How to solve the biggest hurdles in wholesale digital commerce
Overcoming the key challenges in online ordering for distributors and manufacturers
The opportunity to drive higher margins, improve your competitiveness and provide better service by revamping your digital strategy has never been bigger. In 2019, U.S. manufacturer and distributor total digital sales grew about 10 times faster than total sales. In 2020, the coronavirus has highlighted the need for B2B eCommerce. While total distributor sales are shrinking, B2B eCommerce sales are on course to grow by 10%.
In order for distributors to stay competitive in the future, smart digital strategies designed to meet the demands of today’s buyers are needed. But not all technology investments will have the same impact on your bottom line.
In this article, Second Phase shares the elements of digital strategy that are key to the long term viability of your business.
- Product Information Management: so buyers easily find products
- Self-Service with superior B2B and B2C capabilities
- Robust ERP Integration: to achieve quality omni channel buying experience
- Turnkey and Highly Configurable Solutions: for wide scale adoption
Product Information Management (PIM)
Hurdle: Inconsistent, missing, inaccurate product data and the subsequent inability for buyers to find what they are looking for.
Robust product content is the most critical requirement for ecommerce success because if users cannot find and order your products in the ways that work for them, they will turn away from your web-store. Intuitive access to high quality data (including vast numbers of product SKUs, attributes, variants and required items) is what drives traffic to distributor web-stores. A PIM system is the foundation of managing relevant content and thereby boosting customer engagement and SEO to help grow your business.
The Second Phase PIM tool called ‘Cloud LSI + PIM’ provides a single place to manage an unlimited number of product SKUs and enforces quality, standardization and completion. It synchronizes and indexes data from any source (ERP, Trade Service, eCatalogs, vendors, buyer group content, etc.), and updates your web catalog at any frequency and without any need for translating. The tool automatically discovers product attributes and relationships for intelligent search and gives users the ability to drilldown from category pages, filter based on any data and enable robust key word search. It also can do auto data cleanup to standardize data across multiple vendors (e.g., making ‘V’ the standard for voltage) and perform auto image editing to standardize size, image quality or add graphics to tens of thousands of images with just a few clicks (e.g., add a “Clearance Item” graphic to an image).
|Web-stores are not just for purchasing—more than 90% of B2B buyers start with online research, 67% of B2B purchases are influenced by digital research and by 2021 it is estimated that 55% of B2B buyers will complete half of their work purchases online.|
The Cloud LSI platform gives you the ability to group products together by using rules (i.e., manufacturer = 3M, category = tape) to drive featured products, promotional items, project focused BOM groups, related products and more. You can further increase the discoverability of products by utilizing automatic product recommendations in order to surface substitutes and items typically bought together based on real-time buyer behavior.
Second Phase partners with premier buying groups to include pre-packaged data sets that make updating vast quantities of complex data easier.
The Second Phase PIM significantly minimizes the amount of time it takes distributors to manage their web-stores by making the PIM easy-to-use and providing training, video tutorials and a client success team dedicated to your long-term success.
Enable self-service with superior B2B and B2C capabilities
Hurdles: Manual order taking and customer service methods, paper catalogs, inefficient operations, low margins, inadequate user experience and lack of buying options.
B2B buyers working remotely are increasingly using eCommerce to engage with distributors and to make repeat orders online at their convenience. To stay competitive, distributors and manufacturers need to give buyers the option to self-serve or risk losing them to Amazon, national distributors or local competitors that can meet this demand.
Wholesale buyers are increasingly tech-savvy and are familiar with navigation conventions and user experiences for placing orders. They expect the ease-of-use for all of their ordering to be on par with shopping for personal goods. Web-stores with rich content make it easier for them to find what they need including images, measurements, comparisons, required products, customer reviews, saved carts and live chat. It is also standard to provide a variety of shipping and fulfillment options such as delivery to branch or to pick up at will call.
B2B buying is often more complex. To make a purchase, buyers need to involve multiple people in the process, use the phone and email to consult with salespeople, solicit bids, configure products, use different addresses and checkout options, receive volume-based discounts and see real-time stock levels. They also need all of this in a mobile app. In short, your site must be another sales channel for your organization.
