I can admit it, I like to shop. I don’t shop for myself; I like to shop for my family. Christmas around the corner? I am geared up and will have my shopping done by Thanksgiving. Birthday soon? I am all over it. Anniversary, awesome, I look forward to it, bring it on. I look at gift buying as a challenge to pick something that is not only useful and thoughtful, but something the recipient didn’t realize they wanted or needed. Having said that, you may think I’m like a teenager, spending my free time at the mall, not true, I have not been to a mall in ages. I do all of my shopping in my sweats from my basement office. As I browse web sites and comparison shop and look for that inspired gift, I have come to realize that a good web site can be a differentor for distributors today.
Distributors are dealing with a new kind of customer who is socially networked, well informed and empowered through ability to interact directly with other customers. This is a transformational trend that is dramatically changing the way distributors need to approach customer relationships. There is a need to look beyond traditional supplier/customer relationship. This is both an opportunity and a threat. The ability to incorporate e-commerce into your business plan will be key for success for distributors going forward.
Most distributors say that what sets them apart is the value they add to the product sale, whether that's knowledge, aftermarket service or something else. Many also believe that value can't be translated through e-commerce. I have also heard that a website will hurt margins because “I am forced to post my lowest price”. I say that is just talk from someone who is not ready to embrace how business is going to be done in the future.
The primary goal of a web shop should be to turn the Internet into a profitable sales and interaction channel that delivers convenience and satisfaction to business partners and end consumers. A good web site helps achieve this goal by providing a common platform that supports multi-channel customer self-service interactions across E-Commerce, E-Marketing, and E-Service.
E-commerce provides an opportunity for companies to provide superior service. If you think about the core value propositions of leading distributors; availability, reliability and efficiency – all of those characteristics can be enhanced through a well-designed e-commerce system. The key is to make sure you're giving customers access to relevant information and a personalized experience. They want to see the prices that are part of their agreements, not just the standard price. That makes it easier for the customer to do business with you.
To stay competitive, companies must be able to optimize the conversion of online engagements into profitable interaction at every stage in the buying cycle.
As always, I have enjoyed our time together, I hope I have given you insight into what needs to be done for e-commerce going forward. Change is here and forward thinking distributors need to embrace it and use it to their advantage, because if they don’t, their competitors will.
Mike Wise is the Industry Principal for Wholesale Distribution at SAP America. He is a wholesale distribution technology and operations leader with over twenty years of comprehensive experience in distribution and logistics environments, executing operational improvement strategies through technology. He focuses on enabling efficient distributor operations with SAP for Wholesale Distribution solutions