January 18, 2013, 11:46 AM

A more efficient pipeline to online business-to-business sales

J.O. Galloup, which sells pipes and valves, finds a faster way to serve customers.

Lead Photo

As b2b companies seek out technology vendors to support their e-commerce strategies, they face the challenge of getting new applications to work with their existing technology. That was the case at J.O. Galloup, a Battle Creek, MI-based unit of Kendall Electric Inc. that sells industrial pipes, valves and related fittings to utility companies and automakers in the Midwest.

Several years ago Galloup launched a business-to-consumer site on eBay Inc.’s free Magento Community e-commerce platform, selling small items like thermometers and gauges to learn the basics of operating a shopper-friendly site. It then tested a business-to-business site, but among other problems found that site didn’t integrate well with Galloup’s back-end SAP financial and inventory management software, says Gary Merritt, director of marketing for J.O. Galloup. For example, when the site tried to pull the prices each client company had negotiated, pages loaded painfully slowly, taking up to 15 seconds.

So when Galloup decided to build a new b2b site, it wanted to make sure it had both a b2c look and feel and communicated well with the SAP software. Galloup chose Insite Software, an e-commerce technology vendor with experience building strong links to SAP software for clients including manufacturers, distributors and retailers.

The new b2b site, which launched last year, avoids the problem of slowly loading pages and offers a user-friendly interface, including large images of products, site search and images of related items in the shopping cart, Merritt says. It also connects with the SAP software in ways that provide important purchasing features that many customers want, he adds.

A customer of Galloup creating a new purchase order in his own company’s software system, for example, can electronically send the purchase order to the Galloup b2b site’s shopping cart, then receive the purchase order back with pricing and shipping details to route through his company’s approval process.

“That’s part of what prompted us to work with Insite,” Merritt says. “Our former e-commerce software couldn’t pull that off.” He adds that e-commerce accounts for a small percentage of total sales, but that Galloup expects that percentage to grow as more customers become accustomed to using the new site.

An article on b2b e-commerce strategies will appear in the February issue of Internet Retailer magazine.  

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