2017 is the year of artificial intelligence. One group to harness the power of artificial intelligence was the Finnish wholesale company Motoral, for which the benefits of AI have not been limited to its online store, but have also improved the entire company's sales.
Motoral, whose history dates back to the 1940s, has become one of Finland's most important players in the field of vehicular and transport-related products. The corporation, which operates with a turnover of over €70 million, has found a new competitive advantage in an efficient online store and customer-specific personalization enabled by Episerver.
The online store, built on Episerver Digital Experience Cloud for digital commerce, was launched by Motoral in 2014. According to Motoral's development manager Henri Ström, building a B2B online store is no easy task from the standpoint of business operations and the requirements placed on the technology. In a consumer web store, all customers are generally offered the same price, whereas a wholesaler's pricing system is customer-specific, with many different levels. It is particularly complicated at Motoral, whose selection includes up to 25,000 products. Motoral currently works with over 9,000 businesses, so the number of product-price combinations runs into the hundreds of millions.
According to Henri Ström, Episerver was the right solution for Motoral's needs.
"If you set out to do business on the web with a platform that isn't designed for precisely this kind of use, you quickly end up with makeshift solutions that are less than ideal," Ström explains.
Adding to the challenge is the diversity of Motoral's clientele, from major industry players to small service stations and garages.
"Our range of products is broken up into catalogs appealing to the mentalities of different customers. What interested us about Episerver from the beginning is that it makes the online store's content easy to personalize for different users."
Each of Motoral's customer groups has its own, personalized front page for the web store. This makes the user experience as pleasant as possible. The view seen by a customer from a small garage, for example, will not include birch logs, and sets of springs for heavy vehicles will not be marketed to service stations. With the current solution, Motoral is able not only to segment its customer groups efficiently, but also to engage in the customer-specific pricing that is typical in B2B commerce.
"A mass of 100 million lines are updated in our system each night. Each customer sees the specific price that is right for him or her," Ström says.
In March of this year, Motoral went to the next level in its online store, and began using Episerver Personalization, Episerver's intelligent personalization suite of omnichannel solutions for commerce, content and search personalization. The motivation for this move was not merely an interest in the possibilities, but also a desire to find products to offer their customers, out of a 25,000-product selection, in a more efficient manner.
"Episerver Personalization began to produce results for us on the very first day - we immediately noticed that there was amazing potential here," says Ström.
According to Ström, Motoral has long placed a premium on knowing their customers.
"We know their addresses and phone numbers, and we can go and meet them at any time. We see what they have bought from us, and our sales staff in the field know them personally. Artificial intelligence has brought a great deal more to the whole equation," Ström explains.
"Episerver Personalization allows us to adopt an entirely different strategy in regards to what we offer the customer, and we are able to offer products much more efficiently than we could before."
According to Ström, one of the strategies entrusted to Episerver was to offer products that a customer has not bought yet, but that are generally purchased in the same orders as products that the customer normally buys.
"For example, earlier, we conducted email campaigns with promotions and offers that I think were very well targeted and well thought out, but we discovered time after time that even this did not work as well as expected. Now, we have made email campaigns entirely automatic - we no longer product anything for them ourselves. Episerver has generated messages automatically, on the basis of the strategies we have laid out."
The emails generated by Episerver Reach, the email piece of the intelligent personalization suite from Episerver, are now bringing up to four times more clicks to the online store than manually-composed messages. According to Ström, the potential power of AI-generated email campaigns is still largely untapped.
"In other words, we know our customers, but at the same time we are not really acquainted with them. We clearly do not know exactly what will interest a specific customer and when."
In particular, the right time for offering a product can be better determined through AI, according to Ström. This is valuable for Motoral given its large selection of products.
"The same space that was previously used for product recommendations is now put to more efficient use," Ström explains.
According to Henri Ström, Episerver differs from many other groups that utilize artificial intelligence. In addition to AI, Episerver customers get a skilled analytics team and support to help them get the most out of customer data.
"Episerver is not just a software vendor - they are also actively thinking about how AI is utilized in business," Ström says.
"Episerver's analytics team is able to respond to problems they are presented with - for example, if we have a new brand and we want to know who it should be marketed to. They are able to break down our customer data, buying behavior, and people's activity at the online store, and send us guidelines on the basis of this that tell us 'sell to these customers'," Ström explains.
Episerver also offers Motoral an opportunity to support its sales team in an entirely new way. For example, the AI and analytics team now has the ability to help the sales staff by putting together targeted lists of products that different customers might be interested in. In addition to the online store, this also enables sales staff in the field to make contact with the right customers at the right time.
The use of AI is also visible in Motoral's online sales, where 12.5% of orders already include products purchased on the basis of recommendation.
However, a comprehensive analysis of sales numbers produced by Episerver Personalization is still in its early stages. Besides the online store, customers are able to order products from Motoral through 3-4 additional channels, and this makes analysis of customer activity at the online store or in email campaigns challenging. For example, an order may come to Motoral via field sales, even if an email sent through Episerver Reach may have been in the background of that decision.
"Those who use the online store but place orders through a different channel are still reached by the personalized marketing and advertising," Ström explains.
"Episerver Personalization began to produce results for us on the very first day - we immediately noticed that there was amazing potential here."Henri Ström, Development Manager, Motoral Oy
9,000 B2B customers
100 million product-price combinations
12.5% of orders include products purchased on basis of recommendation