Episode 17: Behind the Scenes Sneak Peek at B2B eCommerce with Trellis CEO Isaiah Bollinger

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Charles:            In this episode of The Business of eCommerce, I talk with Isaiah Bollinger the founder of Trellis. This is The Business of eCommerce, Episode 17.

Welcome to The Business of eCommerce, the Podcast that helps eCommerce entrepreneurs start, launch, and grow their eCommerce business. I’m your host Charles Palleschi. I’m here today with Isaiah Bollinger, one of the founders of Trellis. Trellis is one of the top full-service eCommerce development agencies right here in Boston.

I recently saw a post by Isaiah, or on the Trellis blog actually, that was about the rapid growth of B2B eCommerce. That’s one of those topics that you don’t see many folks talking about B2B eCommerce, so I wanted to bring Isaiah on the show here today and chat a little more about it. So, hey Isaiah, how are you doing?

Isaiah:              Good, good, thank you for inviting me to the show. You know, we’ve been connected for a while now, so it’s great to be on the show and talk about eCommerce. Something that we’ve both been doing for a while now.

Charles:            Yeah, it’s great to have you, it’s unusual actually to have someone from here in Boston, someone I’ve actually met in real life.

Isaiah:              Yeah, it’s funny how you mentioned we’re one of the top eCommerce, we just actually got rated as the top eCommerce agency in Boston by a firm called Clutch. They organize agencies and help people find the top agencies locally for different things. Boston, surprisingly, it’s not as robust for lots of eCommerce firms, compared to New York. Locally, most of our competitors are mostly in New York. There’s so many of them there, but Boston’s not quite as many here.

Charles:            I feel like it’s a big eCommerce city though. There’s a lot of start ups in a small … on the software side. A few different products went out of the city.

Isaiah:              I think New York is just also an agency hub.

Charles:            Yeah.

Isaiah:              It’s a hub for agencies and funny enough, one of our bigger eCommerce competitors moved their headquarters now to New York, and then one of the other ones, their headquarters is now in California, and they both just disappeared from Boston, so it’s good for us.

Charles:            That’s a good thing.

Isaiah:              Yeah.

Charles:            Awesome, so, we were talking about the blog post on B2B eCommerce, and the rapid growth and it’s not something that a lot of folks talk about so I figured you guys have, it sounds like, some significant experience with that. So, wanted to chat a little bit more you know, what is it, what are people doing, and what you kind of see now.

Isaiah:              Yeah, absolutely. We started doing B2B eCommerce back when the company started in 2012. We kind of fell into it. Started with a mid-sized distributor, and it was a Magento project, and I think we quickly realized hey, there’s some potential here for not only the customers but also the agency size so it felt like a good synergy of an area for us to focus. We’ve just kind of grown up from there.

B2B eCommerce has been a pretty large industry for a while. It’s just not talked about a lot because I don’t think it’s very sexy in the sense that it’s a lot of behind the scenes. A lot of the sites are actually password protected sites, or you need to log in to see pricing, or you basically have to be a customer to get the true experience. From that sense you might not even know about these sites, or be able to get to these sites that are doing millions and millions or even billions of dollars online. I think that’s kind of a big reason for why B2B eCommerce is so kind of behind the scenes even though it’s actually more than double B2C eCommerce in terms of total sales volume.

I think we’re still really honestly only in the beginning because, right now, it’s only about 10% of total sales. Maybe it’s a little higher, might actually be more like 12%. Sorry. I’ll have to look at the numbers. So, like, total B2B sales is still only a small percentage, and I think it has more potential to be a higher percentage of total sales than B2C because in B2B you kind of know what you want, right? You’re a business, I need to get this product for my business. It’s going to help me. You might even know the exact skew, or you might have a very good idea and you’re narrowing it down. In a lot of ways it’s almost a better fit for the self-serve of eCommerce whereas consumers might want to try on shoes, and they might want to have more of an experience in-store compared to B2B, where you just want to get in, and get going with your business and not worry about the experience of buying it. Does that make sense?

Charles:            Yeah, absolutely. We see it a lot where people … the other nice part is a lot of times you’re selling very high quantities of particular skew. For example, B2B, when it’s selling electronics, right? Someone’s going and buying 100 monitors at a time, they’re not making a sale of one monitor. You’re making a sale of a monitor for the entire department. Its one particular model and they come and buy 100 units. You see that all the time. What are actually some examples of … in the industry, when you say B2B, is this on the IT side? On the … what kind of things?

