Game Plan B2B E-Commerce Forum in Chicago last week hosted a plethora of great keynotes and industry experts to talk all things e-commerce in the B2B space.
The attendees heard from Steve Max, director of e-Commerce at Airgas, during a featured address with author and TV personality Mark Jeffries moderating.
Max discussed “The Airgas Story – Reinventing Your eBusiness: Platform, Operations and Organization.”
Through its subsidiaries, Airgas the largest U.S. distributor of industrial, medical and specialty gases, and hard-goods, such as welding equipment and supplies. Airgas is also a leading U.S. producer of atmospheric gases, carbon dioxide, dry ice, and nitrous oxide, one of the largest U.S. distributors of safety products, and a leading U.S. distributor of refrigerants, ammonia products, and process chemicals.
It was insightful to get a peek into the Airgas customer base by market and how they sell gas online.
Airgas launched their first website in 1997 that resembled “brochure-ware” and in 2001 moved over to an e-commerce site. Max stated that back in 2001 many folks thought e-commerce was “just a fad.”
“You say that now-a-days in a board room and you get kicked out,” said Max, when asked by Mark if he saw e-commerce as a solid career path.
B2C has set customers’ expectations for e-commerce. But for B2B, online procurement is just as important as online ordering. Based on Max’s comments, his customers are telling him that, even more than being able to research and order online, they want to be able to complete the transactions with online (and even mobile) payments.
Companies need to ask themselves, “how does e-commerce fit into my overall brand?” before developing their strategies. After identifying what the e-commerce strategy is, then they need to find out what the customers really want out of it. The final step is bringing that strategic plan to management with a solid business case for making the investment.
E-commerce cannot be “siloed,” it must have an omni-channel focus. And as Max put it, “What is online cannot be too radical to what we do offline.”
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