Friday, April 4, 2014

How distributors can compete against

Distributors looking to fend off Amazon need to make sure to have an e-commerce plan that offers sufficient products and excel at customer service, by ensuring that your e-commerce solution is deeply integrated to inventory, pricing and customer data you can offer a completely personalized online shopping experience that will surpass anything Amazon can provide. 

To succeed you need the right tools
Our Remotenet B2B Ecommerce Suite gives you the tools to compete.

Amazon recently announced a new branch called Amazon Supply that aims to take on the role that distributors have been doing for decades.  It’s an intriguing new possibility, with the site being built with many of the same consumer-facing features, such as detailed product information and ease of use, and online ordering that have driven Amazon's success. 
Amazon Supply’s stated goal is “to provide earth’s largest, easiest-to-research, discover, and access selection of professional products required to support the maintenance, repair, operations, and project needs of business and professional customers.”

 The site offers competitive prices, fast shipping and a large selection of more than 1,250,000 products, including everything from office equipment to lab and scientific items for businesses. But distributors need to think ahead and prepare for how these changes  will affect their operations, and how it will change the way that businesses buy and sell from each other. 

There are a lot of companies that are worried about losing business to Amazon Supply, and rightfully so. In a recent study by Acquity Group on millennials, statistics showed that 90 percent of buyers age 18-35 purchase online, 63 percent have ordered from Amazon Supply at least once and 40 percent purchase frequently from Amazon Supply. These statistics are significant and are present in other age demographics as well, with lower statistics as the age increases. So, this is both a wake-up call and a rallying cry for businesses to establish their own e-commerce presence.

Everyone says customers want an Amazon-like experience. 
But what are some of the key elements of what makes that experience? 
Ease of buying? 
Extensive Product Images? 

My thoughts are that B2B buyers not only want a B2C-like customer-centric experience that is intuitively designed and loaded with rich content and interactive functionality, but they also want their B2B business process, policies, and programs from the distributor reflected in the site.

From a B2C features standpoint, that would certainly include merchandising tools like product comparisons, customer reviews, buying lists for future shopping trips, custom pricing and robust search capabilities.

From a B2B standpoint, customers are looking for tools that allow them to streamline and automate their purchase order processing. Punchout , for example allow a buyer to access your web site from their e-procurement system, which can eliminate double-entry of orders. Order workflow with multiple levels of purchasing approval, request for quote, customer administration and budget/contract management are other key features now coming into prominence that can differentiate your company and your offering.

The first thing companies can do to compete against Amazon is to not try to be Amazon. If you read the recently published “The Everything Store: Jeff Bezos and the Age of Amazon you will learn that even Amazon only focuses on the customer, not the competitor, in an effort to provide what customers need and want, when and how they want it. 

If they order an Otoscope don't forget the bulbs!! 
So listen to your customers and customize the site and tools to their experience, work with your customers to design a website specific to them.  Ensure that your e-commerce solution is deeply integrated to inventory, pricing and customer data including order history purchasing quantities and units of measure, Kitted items and common sense shopping. 

Although Amazon Supply has some clear advantages in the world of e-commerce, wholesaler and distributors  alike still have an edge over the newcomer: Your established B2B customer relationships, product knowledge and expertise, and a considerably wider product assortment within their vertical.

By leveraging each of these advantages, both manufacturers and distributors will be able to combat the impact of the Amazon Supply strategy and continue to grow their business in the future.

For more information on TSH or MDS call The Systems House, Inc. at 1-800- MDS-5556.
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