Published on January 16, 2020
3 min read
Otto Zickwolff GmbH wants to become more digital. The seller is part of the XOM Marketplace and is currently training its first "e-commerce salesman" - a job description that only emerged a year ago.
When Roland Rebeck and his apprentice Sascha Wagner walk through the warehouses, they both have a tablet PC with them to digitally record the steel pipes. At Otto Zickwolff GmbH in Saarbrücken, this paperless work has already become the norm. The dealer with the slogan "Everything around the pipe" has made a big leap in terms of digitization.
"We started our own web shop four years ago," explains Roland Rebeck, Head of Marketing at Zickwolff. "This was more of a test balloon at the time, but it quickly paid off as an effective tool for winning new customers.” The retailer has been continuously expanding its own e-shop since then and in 2019 also joined the XOM Materials trading platform. The Berlin startup maintains a digital marketplace for materials such as steel, metal and plastics and has already won 43 dealers for the platform.
"I think that you should definitely use all the sales channels available to you," says Rebeck. "In the steel sector, there's still a lot going on via telephone and e-mail, but I'm sure that e-shops and platforms will prevail here as well. This is also a question for generations: "Young buyers will want to shop in the B2B sector just as they are used to in their private lives, namely simply and clearly on the Internet. At some point it will no longer work without the Internet. A digital marketplace like that of XOM Materials makes perfect sense."
Otto Zickwolff GmbH has broken new ground as far as the generational question is concerned. Since the summer of 2018, the company has been training Sascha Wagner as its first e-commerce merchant, who is now learning the multi-channel approach, i.e. the pragmatic combination of online and stationary retail, from the outset. The Federal Association of German Steel Traders (BDS) was also involved in this forward-looking training. "This new job profile gives us the opportunity to build up our own in-house expert who, together with us, can shape the challenges of digitization," emphasizes Rebeck.
Zickwolff has been in family hands for four generations over a period of almost 100 years. The specialist wholesaler for pipes and fittings, fittings, valves and installation material with more than 50 employees has already had to change several times, as Managing Director Martin Haiss emphasises: "With us, the personal contact in consulting remains central, everything else should and must in future take place fully automatically via digital processes. The XOM Marketplace with its digital tools also provides us with a good and forward-looking basis for this". A fast onboarding with no upfront fees also spoke in favor of entering the platform - XOM Marketplace’s business model relies on commissions from sales, there is hardly a more risk-free way. However, retailers shouldn't think about digitization for too long, says Marketing Manager Roland Rebeck: "If you wait so long with e-commerce until it has completely established itself in our industry, it's actually too late.”
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