Isaiah:              Everything, I mean, we’re talking to companies all across the spectrum. Definitely electronics, could be retail, could be clothes–but the company is actually selling the clothes to the retailers. It could be … we’re seeing in all sorts of niche industries that you don’t think about, like flooring. All the different skews that go into … to talk to some companies in the stone industry that sell very different, all these specific variations of stone. It can get all over the place. All sorts of building supplies. Literally anything that you might buy or use, whether it’s on a building, or in a home, or all the way down to the consumer level. That’s all getting sent to either contractors, or small retailers, or small businesses so a lot of that is still being done over the phone with salespeople, but I think people are starting to realize that the salesperson, unless they’re really adding value, they’re really just taking an order. At that point, why not have that be 24/7 online?

Charles:            Yeah. Are you seeing folks with an existing B2B type business transitioning to the eCommerce side, or is this a lot of new retailers starting fresh and saying, “Let’s just build a business from scratch based on this concept?”

Isaiah:              Definitely more so B2B companies that some of them may already have a B2B eCommerce site. Some are somewhat sophisticated, and some are just getting started. Usually, I would say it’s companies that are already doing B2B, and they either already have some level of eCommerce, and they want to enhance it or improve it. Maybe they’re doing five percent revenue online, and they want to get 10% or 20% or they just want to make the experience better for customers. Sometimes they also see it as a marketing channel. If they build a better B2B site that’s open to the public, maybe it is log-in for pricing, but you can still all the products are crawled by Google, so it’s … as you optimize it could be a new marketing channel for them to get new customers. For the most part, we’re seeing B2B companies transitioning to eCommerce, or they’re already doing it and they just need to ramp up because they just need to be more … I think customers are demanding that they want a good experience. That they want to be able to find what they want online.

Charles:            They want to be able to find because, back in the day, I use to go there, and I know small businesses would get a catalog with all the different parts, and they’d flip through it and find the exact part. It’s so crazy to think about it today, but you could put all that online–those companies. I think a lot of them have. Where you go through and at least just flip through a catalog. You don’t have to send out these massive parts catalogs every quarter and spend money on that, and then, like you said, take the order over the phone. That whole process kind of streamlines that.

Isaiah:              Yeah. I think that bringing up the catalog is the perfect example of what’s happening here. It’s that these companies used to be catalog-driven so they’d send the catalog, you’d flip through the catalog, and buy. Now, people want that same experience, they just want it to be online, and they want to know when it’s going to get shipped, and all of that.

So, I think that what B&B companies need to realize is that they need to think differently about the role of the salesperson, and the role of the eCommerce, and how that’s going to replace the catalog, and just start to really evolve into this new digital catalog format. I think a lot of companies haven’t quite fully understood what that really means.

Charles:            What’s a typical sales process–when you say, they have to get a log-in for pricing, that sort of thing? Are they first making contacts with different companies, and then drive them to the site, or are they using the site as saying, “Here are our products. Contact us, and we’ll create a log-in for you”? How does that whole … work?

Isaiah:              I think part of the challenge of B2B is that the pricing is more complicated for most of these companies, and the operations are more complicated. With retail you build your Shopify or Magento, or BigCommerce site or whatever it is and you have your pricing and people buy and check out. With B2B, a lot of these companies have personalized pricing. They don’t want to display pricing, because they don’t want to display pricing that’s either too low for certain customers, or too high for certain customers. You need to log-in to see your specific pricing or your customer group. Sometimes they break them up into customer groups and you fall into a group based on how much you’re buying or whatever the company decides how they want to set up the customer groups and the discounts for those customer groups. It could even be 1-to-1 pricing. I think that’s one of the bigger complexities that companies struggle to figure out how to set that up with B2B eCommerce.

I think part of it is that you don’t want people just to see the pricing right away, sometimes and sometimes that’s not the case. Maybe they have a retail pricing that they show, but then it’ll [inaudible 00:10:43] get B2B pricing. The other aspect is you might offer credit. You might offer buy with purchase order, or check-out purchase order, just like B2B buy but pay later. That’s why that companies don’t initially want [inaudible 00:11:00] check-out or just anyone to sign-up. They need to verify this like a real business, and they’re going to pay their bills, because if any Joe Schmoe is just going on and ordering $10,000 just something and they ship it out, and it turns out he’s not legitimate.

