HP Enterprise's B2B Online Marketplace Strategy

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B2B organizations are having to come up with new and innovative methods for drawing customers to their brand. However, the changing nature of the B2B buyer has made this endeavor somewhat challenging.

The new generation of B2B buyers likes to research new products for themselves online, rather than be visited or called by a sales rep. They also like to do most of the actual buying online as well, leading to the rise of the B2B online marketplace. Through platforms such as Amazon Business and Alibaba, businesses can purchase many of the products they need - often tail spend items such as stationery and cleaning products - from a single source and take advantage of additional services such as next day delivery.

As a major supplier of B2B computer equipment, HP Enterprise was losing ground to Amazon and Microsoft in this regard. However, it's now fighting back by moving much of its offering online.

HP Enterprise

One step in this endeavor was to transform into a subscription-based model and move all its products into the cloud.

Obviously, with an organization as large and complex as HPE this process is expected to take a significant amount of time, but it's a key part of the strategy, nonetheless. With a cloud- and subscription-based product portfolio that will include the brand's entire product offering of computer servers, storage hardware, networking gear, and software, HPE will be able to provide its customers with the instantaneous and 24/7 service they've come to expect from a modern company.

HPE has plans to have completed this project by 2022 and will offer customers the choice between a pay-per-use or subscription model.

HPE was initially skeptical of the threat from cloud computing and chose to invest four billion dollars into edge computing instead. This service lets clients process information on hardware far away from data centers and was touted as the next big thing for computing. However, HPE has recently taken the far more pragmatic step of forming a partnership with Google designed to assist customers with adopting hybrid models and moving information between their own corporate data centers and large public clouds.

"We will reshape HPE and transform the market, with a new and better way to deliver as a service," said HP CEO, Antonio Neri. "HPE already sells about 50% of its products through e-commerce, it says. That includes products available on its online HPE Store, where buyers can configure and order large complex systems like network servers with multiple blades or server modules for computing and data storage; HPE Elite, a site personalized for enterprise account customers, the Public Sector Online Store for buyers at government agencies and its Replacement Parts Store."

Online Marketplace

Another phase of this strategy was to build a bespoke HP online marketplace from which customers could purchase the suite of - soon to be - cloud-based products. The key factor for HPE was that the platform provided a no-touch buying experience that didn't steal sales from its dealer partners.

"Partner ecommerce capabilities are important to the purchasing experience, too," said HPE's Director of Ecommerce, Platform and Capability, Sagar Bilgi. "How advanced partners are at selling online, and what they can and cannot do in that channel, played a role in how we developed the marketplace."

HPE came up with a solution that would allow its customers to browse partners' inventory through the HPE marketplace. There they could purchase HP products and those from its partners, without ever being redirected to another website - something HPE felt had a negative impact on the buying experience.

"We knew this was not the model we wanted over the long-term, but we had to take the first step to attract buyers to our marketplace," Bilgi added. "The long-range goal was to create a seamless purchasing experience in which buyers can purchase from a channel partner without leaving our marketplace."

The online marketplace has been up and running for a while now and has gone through several iterations. Online configuration tools and price quotes for customized products, as well as simple product-bundling capabilities were all added within a year of launch. The most recent updates have integrated HPE's product catalog and buying capabilities onto a single platform to create a better customer experience, such as being able to buy with a single click.

Final Thoughts

With its online marketplace and ongoing mission to move all its products to a cloud-based subscription model, HPE is making itself a force to be reckoned with on the global stage once again. With work ongoing, it will be exciting to see which features are added next.

"When it comes to selling globally, you need partners that not only know how to navigate ecommerce in a specific country, but how buyers in that country purchase through an OEM site, and what kind of buying experience they expect," concluded Bilgi.

You can hear HP's Senior Director for Content Strategy & Operations, Sushma Shirish, speak at B2B Online 2020, taking place in April at the Chicago Marriott Downtown.

Download the agenda today form more information and insights.

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