Whether you’re an existing or aspiring distributor, it’s never too late to learn about the benefits of leveraging the power of the internet to sell your products and services to businesses of all sizes.
If you are in a hurry or want to contact us to talk about B2B e-commerce for distributors, you can contact us here.
In this article, you’ll discover what the online space can do for your business, common misconceptions, how to get started with the process and how to use technology to solve customer challenges.
We still see many B2B sellers relying on legacy eCommerce systems that are unable to provide a smooth and seamless buying experience.
However, let’s look at how other companies are improving their online sales performance by meeting the expectations of their buyers and why buyers would choose you over your competition.
What is B2B Ecommerce for Distributors?
Wholesale ecommerce distributors play a vital role in the B2B marketplace. They are usually highly visible, knowledgeable, and trustworthy individuals who work very closely with manufacturers to increase buying efficiency and thus, increase sales.
With regards to ecommerce businesses, the logistics of the sale often happens online -through a B2B wholesale platform.
As more businesses use digital platforms to reach customers, B2B distributors are taking things digital to shorten the lead time from the sale to the delivery and creating a customer experience that surpasses the customer’s expectation.
Misconception – The belief that B2B customers don’t want to order online.
As the new generation comes to managerial and purchasing power age, their preferred method of purchasing (ecommerce) will surpass older processes. In general, B2C customers want to see their B2B conveniences transfer over. It is one of the huge ecommerce trends.
Millennials are increasingly shaping the B2B buying process, and they’re doing it differently than previous generations. You would find it crucial to identify the most important attributes your customers look for in your products, how they search for those products, and what you need to do to be where they are.
Millennials are not interested in salespeople, and they are avoiding engaging with a salesperson until they’re in the middle of a buying decision.
This buying behavior mimics buying decisions B2C where brands must educate, build trust, and build community before a purchasing decision is made or even considered. 89% of B2B researchers use the internet in their research process and they make a whopping 12 searches prior to visiting a specific website.
Advantages of Using a B2B Ecommerce Platform
Using a B2B ecommerce platform is the best choice for any business, especially a small business. There are several advantages to using a digital commerce platform, and they are vital for business success. Here are just a few of the reasons:
1. Better management of suppliers and customers.
B2B ecommerce solutions are an excellent channel that benefits both your suppliers and your customers. By using online tools, you can see information about how your customers shop and use this to create more personalized shopping experiences for your customers.
This will result in increased revenues for both you and your suppliers.
2. Sell more to existing customers.
You can reach your existing customers and interact with them through online channels. An online channel lets you easily implement a cross-sell and up-sell recommendation program. Helping customers find what they want without them having to ask is an important aspect of a great ecommerce experience.
You’ll increase your percentage of repeat purchases.
3. B2B Ecommerce for Distributors – Reaching new customers
Business to business (B2B) ecommerce is a powerful tool for reaching new B2B customers. By going online, you can leverage digital marketing techniques to increase your reach.
And because B2B buyers are getting so used to shopping online, they demand it. B2B buyers also expect to make purchases online, and therefore, they are starting to look for it.
4. Better data analytics.
Every B2B ecommerce platform offers comprehensive analysis of sales effectiveness. With analytics, you can make better business decisions and boost site engagement.
The reports available through your platform will help you to identify what’s working and what’s not, and accordingly take steps to improve site performance.
For the most part, this feature is going to play a crucial role in the success of your organization.
Ensure Ecommerce Complements Your Other Sales Channels
Internal channel conflict is a common problem for B2B organizations when implementing digital transformation. With industry analysts predicting the decline of the B2B salesperson, the online channel is now seen as a real threat.
Successfully overcoming internal anxiety will require the digital teams, along with sales leadership, to demonstrate how self-service via technology can really help close more sales and bring back to life those accounts that are most in danger.
Digital channels, including ecommerce, should be integrated with the sales organization and used as a tool, rather than a threat.
This includes communicating with the individuals that could be affected and showcasing how digital can help them succeed.
Many B2B companies find themselves drowning in product orders from their own customers. When this happens, many times the only option is for the sales rep to personally take the order. This is a “downer” for everyone concerned and interrupts the flow of the business.
It often leads to burnout, as the person taking the orders is put on an almost “24/7” duty.
B2B Ecommerce Marketing 101
Whatever your hesitation is to launching your B2C ecommerce store, know this: with a little practice, you too can achieve one million dollars or more in annual sales from your ecommerce site. You will need to have a well thought out sales strategy.
If you are already selling via a bricks and mortar business, consider this an excellent way to supplement your income.
Use technology to do more for less. Reduce errors and manual work. Enable your teams to work smarter, faster and more effectively. Integrate customer support into the flow of every sale. Give each individual customer a sense of being special (while still leveraging the scale of the system).
1. Solve Ongoing Customer Challenges Online
B2B brands have exponentially higher fulfillment errors than B2C or DTC brands.
Your B2B brand must be able to consistently deliver the right products on time while meeting expectations. You should strive to eliminate customer service challenges, refunds, and apologies.
