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Learn What Your B2B Customers Want, an Interview with CDW

Lucidworks Fusion was chosen as the vehicle to move CDW search capabilities into the future. Replacing Endeca with Fusion increased KPIs dramatically.

Intended Audience

Organizations looking to create an omnichannel search experience for its sellers and customers to unify and personalize their experiences with the brand.

Attendee Takeaway

Learn about CDW’s product discovery journey and how Lucidworks fits into their customer experience strategy. Hear how CDW delivers on customer goals.

Speakers

Anne Vargo, Senior Digital Product Manager, CDW
Peter Curran, General Manager of Digital Commerce, Lucidworks


[Peter Curran]

Well, good morning, good afternoon, good evening, good middle of the night to all of you out there. My name’s Peter Curran. I’m the general manager for commerce here at Lucidworks, and I am thrilled to be joined today by Anne Vargo, senior digital product manager at CDW. Hi, Anne.

[Anne Vargo]

Hello, Peter.

[Peter Curran]

And we’re gonna talk to you about what B2B customers want. And Anne knows an awful lot about that. And so we’re gonna kind of get into it here. So, Anne, maybe just start by telling everybody about your role and about CDW. It’s one of the largest B2B companies in the world. So for those who are in the B2B space, they know CDW, but if they aren’t, maybe you could kind of help everybody along.

[Anne Vargo]

Sure. Sure, yeah. So my role, as Peter said, is I’m senior digital product manager at CDW. My responsibility really focuses on the customer facing search and navigation systems across all three of our commerce sites. That’s cdw.com, cdwg.com for the public sector, and cdw.ca for our Canadian business unit. Myself, I am a CDW veteran. I’ve been at CDW for 26 years. And out of that time, I have spent most of my time working in our e-commerce or digital customer facing initiative for that entire time. So focusing on that one aspect or another, yeah. And so in my current iteration, I’ve been doing this, you know, past five, six years, but have done a lot of other things over at CDW.

[Peter Curran]

So you’ve seen the full sort of arc of e-commerce from its infancy through to where we are today. Wow, that’s amazing.

[Anne Vargo]

Yes, I love, yeah. Yeah, when I first started actually working on the website, it was hosted on an Intel P 90 Pentium 90 megahertz processor PC with MMS technology that was actually parked under a developer’s desk. And when things went bad with the website, you just rebooted. So I’ve kind of really–

[Peter Curran]

Knock it on the side.

[Anne Vargo]

Yeah, so I’ve really seen it go from that to where it is today. So it’s been an amazing, amazing journey. Yeah, yeah.

[Peter Curran]

That’s awesome. You know, I like a Forrester analyst named Joe Cicman, and he has a couple of great B2B papers that have come out in February and March of this year. And one of them said that B2B commerce will be a $1.8 trillion business by 2023. So from a Pentium P 90 underneath somebody’s desk to a trillion eight is unbelievable. It’s unbelievable. So maybe you can kind of tell us that different channels that CDW serves. Kind of break it down for us so that we know what you do.

[Anne Vargo]

Yeah. So when we take a look at CDW and kind of take a step back, really CDW is purpose built to service businesses, government, and healthcare. And we do that in the United States, in Canada, and in the UK. So what we do is we take best in class products and services, and we help organizations solve their toughest IT problems. So, and we do that for every size and type of organization. So anything from a startup company to a company that’s been around for a hundred years, or a company that has been in hyper-growth mode, or to organizations that focus on healthcare industry, we’ve been partnering very closely with that during this last pandemic, to the government. We actually powered the technology behind the US Census that was just executed. So that’s a little bit about CDW, what we do, and the types of customers that we service. We do that both online and offline through, and it’s really an omnichannel strategy.

[Peter Curran]

One of the things that Forrester reported that I thought was really interesting was, kind of two statistics. One is that more than 30% of B2B customers buy digitally first, so speaking to that online channel. But also 24% of online purchases are sales rep assisted. So kind of a little bit of both in terms of omnichannel. So does that kind of mirror what you guys see as well?

[Anne Vargo]

It absolutely tracks with what we see. There’s some things you just need a cable, you just need a new server, you just need a new license, whatever it is you need to get on, buy it, get off, get on with your day. And sometimes you’ve got a huge initiative and you’re looking for a partner to help you execute on that initiative. And so in cases like that, you’ve got a long sales cycle, and you’ve got that kind of, you know, ongoing initial, you know, discussion and vetting the requirements and all those pieces. So absolutely, we see that. Yeah, we see that. We see both pieces of that. Yeah, absolutely.

[Peter Curran]

Yeah it’s, I mean, any complicated purchase, whether you’re doing it as a consumer or you’re doing it on behalf of the company where you work, you know, at some point needs to interact with a person and get that extra extra help.

[Anne Vargo]

That’s right.