Charles:            They probably want that tax ID on file, and an actual verified address at least.

Isaiah:              Exactly.

Charles:            … things like that.

Isaiah:              There’s just a lot more operations behind B2B eCommerce and I think that’s really the main reason that companies have struggled to … I think most companies are starting to know at this point they need to do it, but I think they just don’t know how to properly budget and manage the complexity that exists for B2B eCommerce.

Charles:            What platform do you see as better than others on this? I know you guys are big Magento fans, right?

Isaiah:              Yeah. I think the reason for that and we saw Magento as being stronger in the B2B space and that’s part of why we stuck with it all these years and they’ve definitely strengthened their B2B presence. I think Magento is still  probably the strongest in B2B in the sense in that it has the most flexibility and a lot of out-of-the-box features, as well as a huge community of extensions and add-ons that you can bolt onto Magento. I think from a pure scalability standpoint, Magento’s still the strongest. By scalability, I mean complexity of operations and total sales volume. It has the most potential to grow that into the hundreds of millions of billions of dollars, but obviously, you could still use it for smaller sites.

I think there’s some other players. I think we’re seeing a lot more Shopify and BigCommerce for the smaller, simpler B2B eCommerce sites that maybe they want to test the waters or start somewhere and not spend quite as much money. Those platforms are great for just getting started and they have some B2B lite features, so I think they’re great for the simpler … if you can get moving with maybe a percentage of the B2B customers that fall into certain more basic operations, and you don’t have everything going through the site, those platforms could work really well for that.

Charles:            Magento, or out-of-the-box is very strong with the pricing and the grouping, right?

Isaiah:              Yeah, exactly. Yeah. It has really strong abilities for large, complex catalogs. That’s the other thing–usually these companies have large amounts of skews, 10,000+ skews, with complex product types, they’re bundled products or grouped products or configurable products. You’ve probably seen where the products are associated with other skews and so that’s where Magento is strong.

I think BigCommerce is definitely putting a big effort to focus on B2B and they’re strengthening their position around that. Then there’s a lot of other more fringe platforms out there getting into the B2B space. There’s a new one called Zoey, I don’t know if you heard of Zoey …

Charles:            Yeah, is that an offshoot of Magento, or is that their own …

Isaiah:              They were a Magento agency like Trellis, but they built Zoey to be its own platform. I think they started leveraging the Magento open-source platform to build Zoey, but I think it’s really changed a lot since then. It’s really its own platform at this point, but they’re focused pretty much entirely on B2B … but more as a software service, so like a simpler experience in terms of a BigCommerce or Shopify, as opposed to BigCommerce and Shopify, they’re entirely focused on B2B.

Charles:            Got it. Okay. Platform-wise, I’ve seen Magento out-of-the-box of pricing rules and things like that they’re definitely very, very strong.

Isaiah:              They also [inaudible 00:14:47] so you can out-of-the-box it has customer groups and there’s a lot of things you can do around customers.

Charles:            So, let’s say someone’s out there, and they want to get started and they’re thinking, “Okay, this sounds different than B2C.” What are some things they should look for, and what are first steps to getting into something like this?

Isaiah:              I think the first step that people always overlook is just building out your requirements, and what do you actually need to do, and just really write that down, and make it very succinct. “We need it to be able to handle maybe 10 different customer groups that each have their own different pricing, and needs to have log-in only for pricing.” Really write down what are the requirements of this website, what does it actually need to do, how many skews do you have, how are you going to get the data into the website? Really get detailed with it. Are requirements [inaudible 00:15:38] we go through, what templates we’re designing. Obviously, you have a homepage, a product page, a category page, but every single template we want to know what we’re designing, what we’re building on the front end and all the functionality that’s going to go into the site. What payment gateways or payment options are they going to have, how they’re going to use shipping, are there going to be integrations, are they going to use something like what you guys offer for automation, what warehouse automation do they need to automate the warehouse?

Really, that process is a lot of work honestly, and that’s why we usually charge for it.

Charles:            That whole planning takes more than you would think. You can kind of do the light stuff and get there and get an idea, but when you actually start figuring out exactly what the process looks like, there’s … that whole start-to-finish of how they start and how they will actually fulfill all those things. A lot of work goes into that planning process.

