Covento’s Jill Ashley Brandt is doing the rye bread work to help solve the climate crisis

Covento’s Jill Ashley Brandt is doing the rye bread work to help solve the climate crisis

“It’s the rye bread work…the kind of work that no one really wants to do.”

At Adobe Summit 2023, Covento CEO Jill Ashley Brandt described company efforts in this way — “rye bread work.”

It’s the Danish translation of what we might call sweat equity, and Jill and her team are doing plenty of it to simplify the buying process for spare parts in renewable energy.

“We believe it should be as easy as ordering something on your favorite website,” Jill told me.

And she should know. Her previous experience includes innovating B2B commerce at Amazon, the gold standard for many when it comes to personalized digital experiences.

I sat down with Jill at the recent Adobe Summit, the premier digital experience conference in Las Vegas. Here is a condensed version of our conversation:

Tell me more about Covento’s mission.

Covento is a subsidiary of Vestas — the largest manufacturer and operator of wind energy in the world. The media once called us the Amazon of renewable spare parts. We’re trying to digitize the way you buy spare parts for things like wind turbines through a single digital platform that brings together buyers and sellers of these parts.

When a turbine breaks down, it’s like a car. You’ve got to buy a part. In our industry, to get that part, it’s a very old-school process. Maybe it’s a buyer calling someone in a warehouse and sending over a PDF in an email.

Our research has found it takes around seven people in six different departments 21 days to find the right spare part. At Covento, we believe it should be as easy as ordering something on your favorite website. Our goal was to significantly reduce the time and complexity in procuring parts in a digital commerce experience.

With the help of Adobe, we’ve reduced the average purchasing time from 21 days to 60 seconds.

How did your experience at Amazon play a role in what you’re doing at Covento?

I started at Amazon Business, Amazon’s B2B marketplace. I learned a lot, especially about being customer-obsessed. In a similar way, we want our customers to find exactly what they need when they need it.

Before Amazon, I was in energy. I believe the climate crisis is the biggest issue of our generation, and it felt like it was time for me to get off the sidelines and get in the game to be part of the solution.

Talk about the mission-driven organization.

We believe the amazing humans behind electricity have never been served in the way they should be. We ask ourselves how we can make their lives easier so they can focus their expertise where we really need them to in order to have a shot at solving our climate problem.

Tell me about the experience they expect from you.

When they need a part, it’s very technical and specific. Our buyers could be looking for a specific turbine model with a specific age. We want to be a trusted place, no matter when or what these buyers need. Whether it’s a turbine that’s 15 years old or one year old, you can find and buy it as easily as you would buy a t-shirt online.

Buyers can search across categories like electrical, hydraulics, or PPE (personal protective equipment) — and easily find all available options, see technical specifications, compare prices, and see delivery timelines. It’s the same journey they would expect from a B2C shopping experience.

Simple is hard, but we want to take all the nonsense that they would normally have to do in the buying process, absorb it, and solve it for them so they can focus on what they need to do as professionals.

How have you worked with Adobe to bring this to life?

I was only a few months into the job when I went to our board and wanted to make a major pivot to a new front-end solution, where two things were important to me.

First, I didn’t want to be a special unicorn. I wanted as much as I could out of the box — plug and play. And second, I knew we needed to move quickly. That meant finding a fit for our ways of working.

We were going to get married for a little bit, and we needed to find the right partner to marry. Adobe was the right fit. We use Adobe Commerce, Adobe Analytics, and consulting services.

It’s been really great to have an excellent rapport and moving quickly with Adobe’s expertise as we transition to being self-sustaining.

When you can find a partner that can serve you in the long term, has something out of the box, can grow and evolve with you, and will roll up their sleeves and problem-solve with you when things get tough, it’s well worth the investment.

“If it’s a better buying experience,
we will win that customer.”

Jill Ashley Brandt, CEO, Covento

How has this helped your ability to differentiate at Covento?

I pay attention to competitors, but I obsess over customers.

Our customers have to buy, whether we exist or not. So, we can build a really great product in a really thoughtful, disciplined, methodical way. If it’s a better buying experience, we will win that customer.

For the climate crisis, I’m all for doing things better and more efficiently in order to scale. I welcome others that want to come into this space. We have built something that is really meant for all tides to rise.

It sounds like experience itself is the thing that wins the day. What does growth look like for you?

I look at growth in two ways.

One, how can we do more for our customers? How are we continuing to make it easier for them and serve them? In our space, one part could have 12 different IDs. It’s very hard for our customers to find products — and we are breaking that data open and mapping it out for them.

We’re also looking at using tools like Adobe Analytics to then understand what products are bought together to better package them for customers — something that hasn’t been looked at at this scale in our space. We want them to find what they need as quickly as possible.

The second way we will grow is to expand across different categories and geographies. There’s all sorts of renewable energies that have very similar problems as wind energy. Right now we are in five EU countries, but there’s a whole world of renewable energy that we need to think about.

Does AI play a role in your future?

It's already actively playing a role for us.

We’re very focused on paths to profitability, so we like to keep costs down. If we can find AI tools to help with serving that, we will absolutely take advantage of that.

I think AI is here to stay, and like any disruption of technology, it means there are jobs that evolve like prompt engineering. It’s about reframing how quickly you can move and where you spend your time. It’s exciting, I embrace it, and I welcome it.

Any words for others looking to help the climate crisis?

There are so many people in the tech world that are as passionate about the climate crisis as I am. I think tech is critical in solving our climate crisis.

It’s great that we’re investing in turning fish poop into energy, all hands on deck. We need it.

But what my team is doing is what I call the unsexy work, and tech can serve the unsexy parts of the climate crisis to help solve this problem.

So, if you are in the tech world and you are passionate about the climate crisis, please consider coming to this space — we need you.

Jill, thank you, on behalf of humanity, for what you’re doing.

To learn more about Jill Ashley Brandt and how Covento is transforming the marketplace and customer experience for wind turbines, read the Covento case study and then watch her Adobe Summit presentation, Launching a B2B Marketplace Inside an Industrial Giant.

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Katie Martell is an on-demand communications strategist based in Boston, MA. She is exploring the collision of marketing and social movements through communications consulting, startup marketing, and SaaS entrepreneurship. As we navigate the digital age, Martell partners with B2B brands to amplify stories of transformation and trends in business, marketing, CX, and more. Martell has been named “one of the most interesting people in B2B marketing,” a top voice in marketing on LinkedIn three times, and an Adweek Pride Star.