eCommerce is a major driver in shaping the way consumers shop and what they expect from that shopping experience. A considerable sales shift has seen consumers move away from brick-and-mortar stores, preferring to make purchases online via eCommerce platforms.
Digital eCommerce has radically altered the face of retail but this is hardly news to retail business owners. But what many might not expect is that eCommerce has already started to impact the manufacturing and supply sectors.
Business customers are demanding more independence throughout their purchasing processes. Many B2B customers already shop for stock via mobile devices after they have extensively researched the product, checked reviews and compared prices. All this happens online.
Manufacturers and wholesalers need to embrace B2B eCommerce to remain competitive in our global digital economy. With a few eCommerce strategies in place, digital commerce can open a new world of opportunities for manufacturers and B2B organisations.
Brand platforms vs marketplace
In making the shift to online, many manufacturers have difficulty deciding where to concentrate their resources. Is it better to invest in creating eCommerce platforms under their own brands, or focus efforts on marketplaces like Etsy, Amazon or eBay? Does it make sense to do both?
Absolutely, companies can do both. They can increase their online presence for those customers who prefer to buy direct. By making products available on marketplace websites, they are creating multichannel sales options.
If you are going online then your website or trade portal needs to be engaging and usable. Establishing and maintaining a well-designed website is necessary regardless of your industry or sector. It should display everything you have. All your inventory stock items and should include quality images, relevant specifications and product details, giving customers the information they would be seeking.
Content marketing is particularly beneficial for eCommerce sites because it improves search engine optimisation. Digitally listed goods and inventory stock are searchable, accessible 24/7 and customers can check availability and dispatch information in real-time.
eCommerce sites should be responsive across all devices, laptop, tablet and mobile. In fact, with the growth in mobile commerce expected to increase exponentially, an investment in mobile technology for digital commerce is ideal.
Equipped sales staff
Sales teams are now part of the support process within eCommerce. By measuring the cost to serve customers as well as key pain-points, manufactures can optimise the performance of their sales team.
These teams must be adequately trained and ready to proactively improve the overall customer experience, providing value at every step. Invest in digital interface solutions that provide relevant post-order support information to free-up sales personnel to focus on up-selling activities and cross-selling services.
This strategy shifts the relationship between customers and sales staff from one traditionally transactional nature, to a more consultative client relationship. It also assists in improving the top-line revenue from business customers.
Many manufactures and wholesale businesses sell products and inventory stock that is needed at regular intervals by their customers. These could be a basic as general consumables, office supplies or components of inventory stock used to create alternate finished goods.
For these companies, developing automated replenishment options for your customers will make it easy for them to re-order products they frequently buy. Even a simple email can be automated to send timely reminders, notifying customers that it could be time to replenish stock.
As manufacturers and wholesalers develop eCommerce platforms, they need to ensure that they are implementing scalable, flexible systems. Businesses should select trade platforms that can grow with the business and provide customised solutions relevant to the B2B marketplace. Offering such capabilities as time to market and total cost of ownership will further support healthy partnerships with existing distributors
Article by Melanie Chan in collaboration with our team of Unleashed Software inventory and business specialists. Melanie has been writing about inventory management for the past three years. When not writing about inventory management, you can find her eating her way through Auckland.