18. Dec 2019

Digitization strategies for B2B SMEs

The digitization of sales, especially in the B2B sector of medium-sized companies, is inevitable for companies that want to remain competitive. But how to start? And with what? What are the first steps? Stefan Kahr, CTO of Nekom, André Roitzsch, CEO of SHOPMACHER and Manuel Ludvigsen-Diekmann, CTO of SHOPMACHER answer these and other questions.

André Roitzsch, Stefan Kahr and Manuel Ludvigsen-Diekmann

The digitization of your own sales poses major challenges, especially for medium-sized companies. Why?

André Roitzsch : Well, first of all you have to understand that for a medium-sized company whose core business is usually not digitization, subjectively a huge mountain of questions piles up: How and with what do I actually start? What budget do I need? Setting up your own IT infrastructure requires investment funds that are often not even available, especially in medium-sized companies. What are the actual risks? And where do the employees I need for this come from? Recruiting suitable personnel to build up digital know-how is very difficult, since there are hardly any suitable candidates on the personnel market. And when they do, they rarely turn to medium-sized companies.

A medium-sized company dares to take the step towards digitization. What approach do you recommend for this?

Manuel Ludvigsen-Diekmann : First of all, it is important to make the offer itself digitally available. This is a real challenge for many. Especially in B2B medium-sized companies, there is often no cross-sales region-wide uniform product data for the main products – from the designation to the description of the product to the illustration. Even the item numbers are often not consistent. Not to mention spare and wear parts or services. The core and first step on the way to digital sales is therefore the creation of a uniform digital catalog for the entire range.


Stefan Kahr: The technical basis of the digital catalog could be, for example, an e-commerce PIM (Product Information Management) that provides very good options for product data maintenance, as well as a full-text search based on various criteria. The use of a PIM “forces” to standardize product data – and also provides a way. In the existing merchandise management or ERP systems, this is often hardly possible due to the growing interdependencies.

André Roitzsch: Figuratively speaking, the offer becomes a “liquid” through uniform digital cataloging that I can then “pour” into every conceivable channel and which then adapts like a liquid to the vessel into which I “pour” it. That’s why this is the first step.

So just introduce a PIM – and you’re already digitized?

Stefan Kahr (laughs): No, unfortunately it’s not that easy! The digitization and harmonization of the product data is only the necessary basis. Only then are they “poured” into different distribution channels. This means that I can continue to use existing sales channels with greater efficiency – for example because previously analog processes are no longer necessary. Or I open up completely new digital sales channels that I didn’t have access to before by activating a commerce function for selected product ranges.

What exactly do you mean by that?

André Roitzsch: If, for example, I’m involved in technical trading, it may well be that I can continue to convey the advantages of my complex main range best through personal advice. Then I benefit from digitization because I no longer have to fill out an order form by hand at the customer’s site, but can instead place an order directly in the warehouse via tablet – including availability, delivery date, etc. – all in real time. That would be process optimization in a proven sales channel.

And what do you mean by “selected ranges”?

André Roitzsch: Only spare or wearing parts could then be reordered in an online shop. Or services such as training courses for which appointments can then be made online. This relieves the sales staff, who can then concentrate on selling the main range.

Stefan Kahr: Some things can also be automated here. I know when certain wearing parts are needed. A digital distribution system can then address the customer in a timely and proactive manner, who may then order online.

OK, understood – but now back to the question of how to get all this off the ground without much experience in digitization.

André Roitzsch : In our experience, it’s less a question of technology than of the right approach. That’s why we developed the B2B suite. The technical questions become a minor matter that we take care of.

How’s that?

Stefan Kahr: Our B2B suite is tailored precisely to the above-mentioned needs. We provide the entire technology as SaaS for a manageable monthly rate. And always exactly as much as makes sense and is feasible for the respective dealer. The core is a three-stage, tried-and-tested process model: we start with the digitization of the offer, in the second step we specifically switch on the first simple standard commerce functions and in step three individual features are then developed. Everything that a retailer cannot (yet) handle on their own comes from us – from editing to online marketing to logistics. The special thing about our offer is not the technology, but the fact that we can take it by the hand. You can use it to sell digitally quickly and with little effort.

André Roitzsch, Stefan Kahr and Manuel Ludvigsen-Diekmann

Sounds good – but doesn’t that make you dependent on your solution?

Manuel Ludvigsen-Diekmann : No, the whole thing is geared towards us getting out again at some point and designed in such a way that a retailer can take over individual sub-areas or the entire system at any time if he has gained sufficient experience and built up skills. The advantage is that you only make major investments in digitization when you are ready and able to assess the implications.

And you can offer all of that from a single source?

Stefan Kahr: Yes, there are typical, recurring requirements, especially for beginners. We thought it through and developed the solution together with really first-class partners. Nekom’s middleware, which has been tried and tested internationally for years, supplies the entire backend, from the master data to the interfaces and logistics. And as a commerce platform we use Shopware, one of the most modern and widespread systems in the German market.

André Roitzsch: In addition, we Shopmacher, as an integrator, have been gaining the experience required to use these high-performance systems efficiently, in a sales-oriented manner and with a sound commercial understanding for more than 15 years now.



    Ecommerce white paper

    Ecommerce white paper

    Have you launched a new e-commerce instance? Congratulations! Now it really starts – how do we tell you in the whitepaper!

    read more
    Exclusive Shopmacher team at the office partners

    Exclusive Shopmacher team at the office partners

    For more than 20 years, the office partners from Gescher in Münsterland have developed into an internationally renowned player in the field of office technology. With around 130 employees, the office partners provide their customers with office technology: printers,...

    read more
    Cookie Consent Banner by Real Cookie Banner