Intershop Blog
Your hotspot for market and technology trends in B2B e-commerce
  • There are no suggestions because the search field is empty.

“A picture is worth a thousand words”, they say. This quote reflects the fundamental truth that humans are inherently visual beings, which makes the visualization of products an integral part of a successful online buying journey - and perhaps even the missing ingredient for a highly performing aftermarket parts sales strategy. In this article, we:


The challenges in online aftermarket and spare parts sales

One major difference between B2C and B2B is in the products itself. In the consumer space, products are more standardized, while B2B products and spare parts often require precise matching to fit specific machinery or equipment. The sheer diversity of products and variations in B2B makes it difficult, even for professional buyers, to navigate vast catalogs and disparate data sources. And ensuring compatibility with existing equipment or systems adds another layer of complexity. While some manufacturers and wholesalers already offer advanced search and filter capabilities to show only the right products to their customers, finding the exact match amidst a multitude of options remains daunting.

As a result, B2B online buyers often struggle with the time-consuming task of searching for unknown part numbers, verifying product details and authenticity, leading to frustrating delays in maintenance or repair operations, misidentified parts and a lack of productivity. On the merchant side, this oftentimes translates to unhappy customers, high return rates, a lack of confidence about buying online, low conversion rates, and ultimately missed revenue.

Enhancing the accuracy and efficiency of spare parts identification and procurement on e-commerce sites is therefore crucial for B2B businesses selling in the aftermarket. By tackling the underlying issues, you can provide a solution that enables effortless spare parts discovery and acquisition within moments.


The role of 3D visualization in B2B commerce

The concept of visualization, particularly 3D product visualization in e-commerce, describes the display of three-dimensional models and explosion graphics as an online representation of physical goods such as complex, configurable machines. Rather than showing a catalog of photos and product descriptions, the integrated use of e-commerce technology and 3D visualization software offers an immersive buying experience, helping customers quickly and accurately identify the right products or spare parts. Authentic product visualization is instrumental in simplifying complex sales processes, and can significantly reduce uncertainty in online buying, which leads to less returns, improved conversion rates, and more revenue.




What is visual search?

Unlike traditional search, which relies on keywords and text associated with the product to deliver search results, visual search employs Artificial Intelligence (AI) to enable users to conduct online searches using images rather than text. While consumer-oriented platforms have long integrated visual search, solutions for manufacturers and distributors selling aftermarket spare parts are lagging behind in adopting this technology. Given the complexity of finding the right spare parts online outlined earlier, visual search presents untapped potential for companies offering aftermarket spare parts online. Here are some of the advantages of offering visual search for your customers:

1. Increased efficiency: Enable your customers to simply snap and upload a picture of the required spare part so your staff can focus on more complex tasks versus wasting valuable time answering simple questions and taking orders.

2. Reduced support costs: With customers able to self-serve and find the parts they need without assistance; you can reduce support costs associated with mundane tasks such as providing technical documentation or validating part numbers.

3. Increased loyalty and revenue: By offering a user-friendly solution that guides customers seamlessly from product identification to cart and instant checkout, you can maximize your aftermarket sales potential, fostering customer loyalty and driving revenue.

4. Competitive advantage: With growing competition and evolving customer demands, it’s crucial to find ways to stand out. Offering innovative features like effortless part identification and self-service capabilities sets the company apart from competitors who may still rely on outdated methods.


Effortless product identification: Visual search on mobile


The power of AI-powered image search for spare parts

Many manufacturers and distributors are seeing the rapid explosion of AI technology which more B2B organizations leverage due to its capacity to analyze extensive data. However, this trend has also left many digital leaders feeling overwhelmed and unsure of how to efficiently navigate this technology and its myriad of use cases. To address some of this uncertainty, we outline how Artificial Intelligence can enhance your image search.

From data chaos to clarity: Disorganized data is like a messy puzzle box – frustrating and unusable! Advanced algorithms can help decipher, sort, and clean up your data, transforming it from a liability into a valuable asset which will ultimately power your visual parts search capabilities.

Create dynamic visualization: AI can help transform legacy 2D exploded view images, serial number specific BOM (Bill of Material) data, and 3D CAD assets into a powerful and search-friendly digital spare parts catalog in your online store.

Object recognition: AI algorithms can recognize objects with images, allowing users to search for specific items without needing to have detailed descriptions or know the correct keywords. By powering your aftermarket spare parts search solution with existing CAD assets, AI can decipher need-specific parts, sizes, and dimensions - all from snapping a photo. Additionally, it can make additional recommendations to ensure you get everything you need with your parts.


