Distributors are facing a number of challenges in today’s market: margins are becoming narrower, peers are being gobbled up by mergers and acquisitions, and manufacturers – frustrated by distributors’ slow adoption of eCommerce – are turning to third-party marketplaces to sell their products direct. These trying times have many small to midmarket business owners wondering if they should continue to invest in their company’s legacy or just close shop.
This topic came up the other day when I was speaking with Joe Kessler, our Director of Sales. Joe says this dilemma resonates with many of the distributors he talks to, especially those who don’t have an eCommerce site. However, we both agreed that all is not lost for the B2B industry – not by a longshot.
You can compete, if you know where to invest
Most distributors have cash flow they can invest in their business but are unsure where to put their money. Some feel investing in additional facilities, equipment, or fleet is the answer. These things may keep you afloat or maintain a status quo, but if you really want a return on your investment you should invest in eCommerce.
Joe maintains many businesses that never had a digital branch don’t appreciate eCommerce, but that’s because they don’t know what they – and their customers – are missing.
Today’s buyers want more self-service capabilities like placing orders after office hours and checking their order status. They don’t want to have to call or email your sales staff to reorder a product, nor do they want to rely on them for specs, manuals, and other product information. They’re looking for more convenient and efficient ways to do their job, which is what a good eCommerce site offers. A recent McKinsey & Company study found that more than 75% of B2B buyers prefer online purchasing and remote sales interactions instead of in-person exchanges. Of those respondents, 32% said they’d spend $50K to $500K with a distributor if these self-service options were available.
No matter what the size of your company, a digital eCommerce branch brings positive results. Research by Distribution Strategy Group shows eCommerce adoption in the B2B marketplace grew more than 26% last year. The fastest adoption growth was with distributors who make less than $50 million in sales. Once they had an online storefront, their sales nearly doubled from 13.4% in 2019 to 25.1% in 2020.
With impressive outcomes like this, we have to ask those who haven’t yet invested in eCommerce, “What are you waiting for?”
Why eCommerce and why now?
Joe hits the nail on the head when he says loyalty doesn’t trump convenience anymore. Your customers have too many options available today; if you’re not one of the distributors offering those options, then you’re missing out.
In addition to all the benefits eCommerce offers buyers, as a distributor you win as well. A strong digital presence expands your reach and your customer base. It gives you 24/7 sales capabilities so you aren’t missing out on purchases just because your physical office is closed. A website also enables you to extend your product offerings. With more items available at their fingertips, customers are inclined to add more to their cart, increasing your average order value (AOV).
Consider, too, the efficiencies a self-service website provides. Customers no longer need to call or email their orders, which is a tedious, mundane task for your sales team to manually enter into your ERP. Instead, sales can focus their time on more strategic activities that grow your business. Joe points out that many companies don’t notice the amount of time their employees spend manually entering orders. “One of our customers found out just how inefficient they were before they had a transactional site,” he shared. “After their eCommerce implementation with us, they saw an 83% reduction in warehouse order processing times and 81% time savings in order entering. Those time savings equated to huge operational efficiency gains and allowed them to invest their resources in other areas of their business.”
Digital branch must-haves
A website with a basic shopping cart won’t cut it. Your site has to provide a better user experience that does more than enable customers to transact online. Joe sums it up well, “You have to make your eCommerce site usable. If it’s not going to be quicker and easier than a phone call to place an order, then buyers are not going to use it.”
To provide the most usability, your website must include the following:
- eCommerce capabilities with multiple payment options
- Full integration with your ERP
- Product information management tool (PIM)
- Account portal
- Pricing and availability
- Great product content
- A modern interface with user-friendly navigation and filtering options
Your website should also be designed so that it can easily integrate functionality and features as new technology emerges and customer needs change. A responsive design and cloud infrastructure help give your site that flexibility to expand and scale when needed. Another extension of your digital branch should be a mobile app that mirrors your website experience and gives your customers yet another way to shop, purchase, and engage with your business.
You’re probably thinking you’d have to break the bank to get all this functionality, flexibility, and technology. But if price has been holding you back from having an eCommerce site, you’ve been missing out on opportunities to grow your business. That’s because we have an affordable way to build your digital presence and expand your business – it’s called the Go program.
Our Go Program gets you on track – fast
Go is Unilog’s rapid implementation program that gives businesses a turnkey eCommerce site in a fraction of the time of a typical eCommerce implementation. Our all-in-one solution gives you a best-in-class website that attracts traffic, drives sales, and helps you compete in the digital marketplace. And, because it’s a cloud-based platform, we offer software-as-a-service pricing that’s highly affordable for smaller companies. Out of the box, it comes with a PIM tool, an intuitive content management system (CMS), sophisticated site search tool, and nearly 100 B2B eCommerce features. We also integrate your ERP system and other applications with our platform to provide a seamless communication and data sync between systems.
You can add one more level of convenience for customers with our hybrid mobile app that mirrors your site. People out in the field can use the app’s image search, barcode search, and even voice search to find and order products they need. Our mobile app is an affordable extension you can add onto your Go implementation and have it launch at the same time your site goes live.
With our Go program, we eliminate the scope creep, budget overruns, and project delays that can occur with some website implementations. We set expectations and deliverables at the onset of your project to ensure your site is up and running quickly. Once you’re live, you can measure its performance and determine what your customers like, what they don’t like, and what enhancements you can make to improve their experience. Our platform is both scalable and flexible so any features or customizations you may want to add can be easily implemented.
Make your move – go digital now
If you’re looking for ways to extend your longevity and grow your business, branch out into the digital marketplace. An eCommerce site provides a great return on your investment and opens up opportunities to sell more products to more people. Convenience is essential to today’s B2B buyers, regardless if they’re millennials or baby boomers. Our digital commerce platform offers that convenience and gives customers another way to shop and engage with you.
B2B eCommerce has come a long way, and our platform is no exception. We’ve built an extremely user-friendly CMS tool and interface so you don’t need to be a techie to create content and manage your site. Our comprehensive API toolset connects all your systems and applications with our platform to unify your enterprise. We’ve also eliminated the need for costly on-premise equipment. Instead, we manage your site for you in the Google Cloud, providing a more reliable and secure connection.
Easy to manage, inexpensive to operate, and integrated with your business systems – our all-in-one eCommerce solution is your enterprise solution. See for yourself what our platform can do for you by scheduling a complimentary, no-hassle demo with one of our associates today.