Algolia for B2B ecommerce
Build personalized search and navigation experience for B2B ecommerce
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What do you do when you’re a B2B company with a website that needs to expertly, instantaneously get large amounts and different types of complex information to different types of customers?
BioIVT found that out when it turned to Zaelab, a digital commerce advisory and solutions provider that partners with best-in-class platforms. With guidance from Zaelab, which also brought on Algolia, the organization was able to successfully create an excellent B2B digital experience for its customers.
BioIVT is a leading provider of biospecimens: control and disease state samples, including tissues, cells, blood, and other biofluids. It sells primarily to clinical research organizations, major pharmaceutical companies, and academic research institutions.
Craig Williams, director of product design and research at Algolia, hosted a webinar about BioVT’s project. Evan Klein, Zaelab’s CEO, joined Craig for this discussion, along with Andrew Thomson, vice president of Innovation & Technology at BioIVT.
BioIVT’s business goals with this transformation were to:
Zaelab helped BioIVT identify the components needed for the transformation. First and foremost, the company, which had an ERP (enterprise resource planning) system running in the background, needed an architecture that would provide flexibility and agility.
In creating BioIVT’s digital commerce stack, Zaelab implemented SAP Commerce Cloud and a truly headless approach.
For content management, the team chose Contentful, another cloud- and API-based platform.
To deliver an exceptional customer experience, Zaelab used its own headless ZCommerce framework. They natively integrated it in the BioIVT platform to create a modern, progressive web experience.
When Zaelab evaluated BioIVT’s search needs, they realized that the company needed a very robust, fast search engine that could excel at searching for inventory as well as products. BioIVT has a complex product, and the team needed to be able to let customers find what they were looking for in a seamless way. Search would be a critical piece of the digital transformation.
The challenges the transformation team faced when designing a search solution included:
BioIVT also had opportunities to improve on its existing search technology. They wanted to improve their search performance, improve search-result relevance (different types of users needed certain information tailored to their roles), and give their customers access to complex, continually changing inventory data.
Zaelab evaluated a number of search engines and determined that Algolia was the best-of-breed choice based on several factors:
When taking these factors into consideration, it was clear to the team that Algolia would meet BioIVT’s search needs better than any other solution.
BioIVT created a two-year digital transformation roadmap that started with an advisory phase, during which they requested input from their customers. The process ended with three successive releases of the new solution, then a period of optimization and innovation.
Here’s BioIVT’s new search bar dedicated to educational content:
This search functionality was especially timely in the era of COVID-19, notes Andrew.
BioIVT also now has a separate search bar for its complicated inventory set of more than 140,000 biosamples. There are more than 50 attributes for each sample, as well as more than 30 search facets on the Algolia platform:
In quantifying the success of the transformation, one indicator was platform adoption by customers (e.g., the number of quotes and orders). The team also measured increases in revenue, cost savings, and customer loyalty.
Andrew identifies six key takeaways from the project:
Evan pointed out one final learning: Start with your users. BioIVT’s digital transformation began with reflecting on and gearing the work to meet their customers’ needs.
“We’ve traditionally been a very high-touch organization: a boots-on-the-ground sales force walking around clinical research companies and pharmaceutical companies, talking to scientists about their research needs,” says Andrew. “We’re very much in a personal, one-on-one relationship with these bench scientists, and as we’ve pushed forward with digital transformation, we didn’t want to lose that aspect of our client service…. It wasn’t always easy asking every question with ‘How will the client respond to this?’ But it was important for us to keep that focus.”
Andrew’s to-do list includes:
Craig has a follow-up discussion question: what gaps was the team trying to solve for in the SAP Hybris native search solution?
“SAP Commerce Cloud provided search capabilities, which makes sense if you’re just thinking about search across products,” replies Evan. However, search is distinctly different for BioIVT customers.
“It’s not just products but an incredible amount of complex attributes related to those products; there was search across inventory that was moving very quickly, changing very frequently, there was search across documents and scientific content. Algolia presented a solution that was going to better meet the needs of BioIVT’s customer experience.”
“Once we saw how quickly Algolia could take a large number of complex records and search them and display them, we were sold on that solution,” adds Andrew. “Our experience with other solutions in just trying to search our inventory historically has been a long and difficult process, nothing that people would want to sit through and wait for on a website.”