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Behaviors of Successful eCommerce Distributors – Part 2 of 3

3 Actions that Build a Better eCommerce Process

Distributors with profitable eCommerce sites have put into practice winning strategies to enhance their digital channel using the golden triangle – people, process, and technology (PPT) – as their model. Scott Frymire, SVP of Marketing at Unilog, is sharing these best practices with B2B organizations looking to implement a new digital branch or improve their current online offering. In the first blog post in this three-part series, Frymire offered three people-related behaviors that can improve digital success. In this second installment he shares three practices that impact the process pillar of the PPT model.

  • Display price and availability

    When it comes to the digital space, transparency is imperative for survival. Why? Because transparency builds relationships with customers. Displaying product pricing and availability is a customer-centric move that shows buyers you’re willing to expose this competitive component of your business to better serve them.

    Frymire has no doubt that distributors should show customer-specific pricing whenever buyers log on to their site. And for unregistered site visitors, he insists list prices should be displayed for all their products, as long as those prices are not lower than customer-negotiated prices. He says a few distributors he’s spoken with are resistant to displaying pricing and availability on their sites because they’re worried if their price is a little higher than a competitor’s list price, buyers will leave their site without making inquiries. “I tell them not to worry about people seeing slightly higher prices. B2B buyers know if they forge a relationship with you, they’ll most likely be able to negotiate a better price,” explains Frymire. “Remember, the number-one reason other businesses buy from you on your eCommerce site is convenience, not price. Research supports that.”

    Showing product availability is just as important to buyers as pricing. If a contractor is in need of a part, that person is more apt to buy from a distributor whose website shows they have the part on hand and is ready to ship or pick up.

    Ultimately, the more information you can provide on your website, the easier it will be for buyers to make a purchasing decision. “Transparency eliminates any obstacles for buyers,” Frymire says. “If you’re not putting pricing and availability out there, the alternative is they’re going to go look for it somewhere else.”

  • Incentivize your sales team

    In order to build your digital branch, your organization’s focus should be shifting customers to your online channel. Your sales reps may be reluctant to help in your efforts, so consider providing incentives that benefit both them and your business. Sales promotion incentives, or SPIFFs, work two-fold: they encourage your staff to push traffic to your website and they boost internal site adoption by employees. Show your sales team the benefits of having customers place low margin, high-volume orders and easy reorders via your website. Operationally, the shift to digital sales has a huge impact on the business and, for your employees, self-service ordering allows your teams to focus on more value-added efforts.

    Unilog customer Hill & Markes implemented a SPIFF for their customer service team to help promote their website to customers who traditionally called, e-mailed, or faxed their orders. The two-month SPIFF campaign produced great results for the distributor: they shifted 25% of their traditional customers to permanent online users, which they estimate is saving their team more than 2,000 man-hours each year. This time savings has allowed customer service members to spend more time as product consultants and brand ambassadors.

    “I’m extremely proud of that first SPIFF we conducted with our customer service team,” boasts Mike Powers, Director of E-Commerce & Marketing at Hill & Markes. “Our $1,000 investment correlated to over $100,000 in online revenue and has freed up the time of our customer service reps so they can spend more time cross-selling, up-selling, and guiding the customer journey.”

  • Measure metrics that matter

    Key performance indicators (KPIs) are the goalposts organizations put in place to reach business objectives, and only by measuring top eCommerce metrics can they be effective in hitting those markers. Successful distributors realize the significant role metrics play in their digital strategy, which is why they measure data points that impact three ROI drivers: revenue lift, revenue shift, and efficiencies.

    Revenue lift: To help give your bottom line a boost, track metrics like eCommerce revenue, revenue per customer (also known as “share of wallet”), conversion rates, and average order value (AOV). Frymire notes that one Unilog customer recently shared that their eCommerce sales are now generating an 87% higher AOV, in part, because their site does a great job of up-selling and cross-selling to their customers.

    Revenue shift: Another way to increase ROI is by shifting your traditional offline buyers to online customers for all their routine transactions. As you promote online adoption, monitor the percentage of customers who are buying online, as well as the number of new account registrations and first-time orders. The more customers you get to transact on your site, the higher your gross margin and overall revenue will be – and at a higher profit margin.

    Efficiencies: Self-service shopping is an important option for customers because it saves them time and allows them to manage their standard service-related needs on your website when it’s convenient for them. Those efficiencies translate to benefits for businesses as well, so be sure to track metrics like total cost per order, product return rate, and customer support inquiries to measure your performance. One Unilog customer tells us their rate of return for online orders is now one-twelfth of what it was when the orders were called in by phone. Frymire attributes this efficiency gain, in part, to a robust eCommerce site that provides enriched product information like specifications, descriptions, and product images. “When you provide your buyers with helpful online product content, there’s no second guessing if they’re choosing the right product,” he says. “Great content can make a huge impact on any distributor’s business.”

These three process-related actions – enabling transparency, offering incentives, and measuring metrics – help support your eCommerce business strategy and provide actionable insight so you can continually improve your digital branch. Apply these actions now so you can start experiencing results like many of our Unilog customers have with their online business.

In our final segment of this series, we’ll cover the three essential technology pieces distributors employ to round out the PPT model for their digital business. These tech investments help support an omnichannel business approach that ties all your sales channels together.

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