Consumer retailers have had a big fish swimming in their small pond for quite some time now. This enormous creature, called Amazon, has wreaked havoc on the B2C marketplace by chasing away many smaller fish and, worse, eating up and spitting out others. Now it has now spawned and its offspring has started working its way to the wholesale pond. What began as Amazon Supply has transformed into Amazon Business, a big fish with large teeth and tough scales that’s here to mark its territory in the B2B retail sector. Wholesalers should be cautious of this new addition to their pond, and build up their resources to avoid being gulped up.
Amazon Business’s stats are not a fish story. Launched in 2015, the online product marketplace made $1 billion in its first-year revenue. Amazon’s extension business claims it has more than 300,000 registered corporate buyers, with sales growing at double-digit rates month over month. Designed to give the same user experience as their consumer site, Amazon Business offers B2B buyers the additional features of multi-user accounts, punchouts and reports.
In addition to Amazon Business, Alibaba is also making the water murky for distributors. What began in 1999 as a place for local Chinese manufacturers to sell overseas buyers has now become the world’s largest global eCommerce site that serves more than 18 million buyers and sellers from around the world.
With low price points and quick shipping, these big fish e-retailers are reeling in a lot of buyers, and distributors and manufacturers like yourself may feel as though they’re slowly being squeezed out of the pond. In order to take on the competition, you need to arm yourself with three central assets so that you’ll have a much better chance of swimming instead of sinking.
- A sophisticated eCommerce site with a B2C feel
The first step in competing with the big fish is to invest in a digital commerce platform that makes a splash. It has to be a fluid, yet powerful system that communicates with backend systems to provide a consistent and accurate display of product offerings and information across sales channels. What you may think are “nice-to-have” options like sophisticated search, filtering capabilities and punchout catalogs are really “need-to-have” features buyers require from eCommerce sites. Don’t skimp on the user experience; buyers are used to the functionality and tools available on B2C sites and expect those same features on B2B sites. Better technology makes your e-business a more scalable and viable asset.
- Helpful content that engages and educates people
Put useful information at your buyers’ fingertips by including relevant product, industry and company content on your digital commerce site. Start by having rich product descriptions, multiple images, detailed specifications and downloadable manufacturer documentation. Then develop professionally written blogs, white papers and videos that educate readers, promote industry or company news and share your knowledge as an industry expert. By providing unique content, your site can be more than just a place to transact; it can become a trusted resource for buyers.
- Value-added services: a skilled staff to assist buyers
Smaller fish offer something the big guys don’t: the value-add services of a knowledgeable staff. B2B companies have built a reputation as having highly qualified and informed representatives to assist customers and offer solutions. Buyers rely on these experts to answer questions and get professional recommendations, which is something they can’t get with Amazon or Alibaba. Your staff is your number-one asset and biggest differentiator from the competition, so make sure they are properly trained and skilled to provide valuable technical know-how and customer service support. The best representatives are ones who listen to the customer and act as proactive problem-solvers.
The future is in your hands. You can hide from the big fish and hope they don’t find you, or you can choose to make waves of your own by fortifying your business with a powerful website, useful content and skilled people. The tools, technology and resources are there; are you ready to bite?