[Peter Curran]

One of the things that that research talks about is, and I’ll quote it. It says, “A successful experience in B2B “starts by making it easy to find, “compare, and configure products.” And we’re thrilled that the CDW is using Lucidworks software to, malaprop there, is using Lucidworks software to power its product discovery and service discovery features. So tell us a little bit about the adoption of our software and kind of where you guys came from and what that journey was like.

[Anne Vargo]

Yeah, so we decided, you know, a couple years ago that it was time to part ways with the system that we had been using. That product was really no longer being iterated on. It was no longer advancing, and it really, it resulted in us leaving a lot of opportunity on the table and a lot of capabilities in the table. So we decided it was time to make a switch. So that being said, our approach was we looked for a system that could be used to power, not only our customer facing search needs, but also our seller facing search needs. And one that had really excellent capabilities out of the box that would help us get up and running quickly, but also could be customized and really kind of knit into our overall ecosystem. And so, we did an exhaustive search across many different options. Looked at many different, you know, potential fits. And that’s where we really landed with Fusion AI from Lucidworks.

[Peter Curran]

You know, some people, I think, think of product discovery for B2B as people just searching by a number. The system looks the number up, finds the thing, and that’s it. What’s challenging about product discovery at CDW? Like, enlightened people why this isn’t easy?

[Anne Vargo]

Oh gosh. Well, you know, just like there are, you know, we talk about consumer, right? There’s different people with different needs. I think I talked about earlier, you’ve got different types of organizations with very different types of needs and different types of requirements that they need to meet, different timelines. So what we really need is a system that can help us build that intelligence to be able to react in a personalized manner to accompany, no matter what it is. Sometimes you just, like I said, sometimes you just need to buy something and get out. Sometimes you need to find out what we can do in terms of servicing your organization. So I think the thing that is particularly, I think interesting and challenging in a B2B or B2G type situation is you need experience that is easy, right? And just as easy as any of the best in class consumer experiences. But you have kind of that layer on top of it where people are acting within a role within an organization. So they have kind of like, they’re taking their own personal needs and expectations alongside of what the organization’s expectations and needs are. And I think that’s the real, I guess, focus and opportunity and thing that is, you know, it does make it more, you know, it’s some of the challenges that we have in terms of servicing those B2B customers.

[Peter Curran]

I don’t know what it is about a business, I used to run my own business, and there’s something about a business relationship that is more sort of intimate than the relationship that a consumer has with the brand a lot of times. It doesn’t upset me that, you know, Nike doesn’t know exactly what kind of shoe to steer me towards. But man, when my CPA forgets this one thing last year or the rep for a platform that we were using or something didn’t remember something about my business, I really felt kind of cheated like they’re not paying attention to me. There is something really fragile about that relationship if you don’t nurture it and pay attention to who that buyer is.

[Anne Vargo]

Absolutely. I mean, if you think about any company that, you know, any of your suppliers, right? We’re one of the suppliers, and one of many suppliers that many organizations have. And we’re not thought of just kind of like a one and done, but more of like a real extension of their IT. And in the case of CDW, an extension of their IT function or their technology function. And we really think of ourselves as part of their team. and, you know, building that relationship and recognizing that relationship and enabling that relationship, it’s a huge part of doing business with another business, right? It’s two groups of people working together toward the same goal.

[Peter Curran]

Yeah. That’s really cool. Well, you guys, I think, have been on Fusion now for six months or so at this point?

[Anne Vargo]

Just over six months.

[Peter Curran]

So one of the statistics that I liked from that Forrester report said that US foods claims that online buyers spend 5% more than those who shop exclusively offline. And so I know you guys have been live on Fusion now for like six months and people always love to hear KPIs and anecdotes about what impact did a software change make on the business. I wonder if you could kind of share what the six months have been like and if you’ve seen any positive impacts?

[Anne Vargo]

Yeah, so it’s been a great six months. I’ll just go on record saying that. And if I could just comment a little bit on the Forrester study that you’re talking about is, and that lift that US Foods cited, one of the things I think that you see there is, it’s not either channel, either online or, you know, offline, if you wanna call it, right, through a seller. It’s, what you see is when somebody does business with you in both channels, you see that cumulative effect, right? 

If you’ve done a good job in both of those channels, you become that preferred supplier and you’re gonna win more of that business. So I think that, and obviously having a great digital experience can be pivotal to that. ‘Cause that is often, you know, the first time that somebody experiences you or the front door that somebody from a certain organization would walk into. So, just one little comment there. 

But a little bit more about Fusion and kind of where we’ve been since we have rolled out that system. I’ll say that it has opened up a whole new set of capabilities that we didn’t have before. And again, and how we think about things in terms of end to end, you know, from the customer to the seller. And really how we’ve implemented the system to be able to listen to both ends of that conversation. What we put out to stay, roll it back, you know? 

