3 Technology Must-Haves to Grow Your Digital Branch
Every successful wholesale business is built on a solid foundation using the best people, processes, and technology. A digital business is no different. B2B eCommerce requires continual support in these areas to maintain a competitive presence in the marketplace. But, while some companies settle for a basic online offering, others – like the Unilog customers below – are continually improving their people-process-technology foundation in order to strengthen and sustain their digital branch.
- Food service and jan/san distributor Hill & Markes invested not only in better eCommerce architecture, but also in people. With an eCommerce director, data analyst, and digital content specialist leading their initiative, Hill & Markes has realized major achievements for their work – including a Digital Innovator Award by Modern Distribution Management.
- Bay Fastening Systems overhauled their website to integrate their systems, drive more traffic, and provide more accessibility for buyers. The industrial supplier now offers a convenient self-service shopping option for customers, complete with up-to-date product pricing and availability for their entire online catalog. Providing total transparency for their buyers has simplified the sales process and improved the company’s overall productivity.
- When independent electrical and industrial distributor Turtle & Hughes made their digital transformation, they, too, saw huge efficiency gains – in part because they invested in the right technology. They implemented Unilog’s cloud-based eCommerce platform with a product information management tool (PIM), responsive design, and punchout catalog to ensure a consistent and smooth omnichannel experience. With their new eCommerce technology and tools in place, Turtle & Hughes is now able to build new features, make more products available online, and gain additional efficiencies within their organization.
Technology is a critical component in a digital business; it must be powerful, reliable, and have the flexibility to handle the changing needs of your business and the marketplace. In this final post in our blog series, Unilog’s Scott Frymire shares three ways distributors can run an effective eCommerce business using the proper technology.
- Choose the right architecture
Once the preferred choice for businesses, on-premises eCommerce systems consisting of local servers and bulky hardware are now a thing of the past. Today, the viable option is cloud computing. Cloud-based systems provide the scalability and performance eCommerce distributors need to compete in the marketplace.
Frymire is a huge advocate of cloud computing. “There are plenty of benefits with a cloud-based platform,” he explains. “If you have any seasonality with your business where you get a surge in traffic coming to your site, a cloud-based system can provide additional compute resources – whether it be increased CPU, memory, or storage – in order to handle the influx of site visitors.”
An eCommerce platform housed in the cloud also takes advantage of content delivery networks that are mobilized in different regions of the country, which delivers your site content faster than any on-premises system in your office. This means you can provide a top-notch user experience to all your online customers, regardless if they’re two miles away or 2,000 miles away.
A strong infrastructure also optimizes your site speed, which has a significant impact on the user experience and conversions. Walmart analyzed their site and found a direct relationship between page load times and conversions: for every one-second improvement made in a web page’s load time, conversions increased by 2%. That means a business with $1 million in online revenue would see an additional $200,000 for every second they shaved off their page load time. Cloudflare, a website security and optimization company, found that 75% of users typically leave a website when the page load time exceeds three seconds. “Ideally, your content pages should load in less than a second if you want to maximize your chances of site visitors staying on your site and transacting with you,” says Frymire.
- Optimize for mobile
Mobile devices continue to permeate more aspects of our lives, one of which is the workplace. Today, smartphones and tablets provide B2B buyers the added convenience and flexibility to shop for products while on the job site, in transit, or after business hours. And, as more younger buyers enter the workforce, industry experts expect that by 2020 70% of all B2B queries will be made on smartphones.
B2B buyers aren’t the only ones who prefer mobile devices; Google ranks sites higher on its search results pages when they are optimized for mobile. The search engine giant has made a concerted effort to make the web more mobile-friendly for people because a good mobile experience translates to increased SEO, engagement, and conversions. To ensure a great shopping experience no matter which device a buyer uses, start with a responsive-designed website. A responsive design adapts your web pages to conform to any buyer device, whether it’s a tablet, smartphone, laptop, or desktop computer. Next, build a native mobile app to complement your responsive website. A mobile app leverages smartphone technology like voice recognition and barcode scanning that help buyers search your products, and push notifications that send them special offers and the latest news. Frymire adds, “The benefit of having a mobile app is you can take advantage of these functions that are already built into the device in order to better connect and serve your customers.”
- House content in a PIM
A PIM, or product information management system, is vital to integrating all your sales channels in order to deliver a superior user experience. Unlike your enterprise resource planning system (ERP), a PIM manages all the important product information and content that buyers use to research, shop, and purchase products across your distribution channels – whether it be on your website, mobile app, print catalog, or alternate online marketplaces like Amazon Business.
When your product content is housed in this single central repository, the PIM performs four key data management functions:
- Syncs and publishes product information across digital and physical customer touchpoints
- Manages product workflows and approvals by channel
- Maintains data quality by identifying inconsistencies and normalizing the data
- Provides a single, trusted source for reliable product information
The PIM is really the backbone for content because it gives you complete control over all your product content. To hear more about the various functions and benefits of a PIM tool, watch the What is a PIM? video by Unilog’s SVP of Strategy, Joe Bennett.
With the right technology and tools in place, the people- and process-related aspects of your eCommerce business will integrate more easily and strengthen your digital footprint. To get started on your path to become a successful eCommerce distributor, contact a Unilog expert to learn about our winning digital commerce solutions. We offer a turnkey, cloud-based eCommerce platform with built-in PIM, a native mobile app, punchout catalogs, content enrichment services, and everything else you need to build and enhance your digital branch.