QIAGEN is a German life sciences and diagnostics firm that has customers in more than 100 countries. Given the trend toward e-commerce in the biotech sector, which has emerged in the past few years, it became clear to the company’s management that future growth called for a digital strategy that included online self-service.
To achieve that goal, the company partnered with TCS and used SAP Hybris solutions to design, engineer and launch a new global Web shop. The shop plays a central role in allowing QIAGEN to effectively serve its customers according to Florian Wegener, head of eCommerce.
Before the system’s implementation, the firm received numerous faxes that had to be manually processed. Now, both orders and processing are done digitally, which results in greater accuracy, faster fulfillment and reduced costs associated with the ordering process.
Though the cost savings has been substantial for the sales team, Wegener stresses that the motivation to shift to the Web shop was actually about growth opportunities. The company aims to grow from its current $200 to 250 million in sales to $1 billion in annual sales through digital channels by the end of 2020. Those channels would constitute 40 percent of QIAGEN’s overall revenues.
Achieving that kind of growth requires reaching out effectively and efficiently to customers.
QIAGEN has two types of customers: the ones that run diagnostic tests in medical labs and the Nobel Prize aspirants who work on ground-breaking research in molecular biology. Before the new platform gave these customers access to all of QIAGEN’s offerings at their fingertips, they may have not realized that the company could provide them with some of the products they were buying from another vendor.
Being Responsive to Business Demands
Bearing in mind that an effective selling platform has to remain responsive to change and business demands, TCS set it up with two-week-long sprints of development and testing, rather than a single stretch of several months of development. Wegener said there were three reasons why QIAGEN adopted that approach:
- It needed an agile environment to integrate business with the programming. “The business side isconstantly involved in this,” he reports. “The product owners translate the business needs into IT requirements.” The two groups work together to keep the Web shop service agile.
- This was the best way to keep the development teams in Europe, the United States and India on the same page. At the beginning of the project, the company invested heavily in communication hardware, video cameras, laptops, etc., to cover all the different time zones. But that was very difficult to do in real time. Opting for a two-week sprint allows time for a check in order to reduce the risks associated with geographic diversity and time variances among the different teams
- This was the best way to ease into the new system while the company still had the old one running because it could draw on the buying behavior of customers while designing the system. QIAGEN tapped into the experience of the former head of analytics from eBay Europe and shared that knowledge with the data and analytics teams. There were several changes and feature adjustments made in response to real activity. That “could never have been done in a waterfall project,” Wegener points out.
An All-in-One Win-Win Solution
Now with everything in one place, customers can look through the thousands of product offerings, easily find what they’re looking for, place their order and get a report on its status. Plus, the data taken from their orders enables the system to predict what else they might find interesting.
Wegener explains that the Web shop’s platform provides two valuable enhancements to the customer experience—enhancements that also increase sales.
First, the platform can offer the entire portfolio of QIAGEN As that includes thousands of products that are often complicated and very specific, no single sales representative could possibly know them all in enough detail to explain and present them as well as the digital platform can for effective selling. A sales representative’s job now involves guiding customers through the Web shop.
Second, thanks to its analytics engine, the platform can offer product recommendations the same way Amazon does. As the biotech industry conforms to a pattern, it’s possible to tell customers who indicated an interest in product A that they would likely also be interested in B and C.
Results indicate that customer who shift to the Web shop increase purchasing activity five to six times faster than without it. That is due to the increased opportunity for up-selling and cross-selling that’s built in, providing better insight into what products would be of interest to specific buyers.
The customers are very happy with their ease of access. Even those who required an incentive to try the new tools liked them once they used them—and they stuck with the tools. Wegener says that customers call it “the shift and growth strategy.”
However, rather than replacing salespeople with the Web shop, Wegener anticipates that it will drive the need for even more salespeople as the company continues to grow.