What we saw at launch is we saw positive results at launch. So the first thing that we saw is we saw a dramatic reduction in the number of no search results that customers were getting. That was very pronounced. We also saw a double digit lift in our add to cart conversion metrics. That’s something that we’re really pleased with. 

We also saw a vast improvement, when we made this investment, we saw an improvement in the speed of our search experience. We cut some of our core KPIs almost in half in that respect. Yeah, and then, but what it really all added up to was a really nice little lift in the order conversion rate. So someone come into site, someone placing an order, and that’s what we saw at launch. 

So those are some of the immediate results. And like I said, so what we’ve been doing since that time is taking advantage of the investment that we’ve made and looking to maximize that, and kind of unpacking what we’ve put in, and, you know, laying the plan for moving forward.

[Peter Curran]

That’s awesome. I’m so happy about those benefits, obviously.

[Anne Vargo]

Yeah, we’re really thrilled with that.

[Peter Curran]

We’re thrilled about that. One of the things that you hear about B2B to the point where it’s just kind of over done, but is that B2C is sort of setting the standard for the B2B experience. And Forrester talks about something that I find kind of interesting. I think they call it like the two window phenomenon where the shopper has the B2B site up. And unless it’s like some super weird technical B2B thing that, you know, like a scientist couldn’t buy on a B2C site, you know, they’ll have another B2C site up at the same time to do a comparison and stuff like that. So can you talk a little bit about how does B2C impact the way that you think about B2B product discovery? How do you look at, how do you sort of think about making product discovery outstanding in the context of B2B? Is it all from B2C or is there some other paradigm?

[Anne Vargo]

I think, so, I think I talked a little bit about this earlier, but it’s very much about, you know, a lot of the, taking those easy to use kind of best practices from, and expectations, right? Because at the end of the day, whether you’re an IT manager for a company or a dad needing to buy, you know, a pool toy for their kids, you still have expectations of an online experience that are consumer. You’re still a person, right? And you need to be able to do things quickly and easily. When we add in, so we do often, I mean, you can’t help, but we do often look and understand what customers really expect from the experience. What types of things do they really expect to be able to do and need to do? And they’ve learned a lot of that on the B2C side, but then what we do is then we take time to understand who they are and what they need, you know, in terms of their role within their organization. And then we work to take the friction out of that process. Things like, one thing that is done in B2B that’s not gonna be in B2C is quoting, right? That’s a specific type of a sales motion that needs to be just as easy to do as, you know, quickly buying something from your favorite website, but you need to be able to do it for your job because you need, you know, because people don’t cherish spending a lot of time online in a B2B site, right? This is just one part of their job. And we need to get you in, help you get your job done, make it easier for you in some way or another, and let you have the rest of your day.

[Peter Curran]

What is that thing you guys have in the account settings? There are these controls that users can say, like, I wanna see recommendations, pricing offers, all that. What is that about? That’s a little–

[Anne Vargo]

Yeah, well, you know, I think another thing that is particularly important to organizations is standards, right? So you have a lot of people doing a lot of things, and part of keeping, particularly in IT, right, part of keeping costs under control and buying under control is making sure that you’re controlling what people and you have some say in what people can and cannot purchase. So we have those capabilities plus many other capabilities that help enable organizations to set those standards or to put in some guardrails to make sure that they’re controlling spending and that they’ve got that visibility and transparency into that. So we do, you know, so that’s where you see that. And we have a lot of, well, a lot of functionality that we’ve built around that.

[Peter Curran]

Yeah, it’s a rich website in terms of all the capabilities and things that you guys can do. So, you know, where, you know, here you are in 2021. You’re on this new platform, and you have an ambitious and creative team. You know, where are you guys going? What’s up for the next couple of years? Kind of take us into the future a little bit.

[Anne Vargo]

I think really, for us, it’s really taking and thinking, not just about search, but the things that search can enable, right? So, you know, we’ve invested in this best in class system. We are, you know, through the machine learning that’s native to the system, and how we’ve implemented it and how we’ve put it into our own system. It’s really taking advantage of that smart system and finding new and kind of creative ways to not only help people find things, but to drive insights for both customers and for our sales force. So there’s a understanding of, to help people understand what it is that they need or what it is that someone wants. So I think those are the types of things that we’ll be focusing on in the coming years is thinking about that very deeply, that kind of end to end experience across this platform.

[Peter Curran]

Yeah, I agree. I mean, I find goals and insights immensely more interesting than queries. Query is not an interesting problem.

[Anne Vargo]

Right, right, right.

[Peter Curran]

Well, awesome. Well, Anne, thank you so much for spending time with us today. I know everybody enjoyed hearing your perspective and your journey, and we appreciate your business very much. Thank you.

[Anne Vargo]

Well, and thank you for the opportunity, Peter, and it was a delight chatting with you. Thank you very much.

[Peter Curran]

Awesome.

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