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GE Power Generation’s journey into B2B e-commerce

January 5, 2015 01:05 PM
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GE Power Generation Services, a division of General Electric Co., is powering up how it sells parts for turbines and other products online to electric power utilities and other industrial customers.

The new e-commerce site has provided such upgrades as quicker updates of online product displays and faster customer service through live chat. But GE says there’s more to be done, and that includes increasing participation from the company’s employees as well as its customers.

“This is a journey, and we need users to be a part of that journey,” digital marketing leader David Harris says. Every day, he adds, GE will learn from how customers use the site and adjust accordingly.

GE Power Generation Services entered the online world in 2001 on a site that offered basic services; for example, customers could get online price quotes for planned purchases and place online orders by themselves or with assistance from account managers.

Ten years later, in early 2011, the company realized it was time to renew its e-commerce technology platform to support a “21st Century user experience.” A new site, which the company presents as “My Power and Water Store” at GEPower.com went live in late 2013 on an e-commerce platform from hybris Software, a unit of business software company SAP AG. Among the key immediate improvements: live chat customer service, and more control over managing content—for example, providing for faster updates of product displays and a “single digital face” to customers across its e-commerce site and social media sites.

Although GE isn’t commenting on the effect the new site has had on sales or conversion rates, it says its customers and internal GE users say it’s now easier to get consistent product and pricing information on the site.

Yet there’s more work to be done, Harris says. A multi-pronged plan calls for using web site data to better understand and respond to customers and their interests, including tailoring content according to buying preferences as shown by customer segments and geographic regions; streamlining the checkout process while also running more cross-sell promotions in shopping carts; tailoring web content for better exposure in Internet search results and offering promotions based on customers’ Internet searches; expediting order fulfillment; and introducing mobile and desktop shopping tools tailored to groups of B2B buyers, such as buyers who can place orders directly and those who need to get their purchases approved by supervisors.

The company will also use web analytics on the new site to help GE account managers better understand customers based on how they browse GE’s e-commerce site, Harris says. He emphasizes that the site is not meant to replace the jobs of sales reps or their relationships with customers, but instead to better inform reps of customers’ interests. “Every day, we show the parts customers looked at, the price quoted, and what the customer did not buy,” he says. “We show that to reps and say, ‘How can we make a deal here?’”

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