Talking B2B – Using Ecommerce for B2B Offer Experimentation and Innovation

Mike Schramm, BlueJeans Vice President & GM eCommerce, joins us in this Q&A to share how B2B marketers can use ecommerce as a vehicle for rapid experimentation and innovation, in addition to being a critical sales channel for today’s B2B buyer.

Doug: Mike, can you share how your previous experience building out the ecommerce channel at Autodesk (2000 – 2014) shapes your view that ecommerce gives B2B marketers a powerful and almost unique platform to experiment and innovate their offers?

Mike: There were so many major innovations that we first pioneered, tested, and honed in the ecommerce channel before deploying across all products, customer segments, geos, and channels into what is now a truly omni-channel solution where the customer is the center.

  • Free trials (try to buy)
  • Ecommerce originally segmented just for very small businesses 
  • Transitioning from perpetual licenses to subscription

As an established enterprise digital design software vendor reliant on the channel for over 90% of $2 billion in sales, the ecommerce channel allowed a degree of innovation that would have been challenging otherwise – particularly without disrupting our existing direct and channel sales and marketing activities. 

At Autodesk we had a really talented team, and I’d like to highlight one person in particular, Dawn Wolfe, who was so highly innovative in deploying trials that she was recognized with a Forrester B2B Groundswell Award. Autodesk had 150 products for digital distribution where trials were used and our strategy built customer trust by not always trying to upsell. This is still the foundation of my approach with free trials today. 

Doug: What is it about ecommerce that makes it so attractive for testing, particularly within an established company selling through multiple channels?

Mike: With any experiment, you’d ideally have a hypothesis with measurable goals and a large enough data set to enable multi-variate testing. Some other key things I’d highlight:

  • Rapid insights – due to the large number of customers you can handle with ecommerce 
  • Segmentation and control – it’s easier to segment tests separately online from the rest of your sales and marketing activities and channels
  • Direct connection to your customer — no filtering through salespeople or others

Doug: In addition to your experience at Autodesk, where else do you look for inspiration to guide your work?

Mike: The computer gaming industry informs a lot of what we’re attempting to do at BlueJeans. Gaming has really led the way in so many areas, such as in-app messaging. You have the intimacy with a customer while they are actually using your product versus trying to communicate with them later through an email. Other examples include: scoring of key web assets to provide nurtures, in-product offers to convert trial users to paid customers, and retention promotions to customers who are planning to cancel a plan.

Doug: What brought you over to BlueJeans roughly two years ago?

Mike: While BlueJeans was already an established and leading video conferencing player known for quality, security, reliability and serving top enterprises, it was a high-touch, white-glove experience, reliant on enterprise account reps and teams. BlueJeans leadership saw an opportunity to use ecommerce and other frictionless technologies to serve a largely new group of customers across SMB and mid-market segments in more than 160 countries globally. Growing ecommerce became a strategic imperative that drives direct revenue, scales the business, and generates leads for our sales team and partners. I saw a real opportunity here and they recognized the strength of my experience from having introduced and scaled ecommerce at Autodesk. 

Doug: Your timing was auspicious. You joined, and got to work replacing the existing in-house ecommerce system. You had just fully deployed it in February of 2020, and then what happened? Covid-19! What was it like leading the ecommerce channel for BlueJeans during the Covid-19 pandemic?

Mike: It was breathtaking! During the pandemic in early March, the ecommerce site spiked 1500% on March 16th and then leveled off at 1000% for the next six weeks. As a consequence of this massive influx of new customers, our Global Customer Care team was getting slammed with new video conferencing users working from home for the first time. 

We had no time for a “time out,” yet we couldn’t handle the case volume. We had not yet optimized the entire self-service experience for this unplanned world event – welcome emails, true insights to the challenges neophyte customers would have getting onboard… When we looked more deeply we found that most of the issues were not about ecommerce they were about the product and ease of use for new to video customers. Massive influx of customers who didn’t have CSMs assigned to them, they didn’t know how to use video conferencing tool, they are all adjusting to a new normal because of the pandemic. It was a product management and onboarding issue. 

