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How Acme Supplies Reshaped the B2B Experience and Achieved 150% Growth in Online Sales

When Hawkes Bay stationery giant Acme Supplies partnered with BBT to digitalise their business, understanding what mattered to a B2B buyer was paramount. Mike Taylor discusses how the team successfully digitalised and transformed the B2B customer experience.

Kiwi wholesalers have long relied on traditional ways of doing business, with individual relationships and manual operations dominating the sector. But the need to change has never been stronger; Covid-19 disruptions, labour shortages, and evolving customer shopping preferences (both B2B and B2C) are encouraging companies to innovate a better digital customer experience (CX).

According to a Westpac New Zealand 2022 industry analysis, the wholesale sector is facing increased competition due to disintermediation, new market entrants and changing customer expectations, influenced by the success of Amazon in offshore markets. As a result, wholesalers must leverage their strengths and deliver additional services to remain competitive.

When Hawkes Bay stationery giant Acme Supplies partnered with BBT to digitalise their business, understanding what mattered to a B2B buyer was paramount. “Digital solutions don’t work in silos, and to provide Acme with a new platform that properly transforms their business, we took the time to understand their customers, processes and operations,” says Mike Taylor, Managing Director of BBT. “Not only did we utilise surveys to help us identify pain points for stationery buyers, we also worked closely with their sales and customer support teams to seek specific feedback that helps validate and solidify features.”

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To meet the evolving needs of a B2B buyer, the new Acme B2B eCommerce site was launched with integration and innovative features that improved the customer experience and reduced staff workload. A two-way ERP integration provides real-time stock visibility and more accurate demand forecasting. The customer portal’s custom “multi-cart” system simplifies purchasing for businesses with multiple stores or offices. Additionally, a quick order function allows customers who prefer traditional purchasing methods to upload a CSV, streamlining and automating the rest of the purchase process.

Since the launch of the new site, Acme has seen a 150% increase in online sales and a 16.5% increase in web accounts created. This is no small feat, given that the rate of digital transformation projects failing to meet their original objectives ranges from 70% to 95%, according to Harvard Business Review.

When reflecting on the cornerstones of Acme’s digital transformation, Taylor said, “We co-create success with our clients, which means being hyper-focused on what moves the needle. For Acme, we knew we needed something functional, intuitive to use, and reduced friction for customers and the support team. While tempting, we avoided an overly designed, interactive UI design, as most B2B buyers are time-poor and visit the site to get the job done as quickly and easily as possible.”

Advice for businesses undergoing digital transformation is to prioritise people over flashy gadgets. “The most common mistake we see companies make is choosing software that has everything but the kitchen sink, and then struggle to implement a large “one size fits all” system. It’s not always about the bright shiny things. It’s about ensuring the solution consistently delivers, which is achieved by creating a seamless process that considers the business and user as a whole,” says Taylor.

Helpful advice | Common pain points of a B2B buyer:

  • Complex purchasing processes: B2B buying decisions involve multiple stakeholders, making the purchase process longer and more complex.
  • Lack of transparency in pricing and lead times: B2B buyers may need help understanding the full cost of a purchase and wait for a long time for their products to be delivered.
  • Limited product information: B2B buyers may need help finding detailed product information, including specifications and product safety information, to inform their purchasing decision.
  • Inadequate customer service: B2B buyers may be frustrated by a lack of personalised attention, poor communication, and slow response times from vendors.