eCommerce for Distributors: 4 Things You Need to Get Right

If you're starting the process for launching your distribution or wholesale eCommerce storefront, where do you need to focus? There are so many competing priorities, features and tasks that all require your attention. How can you organize and make the right decisions to ensure success? Distributors can feel trapped between technology, resources and investment and launching an eCommerce storefront requires a bit of thought and planning.

Which platform will enable the selling and service functions your customers need? How can you upgrade that platform to suit your business? In our experience, distributors should focus on the following four areas to ensure their eCommerce integration meets their needs.

1. Launch & Learn Faster

What’s the worst situation to be caught in? Really needing an eCommerce presence but being caught with one “in-progress”, missing deadlines and letting the competition pass you by. What’s more, you’re investing all that time, energy and investment without knowing if you’re building the right thing. 

So, the first thing you need to get right is the fact that you’re not going to get it right. Period. The first launch isn’t the end of the process, it’s the beginning. The faster your team can get the initial storefront live, you can begin to learn, tweak and improve results.  

Ideally, you’ll have a fast eCommerce launch that allows you to get your storefront and product catalog up and running quickly. Many types of eCommerce platforms require you to spend excessive time coordinating your commerce engine with your existing web presence, importing products and figuring out integrations. It eventually works – but it requires substantial investments of time and resources to make everything happen.

Instead, companies should look for commerce solutions that are more flexible in nature. Some commerce platforms can be set up as a standalone storefront, flexible frontend layouts, or as a link off your existing site – giving you options in how you set up your storefront. Look for options that let you sell exactly the way you want and offer a seamless launch experience for your storefront.

Determine where to place your launch priorities and backlog as much else as possible. How can the storefront work for you? Besides selling, what are the other functions are you going to need or require in that initial launch? What can be backlogged?

Key Takeaways:

  • The faster you launch, the faster you can start learning about your customer's habits online. The sooner you launch, the sooner you can tweak and get it right.
  • Faster launches are usually* cheaper because they’ve taken less time to build and some corners were cut deliberately.
  • What exactly do you want to launch with? Can the design be stripped down? Product catalog limited to specific brands or lines? What functions do you need to deliver for your customers?

2. Product Focus

Once your storefront is set up, your next area of focus should be your products. Backed by commerce platforms that allow you to sell the way you want, distributors have more options than ever to personalize their storefronts to their customers’ needs. For example, consider how distributors can leverage ongoing subscription sales features to support their customer relationship management goals.

Look at your product catalogs and see which options are selling the best. Prioritize these products in your commerce experience by highlighting them in your storefront. Place them front and center to encourage customers to consider them. If possible, consider adding unique offers to your best-selling items, such as discounts or additional promotions to further encourage sales. When a certain product is established, use your commerce platform to offer recurring subscriptions that keep them on the hook. Provided that you have the right commerce platform backing you, this type of reordering function will be easy to set up and easy to include in your recurring subscription catalog.

Of course, these tools can help attract new customers as well. But for distributors, the game is customer retention and long-term loyalty. Make it easy for your favorite clients to re-order parts, accessories, or supplementary items as needed. This system is the easiest way for B2B distributors to boost customer retention and build stronger relationships across the board.

Remember, your commerce platform should make it easy to set up re-ordering functions, recurring orders, or full-fledged subscription plans, no matter what the products are. Distributors can use these tools to drive repeat business from their existing customers and offer better, more personalized service to each client.

3. Customer Focus

Who you’re selling to is just as important as the products you sell. You likely have a portfolio of clients, each with different needs and preferences, which you should use to your advantage. Look at your customer base and see who your top performers are.

As a seller, who should your focus be built towards? Who is your primary target? When you’re just launching focus on building adoption of the B2B environment with your existing customers. They’re already familiar with you and have purchased before so there’s some history there, use it to your advantage. If you can’t convert any existing customers to online - you’re doing something wrong. 

For those existing customers, focus on what you can do, offer or make available to make doing business with you easier. Often times, those actions you can take have nothing to do with selling, but are centered around customer service. 

Information display (“Who is my sales rep?”), account history (“When did I place that last order?”) to immediate order based information (“Where is that order I just placed?”) are critical to delivering the basics of the experience your customers are looking for. Beyond those information based aspects of the platform, realize that there are also pieces of functionality you can incorporate, such as a quick reordering, online bill payment and subscriptions options. Think about how these users might want to use your storefront, and adjust accordingly. 

These details are important to consider no matter what type of eCommerce storefront you’re setting up, so make sure your platform enables these functions.

4. Back Office Integration

Your eCommerce platform can’t sit alone in isolation as an island of data and service. You have to incorporate it into your entire business to make anything work. Essential business processes and data are critical to your eCommerce experience, even if they don’t affect the customers directly. Common backend functions include the following:

  • Administrative control features
  • Warehousing and inventory management
  • Payment processing and verification
  • Order management
  • Shipping and fulfillment
  • Customer service and support

Ideally, you’ll have as strong of a backend integration as possible with as little intervention or manual involvement as possible. Your goal is to integrate these functions seamlessly within your eCommerce system without needing to add too many plugins or third-party integrations. With a flexible eCommerce platform behind you, you’ll have no trouble setting up an online experience that’s quick, efficient, and adaptable to your needs.

Slatwall’s B2B Kickstart Makes Your Launch Simple

With the above in mind, consider how platforms like our B2B eCommerce Kickstart launch kit makes it easy for B2B distributors to establish an eCommerce web storefront and customer portal, and quickly start selling online. With the right strategy behind you, you’ll be able to set up a flexible system that lets you sell exactly how you want – and that grows over time to continue supporting your company as the revenue rolls in.

To learn more about our platform, contact us at Slatwall for a rundown of the solutions our platform can bring to your business.

 

 

 

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