“How deep underground can we take our eCommerce?” This question was posed by Mathias Nyman, Sr. Manager, Digital Customer Excellence at Normet, a 60-year-old B2B mining and tunneling product manufacturer and service provider. That's because many of Normet's customers are engineers, physically in underground mines, who are not always in front of desktop computers. This is why it was critical for Normet to develop an experience that could meet their niche customers' specific needs. And they needed to find a commerce partner that could match the depth of such a challenge.
Unearthing why Normet needed eCommerce
Like many B2Bs, Normet didn’t offer an online sales channel for its products and services for underground projects, including providing complex machinery, spare parts, rental equipment, equipment refurbishment, as well as performance and field services. But the company recognized that this gap in the customer purchasing experience could not last. Normat had relationships with customers that went back decades, and though many of these customers were happy to place orders to sales reps over the phone and email, a younger, more tech-savvy generation of B2B shoppers found these interactions time-consuming and inefficient.
— People working in the mining industry are still normal people. In their personal life, they use eCommerce. They are used to easy processes. And when they were making B2B purchases from us, they were experiencing a cumbersome and complex buying journey. So, many of our customers were asking if we could provide more modern, simpler ways to make those purchases, says Pekka Jaarinen, Director of Digital Services at Normet.
Providing an easier buying experience with eCommerce would not only benefit customers, but also the employees at Normet. Every phone call and email with product and pricing questions required someone to be there, looking up the information and spending time trying to answer immediately, consuming a lot of resources. That’s why digitizing that product information to be automatically available for B2B customers would solve many operational and efficiency issues straightaway.
Columbus is Normet’s guiding and implementing partner for the digital commerce solution for spare parts — based on Commercetools. In addition, Columbus is helping Normet to create a coherent and relevant experience across mobile, web and eCommerce — and the journey has just begun.
The bedrock of Normet’s B2B eCommerce architecture: MACH™
The newly formed digital team at Normet knew they wanted an eCommerce solution that was flexible, easily customizable and future-proof. And the only technology that could fit those requirements is MACH-based architecture. The term MACH, an acronym for Microservices-based, API-first, Cloud-native and Headless, was first coined by commercetools, the preeminent pioneers of the technology. Thus, it was only natural that Normet chose Commercetools as its commerce vendor.
With commercetools’ MACH infrastructure under the hood of Normet’s eCommerce engine, Normet can customize its tech stack with best-of-breed components whenever needed, as each part is pluggable, scalable and replaceable. That way, the entire eCommerce system can continuously be improved through agile development to meet evolving business needs. And if one component no longer works, the company can simply swap it out without downtime to the rest of the system, meaning Normet will never have to replatform again.
The light at the end of the tunnel
In addition to Commercetools being a generally easy-to-implement backend solution, a big part of the success of Normet’s launch was due to system integrator Columbus.
— Columbus is Normet’s guiding and implementing partner for the digital commerce solution for spare parts — based on Commercetools. In addition, Columbus is helping Normet to create a coherent and relevant experience across mobile, web and eCommerce — and the journey has just begun, says Robin Slotts, Partner Manager at Columbus.
Robin states that the implementation from the first line of code to full production deployment was four-and-a-half months, and not only did Columbus stay within the requested budget, they were also able to deliver two weeks earlier than planned. The beauty of such a fast implementation is that the overwhelmingly positive results came in just as fast.
One of the biggest pain points for Normet prior to completing its online store was the massive amount of products in its catalog — over 65,000 highly specialized spare parts. Every part, along with its pricing and availability, was impossible for customers to easily view in the physical world. But transporting the catalog into the digital realm means that B2B buyers can now see everything on offer and all the related information — including products they didn’t even know existed — increasing sales, as well as adding upselling and cross-selling opportunities.
What’s in Normet’s digital future? A lot of things. At the top of the list is automating operations and processes for both customers and internally.