Few companies are more serious about B2B digital commerce than Farnell, a worldwide distributor of electronic components that sells through more than 40 country-specific ecommerce sites.

ChrisBreslin-Farnell
Chris Breslin, president, Farnell

The company has said for years that it has done more than half of its business online, but it recently noted that the online share has been ticking higher. For its fiscal second quarter ended Dec. 28, Farnell’s ecommerce channel accounted for 70.0% of orders, up from 69.8% in the year-earlier period, Farnell CEO Chris Breslin tells Digital Commerce 360 B2B. Its Q2 sales, totaling $331.2 million, are reported in the financials of its parent company, Avnet Inc.


Although the parent company also operates an ecommerce site for the Avnet brand at Avnet.com, it doesn’t break out online figures outside of Farnell, its main ecommerce channel, the company says.

Multiple steps toward ecommerce growth

Farnell is taking several steps to continue building out its ecommerce business, Breslin says. It interacts online with customers in the United States under the Newark brand, including its ecommerce site Newark.com, and under the Farnell and element14 brands in overseas markets.

Among its recent areas of ecommerce improvements are:

  • Improving internet search marketing through enhanced search engine optimization and pay-per-click campaigns;
  • Increased site page-loading speed;
  • Redesigned website pages for improved user experience, including personalized messaging and product displays, new self-service tools and personalized “My Account” services;
  • Expanded options for electronic payments.

As an example of how important multiple payment options are in driving its growth in ecommerce, Breslin notes that second-quarter orders placed with digital payments increased 122% year over year in China alone. And digital payments driving ecommerce orders accelerated through the second quarter, rising to a year-over-year increase of 150% in December, he says.

The increases coincided with several steps Farnell took in the second quarter to expand on its online payment options in China: It launched the WeChat Pay mobile payment app of the online messaging and social media service WeChat. Plus, it enhanced the payment services it offers through Alipay, a service of Alibaba Group’s Ant Financial unit, and through UnionPay, China’s national debit card payment system. Each of these payment methods offer multiple services for presenting payment options to buyers and managing payment account records and security.

In January, 30.8% of Farnell’s orders in China came via Alipay, UnionPay and WeChat, compared with 13.9% that came via Alipay and UnionPay in January 2019, Breslin says.

Attracting more customers worldwide

Farnell is also planning to expand its payment options to customers in other regions of the world, as Avnet CEO Bill Amelio noted in commenting on the second-quarter earnings report.

“In Europe, we’re rolling out PayPal, and in China, we are implementing WeChat Pay, Alipay and UnionPay,” he said on a second-quarter conference call with investment analysts, adding: “We’re also in the process of evaluating similar opportunities in the Americas as we focus on better customer service and satisfaction.”

Farnell recently went live with PayPal in the United Kingdom, where the escrow service already accounts for 5% of payments and has generated a 17% increase in new customers, Breslin says. Early on this year, it expects to expand PayPal into France, Germany and Italy. “Discussions are taking place for ongoing rollout expansion,” he adds.

As it rolls out more payment options, it expects them to continue driving more customer traffic to its ecommerce sites. “The driver is really a better overall value proposition for the user,” Breslin says. “We provide options and, thus, more people use the site.”