Rockwool, a global player in B2B manufacturing, split their digital transformation in two phases. First, they digitalized all backoffice tools and processes, and then slowly rolled them out to a B2B commerce frontend.
Daniel Tholander, Director of Commercial Excellence at Rockwool laughs, as he speaks about internal change management: “Yes, we called it RockCommerce. We like the Rock name, it has a nice ring to it internally. You know, when you sell such a digital transformation project to your organization, it makes it really easier when you brand a product like that!”
Daniel is responsible for commercial excellence at Rockwool. The organization is operating globally, with headquarters just outside of Copenhagen, Denmark. They have 46 manufacturing facilities, from Thailand, China, Russia, all the way over to North America. They produce stonewool; thin “fibres” that derive from molten stone and that are tremendously effective to insulate walls.
Digital transformation in B2B is a global commerce initiative
“Within my role I am responsible to ensure that our sales team has the adequate tools and the supportive processes they need. That doesn’t necessarily mean that we from the headquarter decide how they’re supposed to work and which tool they’re supposed to take on, but we do try to do our best to actually have more of a centralized steering on what tools and what processes to have.”
What is Digital Transformation?
Digital transformation is simply the adoption of digital technology by a company. In the manufacturing industry, digital transformation means that information and communication technologies merge with production processes. The change enables efficiency gains and new business
For Rockwool, e-commerce is the outcome of a very thorough and long-term digital transformation initiative. “We’ve been going through quite a digitalization journey over the past five years, focusing mainly on our backend services to ensure that they work properly so that we can actually feed them effectively to a commerce platform.
For us it’s kind of imperative that we have a commerce platform that actually delivers the services and the transactional value that we want, but also that our customers can realize it and that they see a benefit from these services.”
Even as the backend was well prepared, deploying the B2B online shops was something that Rockwool didn't rush. At first, only three countries had access to the Intershop-based customer portal: France, Germany, Spain, followed by the UK soon after.
“We’re ensuring that in each market we address the right customers, and with the right approach."
"We also want to ensure that the local market, the management team there, that they know what they’re doing, they know how to harness our product and know how to engage with their customers.”
In a recent study by Intershop and Copperberg, we published the most effective strategies and best practices to guide manufacturers on their path towards international e-commerce success. You can download it here: Benchmark report “The State of International E-Commerce in Manufacturing”
Digital transformation in B2B means finding the perfect balance in customer experience
In the early stages of running on Intershop, the pilot customers were a bit confused, though: The team of Rockwool created a platform that was too fancy for them!
“The Intershop platform can be mistakenly taken for a B2C platform because of the richness of functionality and the easily created look and feel.
We invested quite a lot in the design and customer experience of it, for example in reducing the check-out process from five to three clicks.
However, we quickly found out that we had to tone it down a bit, because our pilot customers didn’t think they were on a B2B commerce platform!"
Rockwool wanted to make sure that when customers enter the B2B website, they quickly see some of the latest transactions, and relevant after-sales services. Yes, B2B should adapt from B2C, but the challenge is to find the right balance for the real needs of the specific customer segment.
A "grow-as-you-go" approach ensures that customer needs are truly met. And that can mean not implementing every possible feature or tool: “In Germany, 50% of our orders last year came from fax machines. If you are a 55/60 year old procurement professional, you’ve been doing this all your life, you have your own processes on how you file certain procurement requests. Then it may not be in your benefit to change that process!”
Offering Self-Services is a major aspect of Digital Transformation in B2B
Changing user behaviour in order to increase efficiency for both the customer and the manufacturer is one of the challenges of digital transformation at Rockwool: “Our customers can easily get on the B2B website for an invoice request, a change of pricing, or a quote request. We have all these features in place. So why do they want to call and maybe sit 15 minutes in a queue instead of just doing it themselves? It’s our current task to explain that to the customer and show them the benefits of that.”
Digital transformation means continuous improvement
“Now that our developers know the platform so well in terms of benefits and limitations, we will redo some of our customer journeys. It doesn’t have to be a four day workshop. We’ll try to see what we can do in a few hours, just to highlight a few things that we want to optimize.
Of course then we put the customers on the spot and say: Okay, for this particular service or for this particular piece of information, what would be the most effective way for you to engage with the platform? And this is what I think is a good iteration process to have.”
The Voice of Digital Leaders in Manufacturing 2022: Commerce and Digital Adoption
Did you know? Manufacturers that push their digitalization will invest up to 20% more in digital initiatives in 2022 than in the previous year. If you want to know more about the state of digital transformation in manufacturing, download our free survey report: