What is the overall value of business-to-business (B2B) ecommerce? As a manufacturer or distributor investigating ecommerce, you might be wondering if there is any value in undertaking such an expansive–and potentially expensive–undertaking. To decide whether or not ecommerce is right for your B2B organization, you need to ask yourself the following question:
“What can an integrated ecommerce initiative bring to the table that will provide value for my company?”
Hmmmm. Not sure how to answer that one? If so, you aren’t alone. A lot of manufacturers and distributors know they need ecommerce, but that don’t know why or how it will benefit them–only that it will and that they have to have it. Try answering this question instead:
“What does your company need, right now, to achieve success in 2013?”
I’m guessing that question was a lot easier to answer. You might have answered with one or more of the following:
- More customers.
- Faster order turn around times.
- Fewer mistakes.
- Cost savings.
- Happier customers.
- Competitive advantage.
- A more streamlined order taking process.
- Bigger orders from the customers we already have.
- Inventory and shipping systems that “talk to each other.”
What was your answer? Maybe it wasn’t on the list above or maybe it was, but I guarantee that your answer is telling and can help guide your ecommerce efforts. In fact, your answer to the question is a clear indicator as to why ecommerce is an essential and valuable strategy for your organization.
Most organizations look to ecommerce for one or more of the following reasons:
Increase sales. What company doesn’t want more sales? Whether you want to tap into a new market or get current customers to buy more each time they order, you can leverage ecommerce to grow sales across all channels–not just online sales.
Reach new customers. Have you run out of customers to buy your products? Feel like you’ve saturated your market? Operating in a regionally driven industry and think your customer base has all but dried up? Not so with ecommerce.
Increase brand awareness. If your company needs to recreate its brand identity or you simply need to increase awareness within your key target markets, ecommerce is a powerful way to ensure that potential customers who are searching the web find you before they find your competition.
Streamline order placement. Even though doing so is costly in both time and resources, many manufacturers and distributors still rely on taking orders via phone, email or fax, all of which rely on a human being to enter order information into disparate systems multiple times. Deploying an integrated ecommerce initiative will significantly streamline how orders are placed and processed, resulting in faster order turn around times and fewer errors.
Eliminate costly duplication of effort. There’s nothing that is a bigger waste of time and money than duplication of effort. Doing the same action multiple times on each order means that you are nibbling away at your profit with each repetition. Integrated ecommerce will eliminate the need to duplicate effort and will keep more of your profit in your pocket–where it belongs.
Reduce errors. Speaking of duplication of effort, because human beings make mistakes, every time an action–such as entering customer order information into multiple systems for the same order–is repeated, the chance of a mistake being made increases. Integrated ecommerce eliminates the possiblity of those errors being made by one of your staff members. Additionally, ecommerce puts the responsibility for order correctness squarely on the customer’s shoulders, ensuring that your team is not responsible if the incorrect item is ordered.
Reduce call volume and stress on customer service department. A strategic and customer-centric ecommerce initiative will virtually eliminate calls to your customer service department asking, “Where’s my order?” Through customer-focused design and self-service access to order history, order tracking and account status, ecommerce can easily eliminate the most mundane of customer service calls and free up customer service representatives to handle more substantial queries.
In summary, ecommerce is an incredibly valuable tool for manufacturers and distributors looking to increase sales, marketplace visibility and brand awareness, cut costs and eliminate efforts. If any of these goals are important to your organization’s growth and on-going success, implementing an integrated ecommerce initiative in 2013 should be one of your top priorities.
To learn more about how make your B2B ecommerce initiative as successful as possible, download the white paper, B2B Ecommerce Success – Seven Questions to Consider When Beginning an Ecommerce Initiative.