Bearings Distributor BDI Taking B2C Conversion In Stride

BDI E-Business Manager Steve Grzymkowski shares his thoughts on how distributors are handling a transition from business-to-business to one of business-to-customer, including how BDI is trying to stay ahead of the curve.

Industrial Distribution recently attended the second annual Game Plan B2B E-Commerce Forum, hosted by SAP and Hybris Nov. 4-5 in Schaumburg, IL. There, ID had a 1-on-1 interview with Steve Grzymkowski, Manager of E-Business at Bearings Distributors Inc. (BDI) — which came it at No. 23 on ID's 2014 Big 50 List

In the interview, Grzymkowski shared his thoughts on how distributors are handling a transition from business-to-business to one of business-to-customer, including how BDI is trying to stay ahead of the curve.

Industrial Distribution: What are your general impressions of this Game Plan forum? What do you think people get out of this and take back to their business?

Steve Grzymkowski: I’ve been amazed at how much this has grown just since last year. It’s probably at least doubled the number of people. We use Hybris and SAP, so it’s very targeted in the technology that we’re using. But it’s also B2B. It seems most the conferences are mainly for B2C, maybe 10-20 percent are for B2B. This is very targeted for B2B. I’m hoping to get some ideas, some things we could try that would be helpful.

ID: Looking specifically at distributors, what trends in B2B do you see standing out or that will be prominent going into 2015?

SG: I think most distributors now are investing quite a bit in their e-commerce, so that’s new. Years ago it was a very small percentage of sales. We’ve had e-commerce going on for 6-7 years, but right now we’re re-platforming on SAP with Hybris so we can be international. The trend is going from having a very simplistic e-commerce site where it’s more (about typing in) the part numbers, to more of a B2C look and feel where it’s a whole shopping experience. The websites are getting more and more like B2C websites.

ID: How are companies converting to B2C and catering more to the customer going forward?

SG: One of the things I heard in the 3M presentation earlier today resonates and that’s making a whole buying experience. That’s especially relevant for a distributor. Our customers look to us for product expertise. We’re in the midst of rolling out a knowledge-based application as part of our website, so that customers can exchange information, we can push out information, application stories, success stories about products and just give a higher depth of information about the application of the product.

ID: The social media element on B2B websites has grown exponentially. Where is BDI on that front to help the customer experience?

SG: Our website has links to our Youtube, our Twitter, our Facebook. One of the new things we’re doing within our next version of e-commerce is, when somebody finds a product, it’ll be one click to go and Tweet or email that product page. So if somebody’s buying something and thinks it’s an interesting product, they can share it with their network and give their views on it. They’re also able to give it a star rating. I think you’ll be seeing that with more and more B2B sites. That’s one way B2B sites are getting to look how B2C sites have been.

ID: Customers tend to trust customer reviews more than company promotions. How important is it to provide that customer-to-customer element?

SG: That’s one of the things we’re putting into our knowledge articles. If we have in our knowledge-base an article about the application about a product, we’re going to allow customers to comment on it and share their story. They can rate it. Somebody can look at the most viewed, highest rated, or most useful articles. We’re hoping to take advantage of that. We’re hoping to build a community. Our CEO wants to make our website a destination site. Not a site you go to just to buy something. More, you want to browse through it to find ideas about things that you might not even know are opportunities for you.

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