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How Motion Industries Achieved Double-Digit B2B eCommerce Sales Growth During the Pandemic

When 74% of the US workforce started working from home due to Covid-19 restrictions, B2B companies with eCommerce capabilities were able to continue serving their customers – and gain new ones. What began as a temporary pandemic response forced a digital shift in commerce that isn’t going away. In fact, a recent global McKinsey study showed that up to 80% of B2B decision-makers prefer digital service over the traditional in-person experience.

While Motion Industries, a six-billion-dollar industrial B2B distribution company, has had an eCommerce website for over 15 years, their new CEO wanted to build it into a strategic selling platform that empowered a digitally enabled salesforce. The advent of Covid-19 meant they had to accelerate the process.

Motion wanted to put their customers front and center of their website redevelopment, including soliciting input and feedback to ensure it would deliver real value. They gained an understanding of the customer buying journey and identified the potential points of friction that could be encountered while searching for a product, purchasing or reordering a product, and tracking its movements through the supply chain. To deliver a customer-friendly experience, Motion worked with GroupBy to identify where content could be improved, implement intelligent search capabilities, and enable a real-time omnichannel customer experience.

James Howe, Motion’s Senior VP, Sales Excellence, e-Commerce & Strategic Pricing, comments, “What feeds everything is this content. And that's where it's been an iterative effort with GroupBy analyzing our data and saying, ‘We really think you guys can do things better in this area if you make these changes.’” He continues, “With 10 million SKUs in our database, the landscape becomes pretty cluttered. But if the content is improved, search becomes much easier and relevance soars. We have a good partnership with GroupBy, and their content expertise has definitely been a benefit to us.”

Implemented Intelligent Search

Using customer feedback, machine learning, and user journey data, GroupBy implemented an intelligent search that understands how Motion’s various customers look for products. For example, customers that search with a partial part number or that have an idea of what they want but aren’t certain, are able to find exactly what will work for them. Personalized recommendations and reorder prompts also ensure they never leave an item they need behind.

James Howe commented, “We asked ourselves, ‘do we just want to ship what customers order, or do we want to allow them to see what else could be of interest?’” He continues, “GroupBy has given us the opportunity to engage customers in different ways, give them the knowledge they didn't have, and recommend products they didn't know we sold. Customers that are adopting our digital platform are buying more from us than customers that are not.” 

On the supplier side, Motion built branded landing pages filtered by GroupBy with search limited to each supplier’s products. Howe comments, “Supplier feedback has been very, very positive. They are now looking to our expertise to deliver a digital experience for our combined customer, and they are very motivated. We are working with GroupBy on improving the amount of information that can feed directly from suppliers in real-time, without having to manually manage the content. Our supplier partners see our site as a valuable joint marketing platform for our mutual customers.”

Enabled an Omnichannel Experience

An omnichannel experience means customers can buy what they want, when and how they want to – seamlessly. When customers need that human touch, Motion’s salesforce is there to provide concierge-level service virtually or in-person. Conversely, when customers would rather self-serve, then Motion’s eCommerce site provides that ability, powered by GroupBy’s intuitive search, personalized product recommendations and ‘buy it again’ suggestions. GroupBy also enables customers to see real-time inventory by location so they can choose their own mode of fulfillment, from contactless pickup at a nearby location to regular or accelerated delivery, closing the loop on the omnichannel experience. 

With Covid-19 and the necessity for social distancing, a large part of Motion’s eCommerce transformation has been driving adoption by customers and getting them accustomed to digital engagement with sales reps. Even with these added challenges, Motion has seen a growth rate in digital customer transactions that outpaces the rest of the customer group by double digits, without adding headcount. 

Howe comments, “We have 10 product managers and another group of 10+ doing nothing but content and interfacing with suppliers to pull in data. If we were to do it all in-house and do it right, we would need over 10 people in search and probably 30 people in content. With our partnership with GroupBy and the processes and algorithms they’ve introduced, we don't need those additional FTEs.”


Howe concludes, “This Covid experience has taken our three-to-five-year plan and turned it into a one-to-two-year plan. The pressure to deliver is just off the charts. And next year we are going to continue to build out and increase customer adoptions. In fact, we’re going to grab everything we can to invest in digital marketing and in digital experiences for our customers.”

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