Instead, your fulfillment system needs to be able to create new customer relationships and introduce ancillary services. If you use APIs to connect your store to other systems, such as an ecommerce platform, then it’s easy to automate aspects of the customer journey.
One of the key benefits is that this makes your overall customer experience better and increases your bottom-line profits.
Automatic inventory management is critical for every B2B ecommerce distributor. It provides visibility into what your customers are buying, and it allows the fulfillment team to know what they have shipped, and when.
This makes it easy to send new items as soon as inventory is low, or to re-order quantities that were not fulfilled by the customer.
2. Customer Education – Products, Benefits, and Promotions
B2B users are now demanding an immersive and educational experience. They no longer just accept your sales pitch; they explore your site to make sure they understand the rationale and logistics of your business.
That education often guides their purchase through your sales funnel. This is the way the online value ladder works. You prove your value to customers through educational content.
Then you close the deal once they trust you. You need to use these tactics to improve your customers’ user experience to drive traffic and close sales online.
3. Migrate customers from offline to online channels.
The growing number of B2B customers who want a seamless omnichannel experience will continue to decrease the number of customers who prefer to speak with a sales representative by phone, fax, or even email.
Make sure your sales and client support agents provide the option to interact with your customers online.
You should also provide the option for your customers to request samples and a printed catalog whenever they visit your website. Have a live chat option to answer questions and concerns.
4. Reduce Reliance on Legacy Systems and Diminish Back-office Costs
There are three main trends today.
First, we’re seeing larger software companies acquiring and integrating smaller, specialized software.
Second, new technology is coming to market that brings commerce functionality into the application world.
Third, as ecommerce platforms become more robust in functionality beyond just a “shopping cart,” their reach and influence within a company’s existing technology landscape is widening.
This knowledge will help you reduce license and maintenance costs on overlapping technologies and reduce the bloat that often accompanies these technologies.
5. Loyalty Programs Facilitate High Volume Orders and Repeat Orders
When the platform is up and running, look to other initiatives to continuously drive results.
Most likely, if you are a B2B organization, you offer products that are consumable, or will need to be continually maintained and replaced. Both the subscription and one-off purchase models can lock in buyers, yield higher customer lifetime values, and simplify doing business.
The data can empower your sales and marketing teams to make smarter decisions, present and offer complementary products, and know when a customer might be ready to buy.
Develop relationships with partners who can help you offer the “always on-demand” flexibility of subscription models without having to build and maintain your own fulfillment infrastructure.
6. Humanize Your Transactions
Ecommerce site usability is an essential part of creating value for customers. This doesn’t necessarily mean that you need to create a consumer-like ecommerce experience centered on visual and interactive elements.
Instead, focus on making sure the site: Has robust search. Detailed product content. An efficient purchasing funnel. Simplified checkout to create an easier purchase experience.
Responsive design has become an essential component of any successful ecommerce website. That’s why you need to include it as part of your ecommerce solution.
7. Create Value Through Your Business Transactions
Every single customer is different. Treat them uniquely by customizing the ecommerce experience to their specific needs.
Start by segmenting your customers based on how much business they do with you. Then, customize the ecommerce experience to better suit their unique buying patterns.
All of this starts with building personalized one-to-one relationships. Remove friction from the process with incentives and rewards for loyalty and volume.
And finally, make it easy and fun for your customers to buy from you. You should, for instance, make sure your ecommerce platform is able to support a multi-step order management approval process. This includes integration with third party applications like a quoting tool.
The same goes for payment options. For example, if customers require a purchase order process, check whether the underlying platform is built to handle this.
You should proactively notify customers of products that are out of stock or have a low inventory count so that you can minimize any potential disruption to your business. Online store support can offer product recommendations too.
8. Align business processes and teams to scale
When organizations work inefficiently, it’s usually because they have silos, or channels built as add-ons, and not structured within the organization.
This can occur because the digital channel was built as an “add-on” and not cohesively structured within the organization, or because organic decisions over time have morphed into a structure (i.e. solely Marketing or IT “owning” the ecommerce software) that no longer has an effective foundation for cohesive cross-channel growth.
Re-align roles and resources. If you need to, look outside the organization and hire someone else to help. Here’s how to get your existing marketing and sales teams aligned: Have your sales and marketing teams review the buyer personas you’ve created. Then work with them to prioritize product features that will appeal to the most valuable buyers.
Using collaboration tools like BundleB2B can help your teams access and visualize the most important buyers and their buying patterns.
B2B sites are great opportunities for sellers, brands and your distribution business to grow their market share. If you don’t yet have a B2B site, you may be underestimating your brand’s growth potential.
Allocate the appropriate funds to your B2B site launch, including work with partners and agencies to build the unique tools you need.
Though you may need to make an investment, the increase in revenue you can expect vastly outweighs this initial expenditure.
If you are ready to take the leap, contact Blazing Conversions. We are ready to help you tap on the vast potential of B2B ecommerce for distributors.