Although sales have been slow in some industrial categories—mostly petroleum, which has been hit by slack global demand and over-production—companies are finding new opportunities to grow sales through e-commerce.
When you think about the business strategies of giant industrial companies like Alcoa Inc., Caterpillar Inc. and Dow Chemical Co., e-commerce isn’t generally something that comes to mind first as a major strategy initiative. But in fact, new data shows that digital commerce has been very good to these companies and to the entire industrial sector.
That’s one of the principal findings of the 2017 B2B E-Commerce 300, released this week, which ranks the largest companies in North America by their projected 2016 online sales to business customers.
Overall sales have been slow online and offline in some industrial categories, especially petroleum, but many companies are finding new opportunities to grow their businesses through e-commerce. Combined, the top 58 companies in the industrial sector, including aerospace companies, and those in the machinery, materials and energy industries, are on pace to grow sales by 8% this year to $246.45 billion.
Take Deere & Co., the manufacturer of machinery such as John Deere tractors and other equipment used in construction and agriculture as well as in home lawn care. The company is forging ahead in B2B e-commerce by expanding use of mobile apps and working on an e-marketplace projected to produce hundreds of millions of dollars in sales within a few years.
Deere added to its collection of mobile apps for customers in April with the launch of John Deere MyMaintenance, an app designed to let construction equipment maintenance managers view and document maintenance schedules by calendar date or by the number of hours a particular machine has operated. As they view a list of the equipment they manage, including images of where machines are located on a map, managers also can view how many days or operating hours until the next scheduled service and a history of maintenance costs; they can also view lists of available parts.
With an electronic link, called JDLink, from the app to John Deere equipment dealers, customers also can arrange to have purchase orders automatically sent to dealers when particular machine components need to be replaced. The dealer can then schedule a technician to deliver and install the part.
“The MyMaintenance app gives users a plethora of information at their fingertips, including the ability to view equipment on a map, look at machines nearby, bar-code scan a machine to see maintenance plans, access a parts list for maintenance and keep track of maintenance costs,” says Paul Garcia, product manager, John Deere WorkSight, Deere’s suite of products and services designed to let customers manage their equipment from the field.
Deere also is working with Apttus Corp., a provider of B2B e-commerce technology, to deploy a new e-marketplace, a project described at the 2015 Apttus Accelerate conference. The new marketplace will serve as a multifaceted portal for end-customers and dealers to purchase products from Deere factories as well as from other suppliers of agricultural equipment. Deere has not commented on its plans for the marketplace. Additional features of the marketplace include calculating sales tax by state and enabling resellers on the marketplace to manage pricing and bundling of products for sale.
The just-released B2B E-Commerce 300 includes several profiles of other major corporations like Deere that are at the forefront of a shift to digital commerce. Also included in the report, available in online database and digital formats, are:
- Data-rich profiles of 300 of the largest players in the industry, ranked by their 2016 online sales to business customers
- 201416 e-commerce sales figures for all 300 companies (database only)
- Vendors used by B2B sellers across 21 technology categories
- Features and functions of each B2B e-commerce site
Seven case studies on leading B2B companies such as Columbia Sportswear, Grainger, Caterpillar and NeweggBusiness.