Dow Corning's Experience with B2B Commerce Pays Off

Dow Corning's Experience with B2B Commerce Pays Off

Efficient online purchasing has global appeal.

You always hear that relationships are key to doing business in Asia.

So when Shelley Bausch did a focus group with customers from Korea, Japan, China, Singapore and India, she fully expected to hear concerns about her business. After all, Bausch runs Dow Corning's Xiameter brand, which utilizes a sophisticated e-commerce website for customers who want to purchase standard silicone products. But the customer feedback, she reports, was just the opposite. "They said, 'We want the web. We want to do business this way. We don't want to pick up the phone and call you about when a product is coming."

In 2002, Dow Corning decided to split its business into two major brands, with Dow Corning focusing on specialty products that require innovation and customization and Xiameter offering standard products online to maximize efficiency and reduce prices. Since Xiameter was launched, the company has more than tripled its business volume and now sells products online in 96 countries. In 2009, the Xiameter website was relaunched, providing more information, more flexibility in payment terms and order quantities, and other enhancements.

Dow Corning's Xiameter business depends on fully utilizing the company's manufacturing and supply chain capabilities to deliver standard silicone products to global customers.
Photo: Dow Corning
A key to Xiameter's success, says Bausch, is the integration of its supply chain so that manufacturing resources are utilized efficiently and logistics allow for on-time delivery to customers virtually anywhere in the world. While it took several years to fully implement its SAP system, says Bausch, the company is benefiting now from its ability to "connect the customer placing an order on the web all the way to the scheduler at the plant with no human intervention."

That long investment in establishing and upgrading the Xiameter business model, says Bausch, may illustrate why relatively few B2B businesses have taken such a full-blown e-commerce approach. "When you think about a consumer website, it typically is a relatively simple connection from an individual to a warehouse," she explains. "When you are doing business in B2B, it is an organizational connection."

But Bausch says a new generation of consumers that is comfortable with purchasing online is moving into businesses and will drive the adoption of more B2B e-commerce. "The same people are moving into purchasing departments. They absolutely prefer to do things online and not in a sense waste their time in an inefficient way going to a store."

See Also:
• Bayer's Prescription: More Innovation, Less Administration

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