Distributors must know the ins and outs of global e-commerce in order to take advantage of it to expand their business and streamline operations.
Building a strong online presence isn’t as simple as just implementing an e-commerce solution. You have to know what you’re trying to accomplish, how you can achieve it and what to do to get the most out of your e-commerce platform.
A recent post on the Internet City blog highlights several benefits of global e-commerce. It can help businesses reach their target audience without physical or time boundaries. Products are available for review and purchase at any time, regardless of business hours, and e-commerce provides for expansion in a scalable and secure way, the article says.
But you’ve got to do it right. Here are three common e-commerce issues that distributors struggle with.
- Not having an e-commerce strategy: Generally, when you’re implementing e-commerce, you don’t want to do it in a vacuum. You want to consider the total business needs of the whole organization and not just e-commerce needs. You should have clear goals and objectives and key performance indicators (KPIs) to measure success.
Not having a plan leads to reactive actions that don’t support long-term goals. Part of your strategy should also include getting buy-in from top-level management. When launching e-commerce, it would make sense to consider your typical customer or a target customer profile and determine how you can meet their needs.
As far as pricing goes, there are two different strategies you can take. Customers will consider one of two factors when deciding which companies to purchase from: price and reputation, or the trust factor. Those in the first category go after the lowest price, and they don’t care much about anything else. Then, there are customers who are willing to pay a little bit more if they know they’re going to receive good service and quality products from a reputable company.
One electronics vendor found that it could actually employ both strategies by setting up two different websites. One offered the lowest price possible, while the other had slightly higher prices and was focused on building its reputation and receiving positive reviews. Both were successful because they appealed to the two different types of customers.
But without face-to-face interaction, how do you ensure you provide a great customer experience? It comes down to things like shipping orders on time, making sure they are correct and responding to complaints quickly.
It’s essentially based on the same qualities you use to rate a seller on eBay or Amazon. Did the seller ship in a timely manner? Was the order correct? Was it damaged when it arrived? Did the seller answer your questions quickly and correctly? Does the seller have a good return policy? All of those factors impact customer experience and customer satisfaction.
- Not having front-end systems like the website or global e-commerce system integrated with the back-end ERP system: When e-commerce is not integrated with the back-end systems, you don’t really have an easy way of managing those front-end systems with updated data, such as changes to availability, pricing and product description. Not having that integration increases costs because you have to move the data from one system into another either through importing or data entry, and that can potentially reduce accuracy.
- Ignoring the mobile market: It’s surprising how many companies have an e-commerce website, but they don’t have a mobile-ready platform. The screen on mobile devices is obviously a lot smaller than the screen on a regular PC or laptop. A website that’s designed for a desktop or laptop will not be very readable on mobile devices.
There needs to be two different user interfaces, one for mobile and one for desktops and laptops. If mobile users can’t easily view your website on their mobile device, they’re going to leave quickly.
Many sites don’t even allow for customers to make a transaction on a mobile device. They’ll have product information but not the ability to make orders or interact with the company. It’s a big mistake, because the mobile market is here to stay and it’s growing.
The benefits of e-commerce on mobile devices make it well worth the investment. According to a post on the Onbile blog, shopping on mobile devices saves time, provides consumers with the full range of products and eliminates scheduling constraints.
In the end, distributors can find much success if they develop a global e-commerce strategy, integrate the front-end systems with ERP and go after the burgeoning mobile market.