Isaiah:              Absolutely. You’re not going to maybe get it perfect on your first shot after getting started, but at least making an attempt and writing it down and talking to professionals like us, you’ll start to learn and you’ll get more feedback and you’ll be able to flesh-out your requirements more and more over time.

Then I think evaluating the platforms–it’s definitely important to be confident in the platform. We see a lot of people jumping around from different platform to platform and I think that’s going to really hurt their business, because platforming is such an expensive process. You really want to get it right, you don’t want to be jumping around. You want to be on the same platform for at least, I would say, three to five years.

Charles:            Yeah. I feel like we do that too. No matter how hard you try, there’s going to be some SCO loss on either end. You can try your redirect. It’s really tough to get that right.

Isaiah:              Yeah, absolutely. I actually started in the SCO world and we still do some technical SCO, and as part of our offering. You could do all the redirects perfectly, you could do everything what you think perfectly, but you’re definitely going to take some hit when you relaunch the site and the URL structure changed. The more you can avoid it, the better.

Charles:            Totally agree. What do you see people doing on the logistics and actually fulfillment side, at that point? Once they get the order are they going out to distributors, or are they warehousing themselves, or what’s the second half of the process look like?

Isaiah:              That’s a great, great question. I think we see all over the map. Every company’s different. They all have their own different operations and I think there’s two challenges there. One, I think, some companies need to actually change their operations to better fit the new digital eCommerce world. Some companies just need to find the better solutions to accommodate what their operations are.

We see companies sometimes use third-party warehouses, like Ingram Micro. There’re some local ones in Boston, or around Massachusetts actually, but then a lot of these big distributors they have their own warehouses and I think that’s what allows them to be unique in their space. They have their own warehouses, they have their own inventory, so they can get it out quickly to customers, so they can get it out cheaper to customers. I think within the B2B space you definitely see a lot have their own warehouses.

Charles:            Ingram Micro, just for people that don’t know, they might have never heard of that.

Isaiah:              Oh, explain what that is, you’re saying?

Charles:            Yeah.

Isaiah:              It’s a warehouse. It’s a fulfillment center where they actually ship out your products for you.

Charles:            Distributor, right?

Isaiah:              Yeah. I think they have a lot of services to be honest. We just know them as a fulfillment center. That’s our relationship to them.

Charles:            They’re one of the largest period in North America. They [inaudible 00:19:22]. I forget what their mark-up is, but they are one of the large ones.

Isaiah:              Exactly. You probably know the warehouses and the fulfillment centers way better than I do. You guys do a lot of that, right?

Charles:            Yeah.

Isaiah:              We definitely see companies that out-source that, but we also see companies that just that is their value proposition is they have their own inventory and their own warehouse. It’s kind of all over the map.

Charles:            So, some folks are actually going out to the individual. Let’s say they’re selling … electronics. Instead of going to a distributor like in Ingram, they’re going to an individual manufacturer buying a bunch of monitors, laptops; storing it and then …

Isaiah:              Yeah. I would say if anything we’re seeing more of that in the B2B space, because a lot of these companies that’s how they built up their value. They have their relationships with these manufacturers. They can get the products cheaply and get it out to customers, or retailers, or whoever they’re selling it to cheaply. They’ve built those relationships with the manufacturer. A lot of them are definitely getting it. They might have 20, 30, 50 different manufacturers they buy from.

Charles:            Like you said, that’s where the value is because, let’s say you’re starting a restaurant, for example. You might need to work with 20, 30, 40, 100 different manufacturers to get your oven, your stove, your refrigerator–all these different units, or you can work with one company and they can get all that for you. You can put them on one big purchase order, everything comes in, you might have credit terms, you can pay for it over time, and you can just do it once with one company and not have to make 30 different relationships with 30 different individual manufacturers.

Isaiah:              Exactly. You’re going to go to one distributor, but I think you’re seeing a trend where, just going back to the catalog, as a restaurant owner, you need some new equipment. You don’t want to have to go open up this catalog, flip through 100 pages, you want to just go on the eCommerce site, search … or maybe you’ve already bought and you’re just reordering. You’re literally logging in, one-click reorder, and your products are coming in X days however fast they can get it there. It’s all about convenience. So, if you can offer convenience through B2B eCommerce, and then also good pricing, and then on top of it good customer service, if there are any issues and good sales support and that relationship from a human standpoint. If you’re doing all of that, I think you’re really going to win that battle, but I think a lot of companies are struggling in some of those areas, so they’re not doing it well in some of those areas.

