How ArcelorMittal Nippon Steel India is Future-Ready with E-Sales, its B2B commerce site

For ArcelorMittal Nippon Steel India (AM/NS India), creating a hassle-free smarter steel buying experience and ease of doing business for their customers is key. In pursuit of this goal, the company undertook a pioneering digital initiative to create a smooth buying journey for its B2B customer. “We want to be the digital benchmark, at least in the steel and non-ferrous or manufacturing sector in terms of customer experience,” says Akshaya Gujral- Chief Sales Steering & Distribution, AM/NS India.

Customer Experience Crafted with Technology

Technology is not only at the heart of the company’s manufacturing operations and product development but also prominently in its customer relations, says Gujral.

AM/NS India produces smarter steel by applying technology and innovative manufacturing processes to optimise use, minimise waste, reduce production time and critically lowering carbon emissions.

Apart from constantly promoting a culture of innovation not just within its organisation but also among stakeholders, the company constantly works towards delivering the brand promise of ‘Smarter Steels, Brighter Futures’ for people from all walks of life – something that has been encapsulated in its recent corporate brand campaign ‘Reimagineering’.

“Hence, when we talk about digitalisation, what we mean is using the latest technology to bring maximum transparency to our customers and thus assuring them that we can be their long-term partners in everything they do.”

The commerce site, E-Sales, launched in February 2022 is the result of this vision – to be the most “superior digital platform” promising ease of doing business.

In a little over nine months, it has since transformed the way AM/NS India engages with its customers. For the company, the pandemic just served to underline what they were already working on – crafting a seamless digital commerce B2B experience. The strategy now involved rolling out the same technologies and experiences for its customers in India with an eye on the future – “making it easier for the customers to buy tomorrow”, as Gujral says.

The vision required careful strategising and factoring in the changing needs and demands of the customers. To achieve this, the AM/NS India team worked on the “three pillars” that the company still propagates. The first pillar, Gujral elaborates, is satisfying customer experience. But to reach all the requisite information to the customer, you need an empowered sales function. Hence, the second pillar is the sales team’s empowerment. The third pillar is value creation, which results from the first two pillars working synchronically. The central theme binding the entire strategy is the customer focus. As Gujral explains, “The change is being driven by the customer and so we decided to be customer-focused, with the customer at the centre of the entire digital journey. Our DNA, which is core to AM/NS India, is customer experience, and we worked around this.”

Planning also involved interactions and discussions with the customers to understand what they want from their digital journey. Data-driven technology was used to derive insights on “how do we focus on the right things? How do we make sure that this is what the customer is looking for? How do we make it an agile platform that works at very high speed to deliver with the least amount of clicks for the customer to place an order?” explains Gujral. Creating a satisfying digital experience for the B2B customer also involves providing them with the feeling that they are in control, as trust is key to unlocking the potential order.

The onboarding and customer buy-in is a journey in itself, says Gujral. “You keep adding customers and you keep adding that trust to buy online and it’s not just a one-time journey. You want to provide such a customer experience that they come back again saying this is smoother. This is better. This is more transparent and this is more convenient.” To ensure this, AM/NS India created a physical support model to help smooth the initial digital journey of the customer. The sales team could be physically contacted, if required and was exposed to the entire technology to enable them to support the customer in their digital journey, gently pushing them to move to the digital platform.

SAP: Reliability, as a Calling Card

“With a vision to enhance customer experience and to become a smarter digital brand we began looking at the options in the market in terms of platforms that aligned to it,” says Gujral. After extensive market research, tests and trials, AM/NS India narrowed down to SAP as a partner because it offered the “reliability” that they wanted. As Gujral explains, “That (reliability) was one of the most fundamental requirements because if the initiative goes wrong it’s outside your control because it’s a digital world. So we were looking at a very reliable and approved technology. This is what egged us to go with SAP. They have a very strong platform, which is also on the cloud and is quickly scalable. Thus during our evaluation, we came to the final conclusion – let’s go with something that is proven, that is reliable. So reliability has been a strong point for going for the partnership.”

Gujral calls E-Sales, based on SAP Commerce Cloud that integrates the buying processes to offer a seamless omnichannel experience to the customer, “a work in progress”. Omnichannel is a nice term but a difficult concept to follow through, says Gujral. It requires that a customer gets the same satisfying experience across channels. To design the omnichannel experience, AM/NS India first mapped the customer journey – how does the customer buy smarter steel in the Indian market? Then the exercise involved mapping it to “how we want them to buy not just today but also in the future, say five years down the line, because when we talk of omnichannel, we also mean the future.” Armed with this vision and with the technological inputs from SAP, vetted and verified, a solution was curated based on the experience and feedback. The question now was, “How do we bring this vision from today forward and patch it up for the next five years?” This is how “we have gone about it”, says Gujral, adding that they have also created a specialized team to work exclusively on digitalization. “We have curated a solution for the MSME sector and are also working on curating different solutions, on similar platforms for different kinds of customers.”

Gujral identifies stakeholder onboarding as a top challenge in the entire process, followed by the business requirement document. “You need to be very clear because the business requirement document actually says what you want to develop, how you see your journey, what you want to give to the customers, what is going to be the training, what are the timelines, etc. – the entire blueprint.” The third challenge is finding the right system integrator because you need someone to amend the technology to as per your specific needs. The next challenge is putting up a governance and steering committee to ensure the timelines and milestones are delivered. “And at each point of time when you have a deliverable, you go back to the users of this technology to test it and then come back with the feedback to see what can be improved. If you put take these challenges in the right spirit, then you have a very well-defined route to success”, assures Gujral.

At AM/NS India, the outcomes of this carefully calibrated journey are already visible. Gujral counts the scalability of the technology as the most important advantage. “It is cost effective and much faster. There is an increase in market reach with an overall improvement in customer satisfaction and brand recall. We are also offering curated product catalogues from our fulfilment centres matching customer requirements. Most importantly, we are successfully converting traditional buying to online through a simplified process and providing speedy resolution of customer complaints. We are also looking at making this platform adaptable to the different category of customers.”

A Future-Ready Platform

AM/NS India is all set for the future with the platform that Gujral calls “very robust and futuristic”. He calls the look and feel of the platform great and says it is versatile and can be used for more than one service. “It’s like creating a large house with different doors for different kinds of people to enter. This platform helps you with all your customers, smaller and larger.” Additionally, the flexibility of the platform allows AM/NS India to integrate other solutions from other software providers. Gujral appreciates that the platform has scalability and adaptability, being a futuristic platform. Another plus is that it’s on the cloud. “All these together give you the winning combination,” he concludes.

This article was originally printed and published in Forbes Magazine in December 2022. You can access the digital version of the news coverage here: ‘How these industry giants are setting new milestones in digital transformation’ (moneycontrol.com)