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Can a Small Distributor Justify an Online Store?

Understanding the advantages of implementing an eCommerce site

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY

Small distributors are feeling the heat as customers are requesting a more convenient way to shop, competitors are adding new product offerings, and mega stores like Amazon Business are becoming an increasing threat. With their feet to the fire, more business owners are considering eCommerce as a way to gain leverage and remain competitive in the marketplace.

If you’re a small or even mid-sized distributor, you’ve probably grappled with this business dilemma. The purpose of this white paper is to help B2B professionals like yourself better understand the advantages of implementing an eCommerce site, as well as the potential downsides of not having one.

Developing an online storefront is no small feat. Aside from the monetary investment, you must also shift your perspective and adjust your sales strategy if you want to build a viable omnichannel business. So, can you justify an online storefront? To help answer that question, let’s start by exploring the potential reasons a website may make good business sense.

YOUR CUSTOMERS HAVE HIGHER EXPECTATIONS

Have you been hearing grumblings from your customers that a website would make it easier for them to buy from you? If so, you’re not alone. With a younger demographic entering the B2B job market and buyers accustomed to a better shopping experience from B2C retailers, companies are realizing they must evolve to meet their needs and expectations. The new B2B buyer wants:

  • The ability to shop and transact from a mobile device with a seamless experience that gives them the same functionality and tools as on a desktop computer
  • Accessible content about your products and services, including product videos, manuals, white papers, and more
  • A self-service site that provides account-specific information like order history, delivery status, and contracted pricing so they can stay informed without having to rely on a customer service representative
  • Online payment options that allow buyers to transact with punchouts, POs, and even credit cards

Consider this: You may be losing customers if you’re not offering these options in an online storefront. These features increase buyer efficiency and drive customer adoption, and are quickly becoming table stakes in the B2B marketplace.

THE COMPETITION IS CREATING ADDED PRESSURE

Perhaps some of your direct competitors are building online storefronts to meet their buyer needs. While that shouldn’t be the only justification for an eCommerce site, it can be a strong indicator that your business is not keeping up. Brand awareness is essential to staying relevant in the marketplace and a website provides additional exposure by casting a wider net out to the worldwide web.

Vendor pricing isn’t the only differentiator for customers anymore. Buyers want to engage with companies that provide value, which includes good prices and an easy way to research and buy products.

Newer retailers like Amazon Business and Alibaba have created an additional wrinkle for distributors, which is another reason selling online is becoming a need versus a want. But, with a robust website in place, a small business can compete and maybe even beat these big fish because it has the advantage of product experts and technically qualified representatives to assist customers and provide business solutions.

Consider this: Continuing to sell through traditional sales channels could actually be costing you money. Instead of thinking about how much a website will cost, consider what it will cost by not having one if you start losing business to your competition. If you can quantify that, you may find stronger justification for a site.

YOU WANT TO INCREASE EFFICIENCY AND PROVIDE MORE VALUE

With multiple systems, processes, and people in place, businesses run the risk of communicating duplicate, inconsistent, and inaccurate information across the organization and to customers. An eCommerce site, when implemented with a product information management tool (PIM), eliminates discrepancies and duplicity, and becomes the trusted source of information for both customers and employees.

A well-built eCommerce site allows customers more control and independence because it arms them with a wealth of information to make an informed purchase – all in one convenient place. Free your staff up from taking calls about a product’s technical specifications or when an order will be delivered and let them focus, instead, on becoming a trusted consultant who can provide solutions, and build better customer relationships while they’re at it.

Consider this: Have you ever compared what it costs when a customer makes an online order versus the cost for that customer to place an order in person or over the phone? You may find that eCommerce brings more savings. Think about how many customer calls your staff takes for order status updates or accounts receivable questions. If you were able to drive those customers to the Internet, how much would your business save in resources and costs, and could you reallocate those resources to revenue-generating tasks? An eCommerce platform gives you the ability to track its success and measure its ROI.

eCOMMERCE CAN BENEFIT SMALL BUSINESSES

As the B2B landscape changes, wholesale retailers must consider ways to stay relevant and competitive. Digital commerce is quickly becoming the solution for many businesses as they realize the benefits a website brings to both buyers and sellers:

  • It improves the customer experience – An eCommerce platform integrates with your back-end systems and ERP to deliver consistent, complete information across channels
  • It builds awareness and interest – When you optimize your site with relevant content in the form of videos, white papers, manuals, and more, you rank higher with search engines, which helps attract more site visitors
  • It influences offline sales – Even if some traditional buyers won’t transact online, they’ll most likely visit your site for product information and inventory availability and then complete their order with you
  • It’s measurable – Built-in reporting tools gather great analytics to measure a site’s success by tracking everything from online traffic and conversions to new account registrations
  • It can turn insights into opportunities – Your site’s data helps you learn more about your customers and their needs and build personalized digital marketing campaigns to increase revenue
  • It helps you work smarter, not harder – You’ll streamline your business by improving processes, integrating systems, and shifting your staff from being order takers to subject matter experts who provide added value

If you’re ready to see how eCommerce can transform your business, take the first step by contacting the B2B commerce experts at Unilog. Their leading software, CIMM2, is a cost-effective solution for distributors who want to compete in the digital marketplace. CIMM2 brings all the components needed to run a successful e-business together into one robust platform that helps businesses grow sales, reduce costs, and provide a great customer experience.

Unilog also provides what other commerce providers can’t – product content services that make your eCommerce data relevant and robust. Whether it’s optimizing your current product catalog, sourcing and onboarding new products, or assisting with your product data management needs, Unilog specializes in enriching data throughout the entire product lifecycle. Contact Unilog today to schedule a free CIMM2 demo and to learn more about their full range of commerce services and solutions.

ABOUT UNILOG

Unilog is a global technology company that delivers powerful, affordable eCommerce solutions for the B2B marketplace. Our cloud-based eCommerce platform and product data enrichment services help distributors, manufacturers, and wholesalers increase online sales, reduce cost to serve, and enhance their digital channel. Unilog is an ISO 9001:2008- and ISO 8000-certified company with North American headquarters outside of Philadelphia, PA and international headquarters in Bangalore, India. For more information, visit www.unilogcorp.com.

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