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Learn What Your B2B Customers Want, an Interview with CDW

Presented at Activate Product Discovery 2021. Learn about CDW’s product discovery journey and how Lucidworks fits into their customer experience strategy. Hear about tough B2B use cases and how CDW delivers on customer goals.

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


Transcript

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:

Hi 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 kinda 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, I’m a 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 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, focusing on that one aspect or another. So in my current iteration I’ve been doing this the past five or 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.

Anne Vargo:

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

Peter Curran:

That’s awesome. 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 P90 underneath somebody’s desk to $1.8 trillion is unbelievable.

So maybe you can kinda tell us that different channels that CDW serves, so kind of break it down for us so that we know what you do.

Anne Vargo:
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.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 the healthcare industry, partnering very closely with them 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, and it’s a 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, 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. Does that kind of mirror what you guys see as well?

Anne Vargo:

It absolutely tracks with what we see. There are 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. In cases like that, you’ve got a long sales cycle, and you’ve got that kind of, ongoing, initial discussion and vetting and their requirements and all those pieces. So absolutely we see that. Yeah, we see we see both pieces of that.

Peter Curran:

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

Anne Vargo:

That’s right.

Peter Curran:

One of the things that research talks about is, and I’ll quote, “a successful experience in B2B starts by making it easy to find compare and configure products.”

We’re thrilled that CDW is using Lucidworks software to power its product discovery and service discovery features. Tell us a little bit about the adoption of our software and kind of where you guys came from and what that journey looks like.

Anne Vargo:

We decided 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. It resulted in us leaving a lot of opportunity on the table and a lot of capabilities on the table. We decided it was time to make a switch. 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 potential fits. And that’s where really where we really landed with Fusion AI from Lucidworks.

Peter Curran:

Well, some people 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? Enlighten people on why this isn’t easy.

Anne Vargo:

Well, just like there are, we talk about consumer, right? There’s different people with different needs. 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 a company no matter what it is. 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. The thing that is particularly interesting and challenging in a B2B or B to G type situation is you need experience that is easy, right? 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’re taking their own personal leads and expectations alongside of what the organization’s expectations and needs are. I think that’s the real focus and opportunity and thing that it does make it more challenging in terms of servicing those B2B customers.

Peter Curran:

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, like it doesn’t upset me that Nike doesn’t know exactly what kind of shoe to steer me towards.

But when my CPA forgets this one thing last year or the rep for the platform that we were using 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, if you think about any of your suppliers, right? We’re one of the suppliers, I’m one of many suppliers that many organizations have, we’re not thought 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. We really think of ourselves as part of their team and building that relationship and recognizing that relationship and enabling that relationship. That’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:

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:

One of the statistics that I like from that Forrester report said that US Foods claims that online buyers spend 5% more than those who shop exclusively offline. 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 a software change made on the business. I wonder if you could share what the six months has been like and if you’ve seen any positive impacts.

Anne Vargo:
It’s been a great six months. I’ll just go on record saying that. And if I could comment a little bit on the Forrester study that we’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 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.

Obviously having a great digital experience can be pivotal to that. That is often the first time that somebody experiences you or the front door that somebody from a certain organization would walk into. 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. How we think about things in terms of end to end 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 saw at launch is we saw positive results at launch. 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, something that we’re really pleased with. We also saw a vast improvement in the speed of our search experience. We cut some of our core KPIs almost in half in that respect. But what it really all added up to was a really a nice little lift in the order conversion rate. So someone coming to the 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 laying a plan for moving forward.

Peter Curran:

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

Anne Vargo:

Yeah, we’re really pleased with that.

Peter Curran:

One of the things that you hear about B2B to the point where it’s just kind of over done 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 like a scientist couldn’t buy on a B2C site, they’ll have another B2C site up at the same time do a comparison and stuff like that.

Can you talk a little bit about how does B2C impact the way that you think about B2B product discovery? 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 talked a little bit about this earlier, but it’s very much about taking those easy to use best practices and expectations, right? At the end of the day, whether you’re an IT manager for a company or a dad needing to buy 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.

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 then they’ve learned a lot of that on B2C side, but then what we do is then we take time to understand who they are and what they need in terms of their role within their organization. And then we work to take the friction out of that process. One thing that is done in B2B that’s not done in B2C is quoting, right? That’s a specific type of a sales motion that needs to be just as easy to do as quickly buying some things from your favorite website, but you need to be able to do it for your job, People don’t care about spending a lot of time online in a B2B site, right? This is just like 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 are these like controls that users can say, I wanna see recommendations, pricing offers all that. What is that about?

Anne Vargo:

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 costs under control in IT and buying under control is making sure that 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. And we have a lot of functionality that we’ve built around that.

Peter Curran:

Yeah, it’s a rich website in terms of all the capabilities you guys can do. So here you are and in 2021, and you’re on this new platform, and you have an ambitious and creative team, 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:

For us it’s really taking and thinking, not just about search, but the things that search can enable, right? So, we’ve invested in this best-in-class system. We are through the machine learning that’s native to the system, and how we’ve implemented it, and how we put it into our own system.

It’s really taking advantage of that smart system and finding new, and creative ways to not only help people find things, but to drive insights for both customers and for our salesforce. So there’s an understanding 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, thinking about that very deeply, that kind of end to end experience across this platform.

Peter Curran:

Yeah, I agree. I find goals and insights immensely more interesting than queries on interesting problems.

Anne Vargo:

Right, right.

Peter Curran:

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

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