Charles:            Do you see a lot of people doing good, old fashioned one-on-one-type sales where they’re making the calls, getting a salesperson out there, and talking to them? Then you do that and then bring them to the eCommerce site, or which kind of direction do you see this going?

Isaiah:              That’s where I think there’s the opportunities … a lot of companies they’re like, “Okay, well, if a lot of sales come through eCommerce, then the salespeople don’t commission for that.” I think you have to build … I wrote a couple posts about this actually. You have to figure out and that’s where I think B2B companies need to evolve. If a salesperson’s out there, getting customers, building relationships, and getting them to the website, and they’re spending $1,000,000 at the website, he’s still responsible for getting that customer onboard and onto that website. He should be rewarded for that, and you want to reward him for that, so he keeps doing it, right?

I think a lot of companies haven’t figured out the math behind how to compensate for that, and make that all work. I think that’s where I see the relationship of the salespeople as that we buy a lot of stuff online because we’re tech-savvy. We don’t want to go out and spend a bunch of time driving to the store or anything. We want to buy online, and just get it there quickly. If people were actually calling us and building relationships with us I think that would go a long way in terms of getting us things cheaper if they were able to do that, or offer that.

So, then the salesperson would become more of a relationship-builder and help solve the needs of the companies and be a value add on top of the website. That’s where it’s …

Charles:            And they’d be the one [inaudible 00:23:24] through traffic and driving them to the website and not the … the website’s not necessarily the end-all, be-all. It would just work with the salespeople that would already be out there.

Isaiah:              Yeah, exactly. I think it’s going to really be more of a hand-in-hand tool with the salespeople.  I think there’s still going to definitely be more self-serve, so it’s definitely going to be a little more automated from the self-serve standpoint in terms of if you know what you want, you’re just going to go on and buy it. The salespeople would be out there advocating for the website. I think that some companies, depending on how they want to handle it, the website will also be a sales tool that some companies may have it be cut up more of an SCO driven tool where all of their products are indexed on a very cost retail facing website. That might bring in a lot of potential leads, but that may require a salesperson to follow-up, and bring onboard that customer.

Charles:            You assume somebody is at their restaurant, they’re Googling on how to find napkins. They’re able to go on this, and see they have a large selection of napkins, call for pricing, they then get connected with a salesperson, they work out credit terms, payment terms, things like that, setting up an account, and then that could be that salesperson’s account basically they close that.

Isaiah:              Yup. Exactly.

Charles:            …and for reorders, like you said, they don’t need to go and phone up a salesperson and wait until 9 AM. When they come in in the morning in the restaurant at 4 AM we need some more napkins, “We need some more whatever right now. Let’s put an order in for those and have them there by tomorrow morning.”

Isaiah:              Yup. Absolutely. Yup. Exactly.

This just reminded me: This is a customer that’s been with us for a while and they’ve done a really good job of understanding B2B eCommerce and they sell trade show displays.

Charles:            What kind of … ?

Isaiah:              Trade show displays. So, let’s say you guys are like, “Hey, we want to get our name out there. It’s time to do go the Magento Imagine, or Shopify, Unite and have our little trade show. So, you’d go on the company aceexibits.com. They’re actually pretty well known in this space and you can actually go through the online process of uploading your artwork and verifying it. There’s a whole process online of getting your order through, and then they’ll actually fulfill the order and ship it out to you. That’s even a more complex order because there’s artwork involved and there’s proofing that needs to fit with the trade show display, but they’ve done a really good job. It’s all online orders, but they have actually salespeople following through and making sure that these people are actually buying, and being in tune with the customers. So, they do have salespeople associated with all of their customers.

Charles:            At that point, the metrics probably makes sense, too, right? They’re not the standard eCommerce $99 order. It’s, I’m assuming, a trade show booth display is significantly higher than the average consumer basing price point.

Isaiah:              They have some good pricing, but yeah, a lot of the orders are probably in the low thousands, I would say. They’ve done a really good job of actually making their operations and the sales commission tie with their eCommerce site, and that’s where companies need to figure that out.

Charles:            That’s a good example.

What are some things you see people not doing right, or that could be done better?

Isaiah:              Great question.

Charles:            I always like to go the other direction as well. It’s helpful to see. It’s definitely the positive is helpful, but the negative is sometimes just as helpful.