How can 3D visualization and visual search be integrated into your B2B commerce strategy?

To answer this question, it’s important to understand the evolution of B2B commerce and derive the next steps based on the maturity of your own online presenceevolution-of-B2B-commerce-EN

Information portal: B2B companies often start their digital journey by setting up an online information portal, providing comprehensive product details, documentation, tutorials, and contact information. While not enabling online orders, an information portal can enhance brand image and fosters customer loyalty through virtual technologies.

Transaction portal: A classic B2B online store allows customers to access product information and place orders. Many companies in this stage explore innovative technologies, such as 360° product displays to enhance their online experience.

Self-service portal: In this stage, companies increasingly adopt digital self-service portals, offering customers tailored services like 24/7 access to information, e-learning, and management of their data and contracts. A self-service portal offers tremendous potential to increase after-sales revenue, not the least of which is through sophisticated 3D visualization and AI-powered image search.

Personalized, visual portal: In this stage, B2B customers can access personalized search results, pricing, and information on their installed base. Advanced features like 3D visualization enhance the customer experience even further and drive sales.

Smart connected portal: By integrating IoT and smart devices, connected portals offer intelligent services for Industry 4.0, including predictive maintenance and optimization. Digital twins enable monitoring and optimization of machine operations, resulting in stronger customer loyalty and reduced downtime.

Autonomous portals – the intelligent future. This stage is intended to create a self-governing B2B e-commerce experience for both the buying and selling side, based on pattern recognition and AI. Autonomous portals are currently still a vision rather than reality, paving the way for further development in B2B commerce

The synergy between AI, e-commerce, and visualization is more than a trend and can be leveraged throughout your digital journey. It’s a transformative shift with the true potential to revolutionize sales processes and enhance the entire buying journey. Through the integration of e-commerce, and by leveraging the power of AI-enabled 3D visualization, companies can achieve new levels of operational efficiency and sustainable growth. The integrated power of Intershop’s  leading B2B Commerce Platform and CDS Visual’s visualization solution enables you to digitalize your entire (parts) catalog, offering customers an engaging and intuitive way to confidently self-serve and placing the right orders through your e-commerce site.


How Environmental Solutions Group (ESG) boosts self-service aftermarket orders by 900% with Intershop and CDS Visual

ESG, a division of Dover Corporation, provides the latest innovations in equipment for the waste collection industry. Its offerings include leading brands such as Heil® garbage truck bodies, Marathon® trash compactors and recycling balers, Bayne Thinline® Lifters and Curotto-Can® automated front loader equipment. ESG serves large enterprise customers like Waste Management and Republic Services directly and approximately 100 smaller customers in the waste management and recycling business through its dealer network.

The challenge:

ESG's success hinges on customers' ability to maintain their waste management and recycling equipment; having rapid access to replacement parts is crucial. ESG’s customers, dealers and technicians, are typically very familiar with the equipment, but identifying specific parts in ESG's product catalogs remained a challenge leading to numerous inbound calls for part sourcing and orders. This manual process not only consumed staff time but also delayed deliveries and increased equipment downtime. To streamline operations, provide dealers with better product insights and ensure ready access for preventive maintenance, ESG sought a more integrated digital solution to rapidly process parts orders.

The solution:

To offer an integrated self-service online portal for its customers to identify, select, and order the right replacement parts for their waste management and recycling equipment, ESG deployed Intershop’s Commerce Platform and CDS Visual’s Partable, a cloud-based visualization solution. The revamped online store makes it easier for customers to search for and buy replacement parts. Exploded view images and interactive 3D models use existing engineering CAD & product data, and significantly improve the accuracy of parts searches.

The results:

With its new state-of-the-art aftermarket online store, ESG is seeing a dramatic migration to its online channel across its business with a 900% increase in replacement part orders being made online and a 696% increase in online revenue!

For the complete case study, please click here.

Learn how we can support your aftermarket sales and individual use case for spare parts search and contact us now!

Contact us


This blog article was authored by Patrick Mikolai, in collaboration with our technology partner CDS Visual.

About CDS Visual:

Intershop’s Technology Partner CDS Visual enables manufacturers to drive business value by unlocking their CAD assets to deliver dynamic interactive visual experiences. Its cloud-based visualization solutions, trusted by the world's biggest industrial suppliers, revolutionize their commerce, configure price quote (CPQ), and training initiatives. With an extensive offering of 3D visualization solutions, CDS uniquely deliver impactful solutions for 3D configuration, aftermarket part search, digital work instructions, and enhanced digital content, repurposing CAS assets and other data sources. For more info, visit