Doug: Now that things have stabilized after the pandemic-induced upsurge, what kind of experimentation and innovation are you introducing in your ecommerce channel at BlueJeans?

Mike: (Free) trials and converting users to paid customers is a big focus of my work right now. It’s no surprise – trials are the lifeblood for anyone in video conferencing space. We’ve all got pretty solid offerings. Within the trial we’ve been experimenting with measuring how the customer experience during the trial impacts their likelihood to convert to paid subscriptions, and how we can positively influence the customer’s experience and successfully win them as customers. A key indicator is how quickly someone hosts their first meeting. The majority of trial users who host a meeting on day one of the trial show a very strong propensity to buy. 

Doug: So free trials and conversions are a key top-of-the-funnel activity… Could you talk about testing throughout each phase of the customer lifecycle of Land, Adopt, Expand, Renew (LAER)?

Mike: 

  • LAND. This is about building awareness, establishing the brand and value proposition, and enhancing conversion to paid customers. We’re using PPC, paid and organic search to provide value messages to prospects.
  • ADOPT. Using data mining to understand the customers’ use and experience, and in-app messaging to ensure the customer gets value. Helping answer questions for the customer, like “how do I do team building remotely through a BlueJeans video conference?” We’ve been using a variety of blog posts and videos to ensure trial users are having good meeting experiences during the trial. We measure these meetings with a Q-score and use that as feedback to improve our onboarding toolkit.
  • EXPAND. We’re just starting to create add-ons. We found that customers are looking to buy short-term booster packs to be able to add more attendees on a temporary basis. We have an events product, and we’ve brought this down market to allow one-off conference events for $500. 
  • RENEW. We need to establish relevancy for the customer and continue to provide value. I learned a lot about this at Autodesk. With Q Score, you’ll see leading indicators of churn. Use is the biggest predictor of churn. Potentially have escalations to touch outreach like a call center. 

Doug: Are there other ways your work in ecommerce is accelerating the pace of innovation for BlueJeans?

Mike: Learnings are definitely being accelerated as a result of ecommerce. Historically, the whole business was oriented around super high-touch, mid-market and enterprise accounts that require more white-glove treatment. 

With ecommerce and automated processes, you suddenly have the ability to increase your customer volume by orders of magnitude. Minute-by-minute data on each customer becomes invaluable. As a traditionally enterprise-focused company, the increased volume of customers acquired through ecommerce has definitely put a spotlight on the issues and challenges confronting these new customers, especially with bringing on so many during the pandemic upsurge in early March. Through using a mix of collaboration, CRM and marketing operations tools, I can see every customer coming in, as well as any potential friction points that may need to be resolved. Then I can work with the cleverbridge team to make sure these issue are fixed in a seamless manner.

Doug: What motivates you professionally?

Mike: First of all, I love the intersection of people, process and technology. Each are essential ingredients. Then measurability, whether it be customer satisfaction, success of a marketing campaign or the bottom line – revenue. I like to know whether I’m doing things right or not. I’m able to be creative and have data to give me an immediate answer – was I right or do I need to tweak something? I also like owning a revenue target and then figuring out how to make it happen. In ecommerce there’s still a lot of innovation that really excites me, like artificial intelligence, emerging payment technologies, and what you can do at scale in the cloud. 

About Mike Schramm

From 2000 to 2014, Mike was a key leader in the team that first launched and then scaled ecommerce at Autodesk, most recently as General Manager Global eCommerce / Growth. From 2015 to 2018, Mike leveraged his experience as an independent ecommerce consultant before joining BlueJeans in 2018. 

When Mike is not swept into some imaginary land of his five-year old daughter’s imagination, he’s bouncing between collecting art, bicycling, home renovating and planning his next trip to visit friends and family in Southern Brazil. Find Mike on LinkedIn.

BlueJeans is positioned by Gartner, Inc. in the Visionaries quadrant of the 2019 Magic Quadrant for Meeting Solutions. BlueJeans was acquired in April 2020 by Verizon.