Isaiah:              I think a lot of companies are underestimating how important the experience is–building a good eCommerce experience–that it’s easy to find what you want. It’s almost like a retail experience. I don’t think B2B companies are investing enough in making the overall experience easy for the customer and good for the customer. There’s a lot of these really bad designs out there in the B2B space, because it’s less design-focused. It doesn’t have to necessarily be as flashy of a design, I just think it has to be extremely functional and easy to use. There’s a lot of improvement that needs to be made there.

I think a lot of B2B companies are also not doing a good job with all the operations and automation. They really need to be integrating with their ERP making sure that the tracking codes go back up the customer immediately when they get shipped out so that …

Charles:            I know that part very well.

Isaiah:              I’m sure you do, but I think that, what you brought up, of that whole process of getting the order to the end … customer–from the beginning to the end. I think companies aren’t doing a good job of that entire process. Maybe there’re certain parts that they’re doing well, but getting that all right and then having some human element to it–between all that, I just think they’re falling short. It’s hard to pinpoint exactly one, because it’s different with every company we see, but they’re usually falling short in some of those areas … of making that experience good.

Charles:            I see when people do this sometimes–they don’t expose the whole catalog publicly. They kind of put it behind a log-in cage type of thing. Not even just pricing, we’re talking about. Just products, in general. You can not see them until you create some sort of log-in and get some sort of account. Is there a reason for that? Is that something people are doing deliberately, or do they not have the ability to do that for some other reason? I’ve seen that many times and it’s always odd for me …

Isaiah:              That’s a good question. I think that they are doing it deliberately, and it could be just the way that they don’t want to maybe expose to the world everything that they’re selling, and they want to keep it privy to them as to what they actually offer, so their competitors can’t see it. It could also be deals with the manufacturers that only designated customers can see the product.

To be honest, I don’t necessarily have the best answer for that, but I think it is definitely on purpose. There’re a lot of companies that are hiding their catalog so they’re exposing their catalogs based on the customer. That’s another thing that we’re seeing. They want to tailor the catalog to the customer.

Charles:            The actual products themselves, or …

Isaiah:              Yeah. So, say a customer they know that only cares about 10% of their products, they don’t want to show them the rest of the 90% and confuse them with those 90%. They want to tailor the experience. Personalization, I think is another big factor. I guess that’s probably the biggest factor here that–going back to the question of “What are they not doing well?”–personalization is, honestly, a harder problem to solve. It could be personalized pricing. It could be personalized products. There’s a lot that goes into it in the B2B space and …

Charles:            Yeah, all the way down to the catalog, then, you’re saying?

Isaiah:              Yeah. Exactly, and I think B2B companies are really struggling to get that right, because it’s so complicated to do.

Charles:            Yeah. It’s something that … and not a lot of platforms do it well, and even if the platform does it, to set it up requires some pretty sophisticated rules and categories and groups and it’s not something out of the box you just install any platform and it just works. You need to really go in there and know what you’re doing to get that right.

Isaiah:              Exactly. And to that point, I want to touch on another thing that I think companies aren’t doing well. I think they’re underestimating the level of skill that they need to employ themselves. They’re like, “Oh, we’ll just hire an agency to do this.” Yeah, you can hire and agency like Trellis to build your B2B eCommerce site, but we do way better … our end solution is always better when the customer has … eCommerce advocate on their side. Sorry, I’m trying to find the right word. Like it or someone technical on the operations side, that just understands whether it’s web development or the platform to some degree or understands their ERP very well.

I think that’s where B2B companies are falling short. They need to employ some people that actually know what they’re doing here, and then those people can better manage an agency like Trellis, and they can work symbiotically much more stronger together, whereas if we’re working with someone that doesn’t know what they’re doing, we’re going to have to charge more. There’s a lot more hand-holding. The end product is just not going to be as good and it’s just going to be a much … I think companies need to take more ownership over this instead of just saying, “Oh, we’ll just outsource it.”

Charles:            At the end of the day, too, you’re going to provide them with a product–a neat little package with a bow on it type of thing–but they need to take that and then run with it. Somebody there needs to be able to actually take that product and day-to-day operate it, know the ins and outs, know when they want to add new products, and new customer groups, new categories. Someone there needs to actually take it from you at some point and run with it, and know what to do every step of the way.