The Second Phase platform presents a consistently high quality omni channel buying experience
handling all the complexities inherent in B2B transactions with the ease-of-use of B2C. Our eCommerce solutions and mobile app are designed to transition buyers from paper catalogs to “self-service” for researching and re-ordering. Sales reps are given the tools to assist customers with complex project configurations from anywhere so they spend less time manually entering orders or performing routine catalog searches.
“Make sure your sales team understands the value in enabling B2B eCommerce technology rather than seeing it as a threat and be fair with how you handle the commission process, making sure to set up incentives for reps to step customers through the process.”Dan Hibbert, Vice President, Hibbert International
The Second Phase technology stack was built from the ground up while working hand in hand with distributors. Every feature is valuable and meets a specific need. Hundreds of unique features and settings set our customers apart in the marketplace, whether at the product data, checkout or account management level.
A B2B/B2C focus is necessary to withstand market forces. Second Phase eCommerce, PIM and mobile app tools provide everything you need to sell online:
- Reorder methods: BOM quick buy, reorder pad, quick pad, saved carts, import purchase order files, repeat past orders and barcode scan
- Account management: all orders from all methods, remote sales management with your sales team, workflows (job management, credit management)
- Multiple storefronts: clearance site, B2C site and sites for your largest customers
- Customer specific pricing, part numbers and visibility into inventory stock at a branch level
- Punchout integrations
- Product configurators (integrated from your largest vendors)
Robust ERP integration
Hurdles: Eliminate selling in siloes. Inability to access account info online. Inconsistent pricing and inventory. Inability to use digital strategy to help build stronger customer relationships across channels.
Robust ERP integration is critical to achieving an integrated and scalable platform that supports all the needs of distributors and manufacturers. Wholesalers often struggle to serve both traditional and digital channels equally well which can result in siloed product, account and order management. Both buyers and employees are less effective if they run into inconsistent pricing and inventory, missing specs, out of date information, duplications and poorly formatted or mis-categorized data.
Seamless ERP integration, on the other hand, reduces costs by minimizing errors, shortening the order fulfillment cycle and providing consistent visibility into stock, order history and accurate customer specific pricing. Additionally, all updates to product information, relationships and categorization in your ERP are instantly made available online.
Second Phase has more than 15 years of experience integrating with the leading wholesale distribution and manufacturing ERPs. Our eCommerce solutions are an extension of your business workflow. Benefits include:
- Complex pricing (quotes, invoices, promotions, reorders and volume discounts)
- Order history including open bids, backorders, monthly statements
- Real time inventory
- Remote sales management – your sales team leveraging the webstore
- Job account management
“We needed a fresh start with a solution that gave us a platform to grow on and featured deep integration with our Eclipse ERP system. Our customers expect to be able to go online, see their account information and our available inventory in real-time and place orders electronically.”Stephanie Kuntz, Marketing Specialist, Palmer-Donavin
Second Phase eCommerce integrates directly with the following ERP solutions for real time pricing, availability, order processing and tracking: Epicor® Eclipse, Epicor® P21, Infor® SXe, Quickbooks® Enterprise/Online and Acumatica®. All other ERP and accounting systems use our batch integration.
Turnkey and Highly Configurable Solution
Hurdle: Short term mindset; not building for wide scale adoption.
Underinvesting in an eCommerce platform or upgrade often backfires. Trying to maintain or host your own hardware and software, or tying together disparate 3rd party applications, can make it difficult to maintain in the long-term and can end up costing more.
Second Phase provides the only cost effective all-in-one, B2B/B2C eCommerce, PIM and Mobile App solution designed for distributors and manufacturers. Our solution is complete, reliable, easily configurable and integrates with your existing infrastructure. Additionally, Second Phase clients receive unlimited, responsive support and ongoing consultation to maximize the long-term success of your web-store.
“I’ve talked to distribution executives who think they can keep customer revenue coming in through other channels even if their website is bad. Increasingly, customers are simply buying from competitors instead.”Ian Heller, Distribution Strategy Group.
Read the blog: Why turnkey works best.
Second Phase brings all of our technological power and know-how to help provide our customers with success. With more than 18 years of experience serving distributors and manufacturers exclusively, our solutions enable our clients to increase margins, improve competitiveness and provide better service. Our parent, Billtrust, takes the customer experience to the next level by providing an automated invoice and payment solution and can even auto apply payments to your ERP.
If you’d like to learn more, please contact us.