Business Growth, Mobile

Wholesalers, stop losing out on sales and start getting on eCommerce

BY Clara Lu 15 Apr, "14

Infographic Series – The Road To B2B eCommerce Success. The infographic (generated by Salmon, a highly innovative eCommerce digital agency with offices in the UK, China, and Australia) reinstated facts on eCommerce that should not come as a surprise now, but this one stands out the most – that eCommerce adoption is prioritized over the development of bricks and mortar presence.

This reveals the trend of the diminishing importance on building a physical retail outlet just to sell your products! More businesses can also generate revenue via eCommerce as the online world is a non-discriminating platform – it does not favour the organisations with more staff, or differentiates between different product types, or even the B2C or B2B markets.

This opens up opportunities for wholesalers especially. There are no more limits to exploring sales channels, as it is no longer the case where you can only pass on your goods at wholesaler prices to resellers or middlemen. You can generate direct sales by tapping onto eCommerce as well.

Now that we’ve gotten the ‘Should we or should we not get onto eCommerce since we’re a B2B business’ question out of the way (the answer is a resounding YES!), let’s go into more details.

With more companies investing further in mobile commerce (42 per cent optimising their web sites for tablets or smart phones), this data further cements what we found out from our previous Infographic Series post - Mobile Commerce Revolution: Smartphones & Smarter Shoppers.

The current focus is on digitising sales platforms and improving customer reach via means of international accessibility (multi-national websites), and enhancing distribution routes and website capability (eg. smartphones).

Currently, it appears that businesses do not have the capacity (time and capital) to create an in-house eCommerce platform in time. This explains their tendency to rely on third party support for areas such as technology, and guidance in eCommerce implementation, on-going management, and strategy planning.

Furthermore, eCommerce is set to boom with B2B businesses looking to increase their online investment, where part of this strategy is to partner with a suitable distribution network such as Amazon, possibly to alleviate logistical concerns and address barriers in eCommerce adoption and implementation apparent for most companies.

At the Game Plan B2B Ecommerce Forum hosted in Chicago in October 2013, a plethora of great keynotes and industry experts shared their knowledge and experience in the B2B ecommerce space.

One of the attendees was Steve Max, Director Of Ecommerce at Airgas. Through its subsidiaries, Airgas is the largest US distributor of industrial, medical and specialty gases, and hard-goods such as welding equipment and supplies. Obviously a B2B organisation, it is insightful to get a peek into the Airgas customer base by market and learn how they sell gas online.

Airgas launched their first website in 1997 and moved over to an eCommerce site in 2001, when they realised that they were falling back on the eCommerce front as compared to other companies in the industrial distribution space. According to Max, his customers are telling him that, even more than being able to research and order online, they want to be able to complete the transactions with online (and even mobile) payments.

Before then, less than 5 percent of current transactions for Airgas happen online, as compared to other large industrial hard-goods distributors who report online transaction rates of 25 percent to 35 percent. In addition, the company realized that "our large customers who engage with us through our e-business platform are our most penetrated customers," President and CEO Mike Molinini said at the distributor’s 2012 analyst meeting.

"It used to be the most sophisticated (customers); now it's pretty much everybody," he says.

Airgas then launched its initiative to overhaul its current e-business platform at the beginning of 2012, with a roll-out of the new platform scheduled for the first quarter of this year.

The Airgas example shows the paramount shift from doing business offline to selling online. It shows clearly that eCommerce online opens more doors than just selling offline. When you do business on the Internet, you have more opportunities to rub shoulders with partners, extend your reach to customers, and provide exclusive offers and deals on your website.

Lastly, maximise the power of eCommerce via integration to the backend systems that run and drive the business. Integration with multiple systems, especially core systems such as enterprise resource planning (ERP), customer relationship management (CRM), or content management system (CMS) applications is essential.

TradeGecko's very own private B2B e-Commerce software is a classic instance of an integrated platform that aids wholesalers in these crucial elements. With its user friendly interface, the platform extends efficient CRM with its powerful ordering functions, such as allowing B2B customers to access their Orders History to track orders, check payment statuses, and download invoices at any time. Also, the purchasing process is a highly personalized and customized one. These features go a long way in increasing customer satisfaction and B2B sales. You can read more on how the platform can ease B2B eCommerce processes here.

Various eCommerce platforms are also available out there for you to set up shop. For example, Shopify and WooCommerce are suitable systems to create your online store. Furthermore, they are integrated with the TradeGecko inventory management system to offer a seamless backend operations (from your site design and online shopping cart backend to stock control) for wholesalers.

Today, eCommerce is a multi-faceted, increasingly powerful spectrum of integrated tools and technologies that organisations (B2B or not) must have to remain competitive and relevant in today's challenging business environment. So take the leap and get on the path to successful B2B online sales. Resources: 1 | 2 | 3 | 4

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