Isaiah:              Exactly. I definitely think that there’s a lot that goes into it that people [inaudible 00:32:16] and they think they can outsource, but really … I think more and more companies should really hire an eCommerce manager.

Charles:            That’s something you see … You see that term wasn’t even around even a few years ago and now it’s something that’s actually happening more often. Like you said, they could go with an agency, but they need something next to happen. So, once the agency says, “We’re done. Thank you,” the eCommerce manager’s the person, right, who takes and runs with it?

Isaiah:              Yeah.

Charles:            And then also same thing, right? They can probably work with you guys and tell you, “Hey, we’re looking for this. This is how we interact with customers. How our pricing works, our catalog,” and kind of help guide you and actually make it fit their business.

Isaiah:              Yeah. I think they can help by making sure the initial project goes well– if, say, they’re building a new site–but also I think a lot of companies underestimate how important it is to do the ongoing improvements. You guys are probably constantly updating your software and improving your software. You should be updating your B2B eCommerce site, so maybe you start with the base features that you need to start onboarding X% of customers and then you slowly add the additional features that maybe bring on some of the more complex operational features that certain customers need. You could do that on a monthly or quarterly basis and that eCommerce manager could help manage that process and grow the business that way.

Charles:            Yeah. A lot of folks think hiring a contractor for building a piece of eCommerce software is similar to hiring a contractor to build you a kitchen. The kitchen thing–they come, they build it, and then, when they’re done, you go back in start making dinner and enjoy it for the next 30 years. When it comes to building something like an eCommerce platform, there’s a version one, but as soon as you’re done with that, you’re going to start thinking about, “Okay, what do we do next, and how do we help improve this”—and after you’re done with that release–“What do we do next, and how do we improve this?” It’s never going to be a, “Hey, we’re done.” You ring the bell and it’s over. It’s going to be a thing that grows along with the business the whole time. That’s something I think a lot of people underestimate.

Isaiah:              Absolutely. I think you really have to think about it. Amazon is pushing the status quo, and they’re in B2B now, so I don’t know if you had seen this, but they used to have their own B2B site, and now they’ve actually consolidated. We have a business Amazon account …

Charles:            Yup. Same thing.

Isaiah:              They’re in the space, so the way I see it is, they’re going to be pushing the status quo and they’re adding features all the time. They’re so good at it, you don’t even realize some of the features they’re adding. That’s the speed at which you need to move. They’re pushing that speed forward really fast, so if you’re not moving at that speed, or trying to catch up in some way … you just can’t just forget for a year. You can’t just let it go for a year or two years.

Charles:            Well, no matter what industry you’re in … some of these B2B industries are much further behind than the average. Either way, in your industry, you don’t want to be the guy falling behind. You want to at least be one of the guys or ladies pushing it forward, helping to increase the status quo, like you’re saying, and not be the lagger that’s falling behind each month and each year.

Isaiah:              I think we’re definitely getting to a point where probably in the next few years–a lot of B2B companies have gotten away with not putting much effort into this or not getting it right and just they have a lot of relationships and they have a lot of customers and they’re able to succeed that way–I think you’re going to see that in a few years that that’s not enough. You actually have to really have a good eCommerce experience or you’re going to see the numbers really hit you. Sales go to eCommerce.

Charles:            Yeah. Okay. I think those are some good parting words, right there. Definitely invest in your platform. I like that. I think this was helpful. You mentioned some blog articles–if you could send those to me I’d like to add them all in the show notes. Also, where can people find you if they want to learn more about you, learn more about Trellis …

Isaiah:              Yeah. Our website is trellis.co–it’s not dot com, it’s dot C O. It’s trellis.co and our blog is just trellis.co/blog. Should be able to find it easily on our website. I’ll send you those articles. There’s kind of a long, rambling one about how companies need to align their salespeople with the eCommerce site, and … it probably needs a version 2, or maybe a cleaned up version, but I just wanted to get it out there because it was on my mind. That’s kind of how I get those blog posts out there.

Charles:            For people who haven’t read, your blogs actually great. You guys publish a lot of articles and they’re very good each week, so it’s definitely something people should check out and I’ll add a link to that.

Isaiah:              Thank you. Awesome. Yeah.

Charles:            Awesome. Alright, well, it was good talking to you.

Isaiah:              Yeah. You, too.

Charles:            Alright. Thank you. Have a good one.

Isaiah:              You, too.

Charles:            Okay. Bye.

Isaiah:              Bye.


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