10 Things Every Distributor Should Know About E CommerceIf you are a distributor currently selling your products via ecommerce or looking into expanding into the ecommerce space, here are ten things you need to be aware of in order to be successful.

  1. B2B ecommerce is more than two times bigger than retail ecommerce. Take a minute and gnaw on that one for a little bit. It’s true. Forrester Research estimates that in 2014, the ecommerce opportunity for B2B companies is more than twice what it will be for all of consumer-focused ecommerce. How big am I talking about? $559 billion dollars. (Source: Forrester Research, Inc.) Check out the article, How Big is the B2B Ecommerce Opportunity, to learn more.
  2. AmazonSupply.com is poised to take a big bite out of your distribution business. Chances are good that if they aren’t already doing business in your back yard, they will be soon. They have already launched a dedicated B2B ecommerce site with products reaching into fourteen unique verticals and, no doubt, they have their sights set on growing that B2B sales channel. What can you do about it?
  3. The ecommerce module offered by your ERP vendor isn’t enough to compete in today’s ecommerce market. Many distributors try out the ecommerce module offered by their ERP vendor for a first run at launching an ecommerce site. The good news with this approach is that distributors can be certain that their store will integrate with their ERP. The trouble with this approach is that while ERP vendors are good at providing their ERP solution, any ecommerce offering they provide is an add-on (read: a way to make money that has nothing to do with their core business competencies). Face it–their core competency is providing ERP software, not ecommerce and it shows. ERP ecommerce modules leave a lot to be desired in ecommerce functionality and the online shopping experience, not to mention in the administration and updating of the site. Look for a dedicated ecommerce platform that integrates with your ERP. You’ll be glad that you did.
  4. Your ecommerce site should focus on customer experience. Still think that an ecommerce site is all about providing your organization with a better way to process orders and make money? Think again. While efficiency, increased throughput, and an improved bottom line are results of having an effective ecommerce site, your online web store is no longer about you at all. The tables have turned and your ecommerce site should be focused on providing the best possible online shopping experience to your customers. Do that, and the rest will take care of itself.
  5. Mobile commerce matters. In today’s market, launching a comprehensive ecommerce site isn’t enough. Your customers are looking for ways to buy on-the-go using their smartphones, tablets and other mobile devices. To successfully reach those customers–and limit the risk of their moving to a competitor who offers them on-the-go ordering capability–your site must be optimized for all leading mobile devices. Make sure that your ecommerce solutions partner offers mobile commerce. (Hint: Your ERP provider won’t be able to effectively meet this need with their ecommerce module.) Learn more about why mobile commerce matters to your on-going success.
  6. Your ecommerce project isn’t over once your site launches. In fact, once your site goes live the real project is just beginning! It’s a common thought that the work is done once an ecommerce site goes live, but nothing could be further from the truth. Websites of all kinds–ecommerce included–take on a life of their own, requiring updates to include cutting-edge functionality and fresh content. Make sure that your ecommerce roadmap–and budget!–includes a plan for how to keep your site updated and ahead of the competition for at least the next three years. Update your strategy as the marketplace changes.
  7. The content on your ecommerce site matters. Today’s online shopper voraciously consumes large amounts of data in one sitting. To ensure that your ecommerce site is your customer’s number one destination for information about your products and services, offer fresh and relevant content on your site. Need help with figuring out how to come up with enough content to populate your site and engage your visitors?
  8. “Build it and they will come” is a myth. Too many distributors think that the act of launching a site will drive crowds of new customers and increased orders from current customers to their ecommerce site. I hate to burst your bubble, but that simply isn’t true. It might work for a baseball field in Iowa, but it’s not likely to hold much water with your ecommerce site. The good news is that a comprehensive on-boarding strategy will ensure that your current customers make the jump to using ecommerce.
  9. Your site’s performance is going to drop post-launch unless you take proactive steps to on-board your customers. Yes, I said that your site’s performance will drop post launch unless you proactively do something about it. And nothing will take the wind of your sails faster than having to report to your executive team that the money they invested in redesigning and/or replatforming the ecommerce site has resulted in a decline in the site’s performance. The good news is that you can limit your company’s exposure to post-launch decline by taking proactive and decisive action.
  10. Your competitor is already online with ecommerce or will be soon. Think your competitors aren’t persuing ecommerce? Think again. Think your products prohibit the use of ecommerce (e.g. too heavy, regionally driven, too big)? Think again. Savvy first movers are already online with their B2B products or will be soon. Get moving and launch your ecommerce site sooner rather than later to stay ahead of your competition.