Recent research on the varied growth rates of b2b ecommerce adoption by distributor and wholesale companies throws up some interesting data. Firstly, it shows that around 65% of these businesses have an online sales channel – and around 40% of their sales were transacted digitally. But the study also shows that the proportion of actual ecommerce sales varies dramatically between companies, with nearly 80% of distributors and wholesalers claiming that ecommerce accounted for less than 25% of total sales.
Analysts conclude that there are many reasons why b2b sellers operate an ecommerce website, or a dedicated digital portal for customers – but there are also important reasons why some companies are not accelerating their efforts to prioritise ecommerce sales growth.
For example, in older, more traditional industrial sectors such as HVAC, plumbing and electrical, distributors and wholesalers still often rely on a network of branch outlets, and telephone sales and face-to-face sales to sell and distribute products. At the same time, many small, privately owned companies are often resistant to change and reluctant to commit time, resource and cash to developing a modern ecommerce channel.
In our experience, the blocks to creating or improving an ecommerce presence are often within the organisation, rather than external – perhaps because of the entrenched attitudes of senior executives, or a lack of expertise in ecommerce technology. Wholesalers and distributors also often sell in niche markets where business is based on long-term relationships and personal dealings with account managers or sales reps. In addition, for many, the challenges of moving to ecommerce are compounded by the piecemeal nature of digital transformation in other areas of their organisation.
The wholesalers and distributors we work with have adopted b2b ecommerce as part of a longer-term sales and customer engagement strategy and have invested in best-of-breed technology that offers an exceptional customer experience. As well as seeing their relationships with existing customers improve, these companies have also been able to attract new business through promoting the benefits of a slick, self-service, 24/7 buying experience.
Today’s top performing wholesalers and distributors are running ecommerce systems that deliver a differentiated buying experience and drive sales growth. They’re realising the benefits of features such as real-time visibility into stock availability, account-specific pricing, payment-on-account, order history, and personalised offers. And they’re seeing how moving to an ecommerce platform that integrates with business accounting systems can increase customer satisfaction and enhance loyalty.
Isn’t it time you took a closer look at how your business could benefit from introducing an ecommerce sales channel?