Why Distributors Should Emulate the eCommerce Business Model and 6 Ways to Get Started
ECommerce has without a doubt changed the way wholesale and distribution companies do business. Online resources make it easy for anyone to access the supply chain, and buyers have become accustomed to getting any information they want—from product availability to pricing to tracking an order.
To stay competitive (or even keep your doors open), wholesalers and distributors need to take a page out of how eCommerce companies run. It’s not just about adding eCommerce functionality; it’s about adopting the strategies and tactics that make eCommerce companies successful, from putting more focus on the customer experience (which is what customers today expect, not just want) to dedicating a sales team to serving just your online channels.
Here are 5 reasons why eCommerce companies are successful, and how you as a distributor or wholesaler can apply those principles to your organization:
1. Beef Up Your Web Presence
It’s not enough to have great customer services. In today’s market, customers expect to be able to get most of what they need online. They don’t want to look at paper catalogs or talk to you; they want to get online, do their research, check into pricing, and even make purchases online. This is probably the single strongest selling point of using an eCommerce site. Major players in the distribution/wholesale industries have already gone there, and it’s time for you to do it as well. Depending on your business, your online presence will look very different. You might not need an eCommerce platform, but you do need usability, transparency, and detailed, up-to-date information. Make sure your website is:
- Clean – Minimize the clutter
- Well-designed – Make sure it’s easy to find what people are looking for
- Clearly representing who you are – Communicate that your company is helpful, accessible, and customer-friendly
- Informative – Provide specs, details, pricing, and images. Don’t forget that you also need to be informative about your services and other value-added qualities—not just your products.
2. Build Customer Trust and Help Educate Them, Not Just Sell to Them
With eCommerce sites, the goal is to minimize the need to talk to a human being. You don’t need to go that far, but you should make as much product information readily available and understandable. Keep the information concise—get to the point so they can get the information they need and move on. However, don’t stop there. Your customers will appreciate your advice and guidance in the form of non-sales-oriented content.
If you provide more detailed information about trends and common concerns faced by your customers, they will see you as an expert and as a helpful company, which might sway their decision about who to buy from. You can provide this information on secondary pages—pages that someone would click on after reading the main page about a product. This gives the reader another place to go but doesn’t clutter up the page with the additional information they’re looking for.
3. Create Content to Boost SEO (Search Engine Optimization)
People searching online are much more likely to be looking for an answer to a question or a solution to a problem than for a specific product. And over 75% of customers start their research with a Google search. That’s why you need to find ways to be at the top of a search result. To beat the eCommerce companies, which focus only on marketing products, distributors need to produce helpful content in the form of blogs or articles (translated: NOT sales materials!). Search engines pick up on this type of content and prioritize it over product pages, which means your company rises to the top on a Google search.
The good news is, as a distributor, you already have the advantage over an eCommerce company. You have industry and product experts, where they do not. You just need to get that knowledge out of your head and into a blog or article. If you have a marketing department, they should be able to help you with this. They will create a content calendar focusing on your buyer personas, with identified key words, and they’ll help your internal experts get their thoughts into a piece of content and out to the world. If you do not have a marketing organization, it is strongly recommended that you reach out to a marketing firm or consultant to help you get a strategy in place. It is a very worthwhile investment, and once you get that engine running, it’s relatively easy to keep it fed by people within your company.
4. Add Digital Upselling to Traditional Upselling
If you use Amazon, you have most certainly noticed the “Customers who bought this item also bought” section at the bottom of the page after you’ve selected an item to purchase. That’s digital upselling, a variation on what companies have been doing since time began. They’re just doing it much more passively—and it works. But you don’t need an eCommerce platform to upsell digitally. You can:
- Send high-quality, personalized emails (but be careful not to slip into spamming)
- Personalize suggested content on your website with marketing automation; include calls to action that are relevant to previous searches and downloads
- Create a unified experience with your customers: email, website, and phone
5. Set Up a Solid Digital Customer Service Process
As we know, products arrive damaged or go missing, sometimes orders aren’t fulfilled correctly, and sometimes the customer just has a problem with what they ordered. To keep these customers happy, make sure your digital customer service process is in place. Allow customers to submit service tickets online or get other help on your website. Consider chat panes or anything else that makes you accessible to your customers.
6. Don’t Forget About Data
Successful distribution companies depend on good data flow. Without it, you can’t do what you need to do to operate in a digital world, from personalized content to digital upselling. ECommerce companies are masters at using data effectively. To do this, make sure your ERP, CRM, and other systems are integrated (or work well together) and your data management processes are in place to ensure transparency and accessibility to data.
Follow a Successful Example
Today, your competition is no longer just the guy down the street or in your state or region. You have competition all over the world and online. Customers now demand that level of accessibility and service, so you need to get on board. You don’t need to be an eCommerce company; you just need to look at what makes them successful and apply it to your organization in a way that makes sense.
Let ArcherPoint help with your digital efforts. We can implement technologies to put your strategies into action. Contact us today.