How entrepreneur Lori McDonald built a leading ecommerce solution for businesses
In almost every way, B2C ecommerce is light years ahead of B2B. And when it comes to the representation of women, that doesn’t change. The influential women leaders in the B2B space are playing too much of a critical role in the digitalization of trade to go unrecognized.
Not only are they pioneering outdated industries, but they are among a small crowd daring to digitalize where no one else has. So in our newest series, Women Who Build in B2B Ecommerce, Balance will be putting a spotlight on the women who are shaping the industry and helping build the future B2B.
From NASA to B2B ecommerce
Bringing offline commerce online is no walk in the park, but McDonald has been making it possible since 1998.
Way before the B2B ecommerce trend took off, Brilliance Business Solutions was helping launch digital storefronts for merchants. Lori McDonald, CEO and Founder, has been behind it all.
Lori has years of experience in enabling businesses to expand their sales and bring back-office systems online. Before Brilliance, Lori was a Space Shuttle Flight Controller for NASA. From there, she took her passion for technology to launch creative and reliable solutions to get B2B ecommerce off the ground and operational.
What inspired you to start Brilliance Business Solutions?
I started Brilliance in 1998. I knew businesses that needed help figuring out how to get their businesses online. The internet in 1998 was very different than it is now. Then businesses told me that they didn't need a website because they were in Thomas Register or the Yellow Pages.
No one says that anymore. However, there are still a lot of businesses that don't really understand how they can be leveraging digital to grow their business.
What do you think is the next big trend in ecommerce?
In the B2B space, I think successful organizations are realizing that ecommerce is more than adding a product to a cart and checking out. They are designing digital experiences that enable their customers to self-serve and get their work done faster and with better results.
For the organizations that take this approach, they are able to grow revenue with their existing customers and decrease the cost of serving those customers, enabling their sales teams to spend time on the efforts with the highest value to the organization.
What about the B2B space do you find most interesting?
There is so much innovation and opportunities to create value both for companies that are investing in digital and also for their customers. There are opportunities to speed up the process of responding to customer quotes through Request for Quote and Configure Price Quote software.
Leveraging AI in chat for example is something we used to talk about as on the horizon but it is now actively in use and creating value. Or, take customer data platforms that allow companies to track customer interactions whether offline or online and pull them together to be the most effective with customer communication. There’s a lot on the horizon to be excited about.
What practical tips can you give to merchants getting started with B2B ecommerce?
When merchants are approaching any B2B project, I always say they need to start with one question: What does success look like for this initiative? Write a vision statement that you can share.
Another way to consider this is to ask, what behavior would you like to see change, for your customer or your employees. From there, you can start to develop a MVP and understand what to prioritize first to get across the finish line.
The reason you need to commit to one narrow goal is so that you can avoid one-off tasks or efforts that are not actually contributing to the broader e-commerce vision of the organization. And this brings to me another important point—-the entire organization needs to be in on making the digital move. E-commerce is a holistic GTM effort, and a completely new function within the business. So a cross-functional team, collectively working on a specific e-commerce need is a very important starting point. Once a project is launched, I always urge our clients to ask for feedback from their customers—this is how you know if you are on the right track or not.
Stay tuned for more Women Who Build in B2B Ecommerce spotlights to hear from the influencers driving digital commerce forward.