A Guide to B2B eCommerce for Distributors
The growing popularity of eCommerce is proving favorable to distributors.
According to Statista[i], around 10% of distributors stated that they generated 80-100% of their revenues through B2B eCommerce in 2020.
Today, almost two-thirds of distributors have an online sales channel. A survey report[ii] suggests that eCommerce sales are projected to top $1 trillion by 2022.
While these numbers look tempting, leveraging this to accelerate growth requires distributors to have a stellar online presence and a foolproof distribution strategy.
With B2B commerce involving complex buying processes and multiple stakeholders, from C-suite to procurement and finance teams, managing a full-fledged eCommerce store for distributors is not easy.
In this article, we’ll discuss how B2B distributors can take advantage of eCommerce to grow their reach and business.
Why Do Distributors Need eCommerce?
According to a report by Merit[iii], 73% of B2B buyers are now millennials. And millennials engage in the B2B buying process with the same expectations as B2C shopping. They prefer immediate ways of research, evaluation, and purchase instead of the traditional in-person meetings, demos, and sales calls.
Hence, distributors need to adopt newer ways of business interactions. B2B eCommerce provides them with the much-needed agility and capability to offer highly exceptional customer experiences.
An online store allows them to serve their customers at the right time and in the right way to boost their engagement and conversions. Additionally, it helps distributors to enhance their digital presence and target a wider customer base to fuel business growth.
Advantages of B2B Distributor eCommerce
With B2B consumers increasingly going digital, establishing a solid eCommerce presence offers significant advantages to distributors. Some of these include-
Simplified Information Sharing:
Make it easy for customers to find the information they are looking for regarding your niche and the products you’re selling.
Personalized B2B Experiences:
Offer tailored experiences to specific customer groups that match their interests and needs.
Better Customer Service:
Provide effective service to customers with 24/7 availability of solutions for their queries.
Faster Speed and Scaling:
Quickly introduce new products and services to scale operations.
Higher Brand Awareness:
Enhance your business presence through a range of online channels to improve customer trust and loyalty.
Lower Operating Costs:
Provide self-service options and reduce manual labor by automating several processes and tasks.
Common Challenges for B2B Distributors
Despite its various benefits, distributors face significant challenges in the eCommerce space that hold them back. Some of these include:
Owing to a diverse customer base and complicated buying process, B2B distributors have to deal with a lot of tricky processes, including varying payment and shipping options, inventory management, customers with special terms and agreements, etc.
B2B buying is not as quick and straightforward as B2C. It includes some technical requirements such as:
- Request to pay via purchase order
- Integration of punchout solution with buyer’s procurement application
- Secure payment gateways
Team Culture & Skills:
Moving to digital means an organizational change. A whole new buying experience is introduced in the business model that most sales reps are not familiar with. Furthermore, it increases the IT workload which requires a sizable investment in itself.
eCommerce Requirements for Distributors
Some of the major requirements of B2B distributors’ eCommerce are:
Advanced Search Capabilities
Since distributors deal with a ton of products, product discovery becomes a challenge for their customers. To resolve this, B2B distributors must integrate an advanced and intuitive search functionality into their online store that offers fast and accurate results to enhance the browsing experience.
Besides technical information, your buyers may want other helpful resources to better understand your brand, products, and services. By providing them with additional content resources, you can help them easily navigate your digital platform and make the purchasing process smooth.
Personalized Product Recommendations
According to research, 50% of B2B buyers consider personalization as a key factor in deciding which suppliers they want to associate with. By using customer data and the right technology, distributors can optimize their online experiences for personalization features such as offering similar and related products and recommendations.
With B2B buyers getting pickier, a legacy system can be a real pain for eCommerce distributors. Hence, it’s important to select a modern eCommerce platform that not only serves your current needs but is also scalable as your business grows.
Building a B2B Distributor eCommerce Platform
Building a successful distributor eCommerce platform is a challenging process. Here’s a step-by-step breakdown of the same to help you build your own digital space.
Determine Project Requirements
First and foremost, define your market niche, target audience, and business strategy. Analyze your competitors to determine your unique value proposition. Accordingly, structure your catalog and plan for fulfillment, payment, and customer service.
Define Store Goals
Your business size and revenue will define your eCommerce store goals. Start with clear objectives and metrics to measure your ROI and evaluate your eCommerce success. Double down on what’s working and optimize what’s not. Streamline your operations and processes.
Select eCommerce Technology
Picking the right tech stack is crucial to building and scaling your online store. Take time to understand important technical aspects or get some expert assistance. Compare your options carefully with regard to the cost and technology sustainability.
Build a Team
Building, running, and maintaining an eCommerce store requires teamwork. So, you’ll need various team members to take care of the different processes of your online business. This will include:
- Project Manager
- Front-end Developer
- Back-end Developer
- Content Creator
- ERP Expert
- Digital Marketer
Must-Have Features for B2B Distributor eCommerce Platform
To manage different business aspects effectively, your eCommerce store must have some essential functionalities. Some of these are:
Product Information Management (PIM)
Manage your entire catalog from a centralized hub with built-in quality control and digital asset management.
Content Management System (CMS)
Effortlessly create, organize, and publish content with the help of the WYSIWYG editor and drag-and-drop tools.
Streamline the purchasing process with saved shopping carts, quick checkouts, and flexible payment options.
Search & Navigation
Let your customers easily find what they are looking for with fast and intelligent search capabilities and easy navigation.
Track customer behavior and measure KPIs with intuitive dashboards and reports to improve conversions.
Enhance your platform capabilities by integrating with third-party systems like CRM, ERP, payment gateways, maps, and more.
Security & Support
Protect your eCommerce store from malicious attacks by implementing top-notch security measures. Ensure error-free operations with on-demand technical support.
Fast Reorder and Bulk Order
Facilitate quick buying of already purchased goods with a one-click reorder option. Offer bulk buying functionality to allow wholesalers to easily place their orders.
Top B2B Distributor eCommerce Platforms
Now that you’ve got a pretty good picture of what a good distributor eCommerce platform looks like, let’s look at some of the top B2B eCommerce platforms you can choose from.
Shopify Plus is an ideal platform for large distribution businesses. Its simple and beginner-friendly interface is a breeze to use for customers. It offers limitless extensibilities and customization options to offer the best possible shopping experiences.
Magento Commerce is one of the most popular and secure eCommerce platforms for distributors. It comes with rigorous security measures and a comprehensive collection of functionalities such as languages, currencies, tax rates, promotion and discount rates, and SEO support to set up an optimal eCommerce system.
BigCommerce is another great option for B2B distributor eCommerce. It has one of the most straightforward interfaces with mobile-friendly themes and templates. It offers an extensive filtering option with fast performance and customizable features to build a robust eCommerce store.
The rising growth of B2B eCommerce provides a great opportunity for distributors to expand their business. Using the right platform and business strategy, you can effectively capitalize on this new way of doing business to future-proof your operations and improve ROI.
To learn more about B2B eCommerce development for distributors, just drop us a line at [email protected], and we’ll take it from there.
[i] Statista – eCommerce Sales Share
[ii] eMarketer – eCommerce Sales Projection
[iii] Merit – B2B Report Millennials