Distributors were badly hurt by the Coronavirus pandemic and lockdowns, and if there is one key takeaway it is how necessary eCommerce software for distributors has become. As customers and businesses were locked down and social distancing restrictions were implemented, customers were forced to resort to eCommerce. As UNCTAD noted this was a turning point for the digital and eCommerce sectors. The convenience, ease of use, and power of eCommerce solutions mean that this will likely be an enduring change even after the pandemic recedes. Distributors that traditionally did not offer eCommerce options will have to adapt. However, the good news is that implementing eCommerce has many benefits for distributors. These are just a few of the benefits of eCommerce software for distributors:
- Opens up new channels
- Can be completely integrated with your ERP system
- Delivers a more satisfying customer experience
- Allows distributors to operate more efficiently
Opens up New Channels
Most distributors in the past focused only on over-the-phone or in-person sales to existing customers. With eCommerce, distributors can now better serve their existing B2B customers and also market their products online and target B2C sales which broaden the customer base. There are two types of eCommerce solutions: (1) online self-service portals targeted at existing B2B customers and (2) online stores.
Online Self-Service Portals
Distributors can implement eCommerce online self-service portals which give existing customers access to all the same functionality that they currently get over the phone or in-person. With an eCommerce online self-service portal, customers get their customer-specific pricing and terms, they can place orders, see order status, run reports, get their statements, pay invoices, etc. For existing customers, this delivers more capabilities and greater flexibility in a much more accessible way.
Distributors can also create online stores on established eCommerce platforms like Magento, Amazon, eBay. Using these platforms, distributors can create their own online stores, do online SEO marketing of their stores and products, to get customers to find their stores, select products, and purchase.
Completely Integrated with your ERP System
Good eCommerce software for distributors needs to be completely integrated with your ERP system. Manual updates of eCommerce solutions are time-consuming and error-prone and should always be avoided. Distributors should be able to manage products, purchasing, and fulfillment of orders from the ERP system and have this automatically update the eCommerce solutions. With this kind of integration, the eCommerce solutions should become just extensions of a distributor’s existing ERP system.
An online self-service portal serves existing B2B customers that need access to their customer-specific, negotiated, complex pricing using contracts, pricing tiers, matrix pricing, etc., as well as credit terms. This typically means that online self-service portals need to be linked directly to the underlying ERP database. Online stores typically have their own databases linked to the ERP database through APIs that sync only products, inventory, and orders.
Delivers a More Satisfying Customer Experience
Sales through eCommerce can deliver an inherently more satisfying experience for customers. In contrast to placing orders over the phone or in person, with eCommerce, customers can see images of the products they buy, they can select exactly what products they want, they can place orders when they want – not just during business hours, they can save and edit their orders, and after they place their orders, they get updated automatically as to the order’s status. Typically, once customers get over the initial hurdle of using eCommerce, this delivers a better customer experience. The Coronavirus pandemic forced many customers onto eCommerce, and it is now hard to see them going back to the old model.
Allows Distributors to Operate More Efficiently
Sales through eCommerce channels are more efficient. When customers enter their own orders online, distributors need fewer order-entry personnel and fewer salespersons. The online orders entered directly by customers are also more likely to be correct than an order-entry clerk entering orders - resulting in fewer errors. In addition, online SEO marketing of your products is likely to be less expensive and far more effective than your salespersons cold-calling potential customers.
Implementing eCommerce Software for Distributors
To achieve the benefits of eCommerce, distributors should look for integrated ERP and eCommerce solutions. Accolent ERP eCommerce software for distributors delivers this integration out-of-the-box. Contact us to see how we can get your eCommerce solutions set up in a matter of days.