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international B2B commerce for manufacturers Digitalizing a global manufacturer - Lessons from Atlas Copco.

Atlas Copco Industrial Technique, part of the Atlas Copco Group, manufactures industrial tools and equipment of all sorts and sizes for assembling airplanes, cars, electronics, etc. “I guess more than 50% of all the cars around the world are - to some extent – put together with our equipment.” says Thomas Areskoug, VP Digital Platforms Atlas Copco Industrial Technique. Find out how they succeeded in digital commerce while aligning digitalization efforts in multiple business units.

At a recent expert panel, we took the opportunity to talk with Thomas about the importance of international e-commerce for manufacturers. In his role, he is responsible for the e-commerce platform, the web and the CRM system.

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The buying experience as trigger for digitalization

The reasons for going digital are usually unique for every organization. For Atlas Copco, it was the realization that the ease of doing business with them was not as great as hoped for: “It is not that we have insufficient service levels or issues with our sales force. It’s that the expectations from our customers have grown with regards to the buying journey. 

We see from many searches done globally that the NPS score or loyalty is driven mostly by the procurement experience. I saw somewhere that about 50 – 70% of the rating comes from your procurement experience.”

When it comes to e-commerce, Atlas Copco focuses on replacement tools, spare parts, simple orders. There are a lot of orders per day of just two or three items. They don’t contribute much to the company’s revenue, but require attention and administration. “Backtracking of items that are out of stock causes a lot of problems and costs.” 

Each division needs to work on their own digitalization strategy first

So, e-commerce at Atlas Copco had a long tradition, but the 15-year-old platform was lacking features and personalizations that buyers nowadays expect. “It was impossible to find an accessory that exactly matches your tools, or to easily select a cord to your screwdriver. We have hundreds of cords to choose from and find out which one fits yours. 

On our new platform we could reduce the number of clicks to get to the right item, which is a great start. The feedback we get from the pilot phase is very good, but we are aware that they come from something that is very dysfunctional and also unstable. An e-commerce project is hardly ever done. For example, at first, we didn’t have a proper PIM (Product Information Management) system. I think this would have never been a success without having proper data.”

The digitalization strategy for Thomas’ organizational sector was driven by the urge to improve the buying experience for the existing customers. “Other divisions at Atlas Copco have their own strategies, due to mergers for example. Some need to integrate their systems into ours first before they can join us on the global e-commerce platform.”

In order to make the commerce revolution an international success, Atlas Copco involved the different brands and business units early in the process: “In the first year we were funded centrally. But now we’re up and running and rolling it out to more and more sectors. We also involve them in the costs now, so they see the benefits already. They see the ROI in reduced administration and cross-sell opportunities and can finally also solve missing orders easily.”

Include all brands and divisions early for global success

The Intershop platform makes it easy to support global and complex business scenarios: “Even though we have many brands, each will have a very different look and feel. We have even competing brands, and competing sales organizations under one roof! With the new platform, you can easily track all orders, but the front-end looks like different brands.”

Thomas and his organization profited from hiring a highly experienced customer experience lead early on, who could support all the different business units in their needs. Another success factor was the decision to start with their biggest market, the US. “When our biggest country says ‘this is great, it’s moving our sales, it’s moving our customers’, everyone else wants to come along. Of course there is some tailoring for other regions, but that is mainly toggling things off and some design shifting.”

Focus on customer needs

Manufacturers like Atlas Copco know very well how they can improve their production cycle, or enhance the time needed for a car assembly. The challenge of the future is to keep track of changing user needs in terms of procurement. “For example, most of the users already know what to buy, they just upload the CSV file! We needed to make sure that this is possible super quick. Otherwise, they will not use it. Also, we work for an installed base and everyone has their unique prices. So when they log in from a plant, it’s their prices.”

Do you want to learn more about Atlas Copco and which digitalization strategy turned out to be successful? Watch the expert panel now and find it out!

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