Guest Editorial: E-commerce best practices for competing with online threats
Fight back in the B2B arena.
With the launch of Amazon Supply and Google Shopping for Suppliers, having a functional, viable and compelling e-commerce platform is more important now than ever before for PHCP and PVF wholesalers.
We all know these online powerhouses have many advantages and strengths including low overhead and operations costs, as well as an expanding national network of warehouses to expedite order shipping at lower cost. Customers don’t expect all the same advantages from small and mid-size distributors, but they do have expectations for a feature-rich, dynamic and interactive B2B engagement. For wholesalers and distributors without an active e-commerce strategy in place, a portion of your core business is at risk, so how do you tackle this problem?
Below are a few recommendations that will help PHCP and PVF wholesalers position themselves against “the big two” and any other competitors that may emerge:
- Play to your strengths. Wholesalers and distributors have a significant edge over Amazon Supply and Google Shopping for Suppliers through networks and established customer relationships, product knowledge and expertise as well as the ability to offer broader inventory, flexible payment terms and customized shipping options.
- Expand inventory. Amazon and Google focus on high-volume, parcel-shippable items, so this gives you the opportunity to earn the sale on those items as well as non-parcel-shippable items, thus creating a one-stop-shop for your buyer. This is a key point to message to make buyers aware of this difference as every additional source a buyer uses means more relationships to manage.
- Provide compelling content.Add to, review and improve online content in order to differentiate your offering from other online competitors.
- Leverage customer service as a key differentiator. Find new ways to make your customer-service offering increasingly valuable to your buyers. Look into new technologies to increase the ease of communicating, such as online chats. Authorize customer service to match prices, offer no-hassle returns and provide predictive analytics to support the suggestion of cross sells to increase average order value. The more touch points the better. Some customers and situations will always warrant an in-person visit to a local, physical store. Promote these locations and the benefits of your feet-on-the-ground personnel, as well as same-day pickup and delivery options whenever possible.
- Overhaul your fulfillment and shipping processes to improve speed and efficiency. Amazon and Google have upped expectations about speed of fulfillment. Audit your fulfillment and shipping processes to address any issues. You can gain speed-of-service and eliminate errors by integrating your e-commerce platform with your ERP and shipping systems.
The thought of competing with these big companies may be overwhelming, but think about their entry into the market as an opportunity to help solidify your e-commerce offerings to include a nurturing sales experience through personalized service and expertise — features the powerhouses aren’t capable of providing.
Author bio: Linda Taddonio is chief e-commerce strategy officer and co-founder of Insite Software, the only e-commerce platform company focused exclusively on B2B.With 25 years of experience in industries focusing on manufacturing and distribution, she brings a unique understanding of e-commerce initiatives, business process and ERP knowledge. Reach her by phone at 866/746-0377 or visit Insite Software’s website at www.insitesoft.com.