Inside Gildan’s Digital Transformation to B2B Ecommerce With Kees Olthof

Founded in Montreal, Canada in 1946 as a manufacturer of children’s clothing, Gildan has become one of the world’s leading vertically integrated manufacturers of apparel, socks and legwear.

While Gildan is known in the industry for the quality of its products, it is also known for its Social, Environmental and Governance (ESG) program. And due to its long history of ethical and sustainable manufacturing processes, Gildan has become one of the “100 most sustainably managed companies“In the World by the Wall Street Journal in 2020.

As for the company’s brand portfolio, Gildan serves both directly to the consumer (DTC) with brands such as American Apparel and GOLDTOE as well as other stores. Additionally, Gildan has a Board of Decorators website, an inspiring community of decorators created by and for decorators. Gildan recently merged six different locations into one and created its new one B2B Wholesale website, gildanbrands.com.

To learn more about the company’s e-commerce journey and its digital transformation, we sat down for a Q&A with Kees Olthof, Senior Manager Consumer Experience at Gildan.

Gildan’s B2B Ecommerce Growth Interview

How much of your business is direct-to-consumer (DTC) vs. business-to-business (B2B)?

Kees Olthof: “I would say the vast majority are B2B wholesalers. For us, DTC is a sales channel, but it’s much more than that. It’s also the opportunity to be close to our customers and interact with them directly, which allows us to become much more customer-centric. In addition, the DTC websites give us full control over the brand and the customer experience. ”

When you originally switched from paper to an online wholesale catalog, what motivated you to switch?

KO: “As a brand, we have recognized that paper catalogs are an outdated medium. They are one-dimensional and only allow us to interact with our customers in one way. And so, with an online catalog, we found that we can offer a much richer, more interactive experience. That was the main reason for us to go online and away from a paper catalog. Additionally, moving online was part of our sustainability initiative as it was a great way to save paper and further reduce our carbon footprint. “

So what motivates you to expand your B2B e-commerce offering and switch to BigCommerce?

KO: “We have been in the B2B e-commerce sector for over 15 years; However, we used legacy systems that were only available to very large customers. We lacked certain skills and the technology was very costly to maintain. It worked, but not great.

“When we were evaluating various e-commerce platforms, we needed a solution that met all of the criteria. Business needs, culture customization, product roadmap, total cost of ownership, etc. Is this a company we could work with for not just a year, two, three, but a long term?

“With BigCommerce we found a state-of-the-art platform that can create a much better customer experience and scale globally – that was the key. And the lower cost; This is one of the main reasons why we switched from legacy systems to BigCommerce. “

What specific features did you need for product customization from a B2B e-commerce platform?

KO: “In our case, we really appreciated the API-first approach. We saw BigCommerce as the center of ours B2B e-commerce system, but it’s not a one-size-fits-all solution – I think those days are over. So your ability to integrate seamlessly with other solutions was something that really caught our eye. “

Can you tell me more about what you do with your mobile app and how you use it?

KO: “The mobile app started out as an inventory finder. Customers can find inventory on our website, but it’s much more convenient to use a phone when they’re on the go or have someone in their store. The app can use the customer’s location to tell them the closest dealer who sells the product, and from there they can use the app to call, send an email or request the product.

“Since you can do so much more with an app, we are expanding its function to include a function for scanning patterns. Customers can use their phone’s camera to scan one of our sample cards with all the different fabrics and different colors and see exactly what styles are available for that particular color.

“Previously, however, customers had to use a table to find available styles for that color. We are very happy about this function because the customers asked for it and we would never have been able to solve it without the mobile app. “

With all of these different websites, how do you deliver a seamless customer experience?

KO: “To come back to your earlier question, the reason we chose BigCommerce is to act as the cornerstone of our digital ecosystem: our DTC retail sites, B2B branded sites, the Board of Decorators site, and the mobile app. The goal is that these are not silos with individual initiatives, but a unified experience. So we needed a single back end – and BigCommerce does that for us.

“BigCommerce stores all of our product information, which means customers have the same experience whether they search the mobile app or the website. And for our in-house team, it’s much easier to maintain and innovate with a single platform that extends to every single channel.

“Thanks to BigCommerce, we are basically able to combine these initiatives, which we weren’t able to do before. No matter where you are in your customer journey, you get the same seamless, smooth experience. “

Do you have DTC best practices that you would like to incorporate on your B2B wholesale page?

KO: “We integrate social media on the website so that you can see user-generated content. If you take a page from consumer pages, social proof is still relevant to B2B. We are finding that many DTC practices are gaining traction in the B2B space. While not all is the same or true, there are many realizations that we believe will be crucial.

“We also want to make sure we have more two-way conversations – which you obviously can’t do with print. So if customers want to leave feedback on the website, they can. In our FAQ area, for example, the following question is asked: “Was this question helpful? Yes or no?'”

What suggestions or advice would you give to other B2B companies going through a digital transformation?

KO: “I would tell any other B2B company that if you are moving your business online, take the opportunity to become more data driven. It’s something that can be done very well online, but not so much offline.

“Quantitative data is more of the“ what ”that you can get out of your web analysis. On the other hand, the qualitative data is the “why” that you can learn from surveys and on-site feedback. Then work on changing your culture to be open-minded and keep validating your assumptions.

“Also, make sure everyone in your company has access to this wealth of data that you collect through online interactions, be it on social channels, your website, or a mobile app. It’s important to share these insights beyond your digital team and incorporate them into your business decisions.

“I think that’s important for every manufacturer, because first-party data is something that you don’t always have without direct access to your customers. I believe that these direct customer insights are really crucial for every manufacturer in order to optimize processes and ultimately create better products. “

Get started with BigCommerce’s B2B ecommerce solution

Are you ready to take the plunge and start selling online with a B2B ecommerce platform designed to make you successful? Then take a look BigCommerce B2B Edition. You will find all the features you need to overcome the complexities and make B2B sales easier.

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