ARE YOU READY TO LAUNCH YOUR eCOMMERCE BUSINESS?
For decades, the B2B marketplace had an unwavering sales model in place that relied solely on sales calls and paper product catalogs. Today, the tides have changed. New kinds of customers and advanced technologies have disrupted this once stable business sector, causing many to rethink their business strategies. While it can be difficult to veer from traditional selling strategies, integrating better technology is a necessary step to meet the needs of the new B2B buyer. Whether you’re a large components manufacturer or a small distributor, it’s time to step back and ask yourself, “Am I truly providing my customers the experience they want?”
The journey to eCommerce implementation requires a strong strategy, preparation, and a plan for the future. Read on as we provide key steps to follow before and after go-live to ensure a smooth and successful transition to digital commerce.
Your tried-and-true sales strategy has worked for years, so why should you change it? The answer is clear: if you don’t evolve, you won’t be able to compete in the marketplace. Even if your current sales are steady, your success as a B2B retailer will eventually wane if you refuse to offer customers an multichannel experience. By providing multiple ways for your customers to interact with and purchase from your company, you will meet the needs of more buyers while increasing your visibility and competitive edge.
CHANGE YOUR BUSINESS LOGIC
Customer demographics are changing as a younger generation of buyers floods the business world. Millennials, the generation born roughly between 1980 and 2000, are digital-savvy people who inherently look for more flexible and efficient ways to work using the Internet and mobile devices. According to Forrester Research, this influx of tech-driven buyers is transforming the B2B marketplace, as more than 70% of Millennials in the workforce now have some sort of involvement in the purchasing decisions for their firms. Their buyer expectations are vastly different from those of B2B customers 10 years ago, which means what worked for your traditional offline customers for so many years just doesn’t cut it in today’s day and age. It’s time to dust off your outdated strategies, change your mindset, and find new ways to build your business with digital commerce.
More than 70% of Millennials in the workforce now have some sort of involvement in the purchasing decisions for their firms.
LAY THE GROUNDWORK
Before you can implement an eCommerce site, you first must create a business case and strategy that outline the purpose, risks, and return on investment (ROI) for your new digital sales channel. Take the time to determine what a successful site would look like for your company. Suchit Bachalli, Chief Executive Officer of Unilog, weighs in on the importance of defining goals. “One thing I feel companies don’t do too well is to ‘define success’ beforehand. I think it is useful to set a goal such as reach a specific percentage growth in site users or double their conversion rates. This will allow companies to make ROI justification along the 10-year cycle because there will always be a need for continued investment.”
With a strong business case and strategy in place, executive buy-in will be much easier to obtain because you’ll have statistics, forecasts, and deliverables to support your recommendations. Moreover, your measurable goals and detailed strategy will help you track your success and effectiveness.
CHOOSE THE RIGHT PLATFORM
All customers want a site that’s easy to use and to transact. But, for B2B buyers, they also require alternative ordering options and payment methods to make online shopping feasible. For these reasons, not just any out-of-the-box eCommerce software will work for B2B organizations. CIMM2 from Unilog is an all-in-one digital commerce solution developed specifically for the wholesale distribution industry. CIMM2 creates an additional sales channel for small to mid-sized distributors, and acts as a resource for buyers to research and purchase products, as well as see real-time updates on product pricing, availability, and order status. Unilog’s CIMM2 offers all the critical components necessary to deliver a powerful e-store experience:
- Conformable – Integrates well with current back-end systems and third-party applications
- User-friendly – Offers intelligent search and filtering capabilities with an easy-to-navigate interface
- Robust – Incorporates a wide range of payment, shipping and ERP options, and handles complex order capabilities, including punchout catalogs
- Intuitive – Tracks customer behavior and buying trends in order to personalize the user experience
- Mobile – Provides a fully optimized version of your online store so customers can shop from their phone or tablet
Deciding on the proper eCommerce platform is not easy. It takes time and research to find a commerce partner that meets your business requirements and goals. But with the right partner and technology in place, you’ll give your customers a new shopping experience while bringing efficiency to your business.
LAUNCH YOUR E-BUSINESS
You’re not just launching an online store, you’re launching an online business, so make sure the bugs are worked out, processes are in place, and resources are assigned before you go live with your site. Determine if core features and functionality for the customer are available and working properly. The following checklist of eCommerce components is critical to the customer experience:
- SEO (search engine optimization)
- Unique, informative content
- Easy site navigation
- Strong internal search and filtering capabilities
- A powerful CMS (content management system) and PIM (product information management) to manage and maintain consistent, up-to-date content
Have your employees and a few willing customers test out the site before fully launching it. You’ll receive great feedback to help improve the site and, in the process, will improve your chances of people adopting the platform once they realize the value it provides.
PREPARE FOR FUTURE NEEDS
It’s quite the feat to launch an eCommerce site; but know that after the go-live your online journey is not over – in fact, it’s just begun. Digital commerce is a fluid sales channel that requires changes as business needs and technology change.
Continue engaging with your customers to learn what’s working, what’s not, and what additional offerings they’d like on your site. Internally, find out if your staff has suggestions that can further improve efficiency, customer service, and internal use of the site. Then, begin creating future goals and timelines to incorporate their suggestions into your eCommerce offerings.
There are a number of options out there that can add to the digital experience, with more features being developed every day. Consider creating a customer portal where they can log in and view account-specific information, or try engaging in social media to share your news, promote sales, and showcase new products. Other eCommerce add-ons include:
- Online chat
- Related items and suggested products for up-sell and cross-sell opportunities
- Customer-specific pricing and promotions
- Punchout capabilities
- Unique content like video demonstrations, white papers, and blogs to promote your products
Don’t be too quick to build up your site with all these features at once. Choose and prioritize which ones you can add now, and which would be better implemented down the road. Then, when you do add a new feature or functionality to your site, you can monitor its use and determine its ROI.
Launching a successful eCommerce platform is not an easy task, but it certainly is possible. Take the time to understand your customer needs, put a plan in place, and make a long-term commitment toward its development. Then, find the right eCommerce company to partner with you on your journey – one that can provide B2B-specific tools and help keep you on track during and after your eCommerce implementation. Consider partnering with Unilog. Contact them today to learn more about their eCommerce products and comprehensive product content services, and to schedule a complimentary demo of their CIMM2 platform.
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.