough. And in the end, we had the vote, most of voting yes, that it will.
The tricky part of that question was traditional distribution. You can’t be traditional anymore. You need to move digital, you need to make sure that you are part of the conversation with the new millennials and Gen Z’s coming onto the market. Everyone’s been trained over the pandemic to use their phones, as another shopping tool, you need to be present. Even if they’re not going to be buying on that phone they’re going to be using and looking at your content and looking at the way you treat them as a precursor, whether they want to continue doing business with you, or is there someone more efficient, that able to give them a better experience?
Daphna Andrews: There’ve been numerous studies that have found, especially from a customer success standpoint, that consumers in a B2C environment are going to repurchase if they’re happy. But what keeps the ARR and your B2B customer loyal is, one, how easy and efficiently they can do their job by transacting with you; and, secondly, how successful you can make their company.
Steven Javor: As a distributor, you have two jobs. Either you’re going to save your customer money, or you’re going to make your customer one. That’s your role. And you have to be able to do that better than the next company. And what customers are looking for is someone that has their back. If I make a mistake, or if something doesn’t come through, can you come through for me? Are you able to go that extra mile? There’s another study that nearly 80% of B2B customers are willing to pay more for a product to get a better experience.
Daphna Andrews: Exactly right. It’s not just your daily job, but also your success in your job. You know everything about it. That’s a huge part of your life.
What do you think would be the starting point for companies looking to start their digital channel? Just a few things to get people’s mental juices flowing.
Steven Javor: It comes down to understanding what your target market is and who your segments are. Understand how they’re changing. In the electrical business, we understand that we’ll see electricians, they’re in their late 50s, they’re transitioning. And if you’re not ready now for what’s coming up next, you might miss the entire boat.
The second thing you have to understand is how are you differentiating yourself from your competitors? What are you doing differently, that’s going to increase that experience? And this is where I think we do have an advantage over the Amazons. The distribution companies do have these relationships with humans, they are able to put that human face onto it, we’re still doing business, because it’s based on trust. You want to have a partner who you can trust. In B2B, it’s not just a transactional relationship. It’s deeper than that.
And third, just understand the monetization opportunities that you have. The fact that you’re going to collect all this data, you can do all kinds of great personalization, you can blossom out other businesses from this information that you’re gathering and expand your capabilities. And make sure that you’re not missing the boat. When it comes to data and what’s coming up with generative AI.
Daphna Andrews: Things are going to be going so much faster than they’ve ever been. Steven, thank you so much for participating today. You are truly not just a veteran, you’re an expert in this field. So thank you so much for your time today.
Steven Javor: Thank you for your kind words.
This episode is brought to you by Oro, a leading innovator and provider of customer-driven, powerful, and connected open-source software for B2B digital transformation. Oro seeks to build long-term trustful relationships with its customers, integrators, developers, and technology partners. By empowering people with the best tools to digitalize their business.