Over the last few years, the rapid acceleration of B2B businesses being online and having a strong eCommerce presence has stunned the industry. What eCommerce platforms work best for industrial distributors, and how can your team select the right one for your business?
Working with strong eCommerce solutions allows your business to apply current marketing trends and meet the needs of consumers in the digital market. However, knowing which software solutions make the most sense can be a complicated affair.
We’ve assisted our industrial distributor members as businesses begin to see increased sales and profits online. Today, we’re here to share more about e-commerce platforms and how you can utilize them effectively for your business.
How eCommerce is Changing The Game
Along your entire supply chain and management course, from manufacturing to end product delivery, digital solutions can be added to your workflow to improve your business. Industrial distributors have recognized the value of eCommerce platforms and strategies, and now you have to go digital to keep up with the competition.
eCommerce brings unique business opportunities to both manufacturers and distributors, and we’ve yet to see all the ways that it may affect the industry.
Customer demands are also a big part of why eCommerce solutions are becoming so crucial to the industrial distribution industry today. Customers expect to be able to access a wealth of information about your products and inventory online as well as the ability to complete a transaction easily, and your software needs to meet those expectations.
Experts familiar with the industry can tell you just how important it is to move toward business models that deeply integrate eCommerce functions. Investing in a digital future will only make your business more robust in the years to come.
The Top Benefits of eCommerce for Industrial Distributors
- Increased ROI from improved workflow management, warehouse management, and sales processing.
- Improved data collection about customers, their needs, and how to better meet those needs with your marketing strategies.
- Proven savings from digital marketing strategies that allow lower costs through new channels.
- Better tools to manage performance through website analytics, which help you improve specific and detailed parts of your sales funnel.
What eCommerce Platforms Work Best For Industrial Distributors?
While there are many eCommerce platforms out there, there are four that are commonly used by industrial distributors. Each of these platforms has its own benefits and drawbacks, and your business may find a better commerce solution in another platform altogether.
Still, learning about what is unique and beneficial about these four eCommerce platforms can help your business gain a better idea of what to expect when choosing software that works for you.
Shopify is a subscription eCommerce platform that can work for businesses of any size. The robust backend can handle even large enterprise needs. Services like security and maintenance are included to varying degrees depending on what type of package is selected. There is also a high degree of developer and API support for this platform.
The admin tools on Shopify have a low learning curve, and there are various plan options to choose from. However, specific processes hosted on Shopify cannot be customized, such as the checkout process. If your business would find better success with these areas customized, it may be best to look elsewhere.
Adobe-backed eCommerce platform Magento is now considered the top alternative to Shopify for many businesses, and it’s not hard to see why. Though this open-source platform requires your team to have a dedicated developer for the most effective use, its functionality is nearly limitless.
Using Magento, your team can construct shared databases, multiple storefronts, and a variety of other interconnected pieces that would be difficult to manage on similar eCommerce platforms. Industrial distributors with complex supply chains and that need a high degree of customization to manage their business are more likely to find success with Magento.
WooCommerce is a simple, WordPress-based platform that is incredibly popular for businesses taking their first step into the digital world. The ease of using WooCommerce extensions alongside plug-ins for the supporting site makes it easy to learn, manage, and maintain.
However, WooCommerce is most effective when working with a dedicated website developer and a top-tier WordPress hosting service, so it can still be a money-intensive service. Many working pieces must be pulled together for WooCommerce to work most effectively, and this can lead to great customization opportunities as well as some frustrations.
Finally, some industrial distributors rely on BigCommerce, which is available in a subscription model or as a standalone tool. This eCommerce platform allows many staff members to be added to the tool, and it also supports selling through multiple channels like Amazon, eBay, and more.
However, this tool is more limited in its functionality and needs to be upgraded if you make over a certain amount in sales. This can make businesses with an eye for growth hesitant to use the tool as they cannot accurately budget for their expenses.
NetPlus ECommerce Solutions
Spinstak Growth Agency, one of our business service providers, offers B2B eCommerce solutions for distributors as well. Their configurable, intuitive platform will set your online store apart from the rest and their services will help you better capitalize on traditional and digital sales channels.
Choosing The Right Platform For Your Business
Finding the right eCommerce solution for manufacturing and industrial distribution is not always a straightforward affair. Even though eCommerce platforms are being implemented more rapidly than ever before, that doesn’t make the process of choosing which service makes sense for your business any easier.
You know that you need to integrate into the B2B eCommerce market to keep up with the competition, but do you know how to choose the right platform for your business? The platform must fit in as part of a larger eCommerce strategy for success.
Here are some essential things to consider to ensure you create high-quality experiences for all of your B2B buyers.
Consider Your Budget
One of the first things you should do when choosing an eCommerce solution is to consider how much your business can afford to invest in developing this channel. There’s no doubt that it is a high-priority investment, but that doesn’t mean that funds are unlimited.
Knowing what can be invested upfront, you can shop for solutions that will allow you to get the tools you need without going over budget.
Rank Important Factors
We’ll go into more detail about some of these factors below, but first, consider which eCommerce tools will be most important for your business. Make a list, in order of priority, of what is a must for your business from the following.
- Shipping rule management
- Ability to integrate with existing processes
- Product database construction
- Inventory management
- Server support and maintenance
- Order fulfillment rules and management
- Promotion types
- Product configurations
- Storefront options
- Warehouse and inter-warehouse management
- Payment processing
Most industrial distributors are going to want to be able to integrate some, if not all, of these factors. However, the level of functionality needed for each may be different. By ranking them, you are preparing to choose which type of software makes the most sense for the business’s specific needs.
The most important thing about any eCommerce platform is whether your average customer can use the store, visit the site, or otherwise interact with whatever you are putting out there.
If you plan to include a blog, for example, you’ll want to make sure the marketing content can be nicely formatted. If you plan to have multiple storefronts slotted into one webpage, you want to be sure this is presented to the user in a way that makes sense.
Another thing many business owners forget to consider is that they will need to maintain their platform; simply paying to have it set up is not going to be the end of the investment.
Many eCommerce platforms will need you to set up a dedicated developer to maintain the site or to work with a platform that allocated this type of resource to your team. Admins will need to be trained to utilize the backend, add inventory, and make other adjustments as needed.
Make sure that any tool you choose is something your admins will be able to handle or consider that you will need to hire specifically for this new sector of your business.
Maintenance, Protection, and Hosting
Finally, consider if you are prepared to provide protected server space or if you will use a fully hosted platform. Websites need to be protected from bots and hackers to prevent malicious attacks on their business or their customers’ information. Additionally, all eCommerce platforms will require occasional maintenance that may or may not be included with your service.
Beyond The Platform: eCommerce Solutions For Manufacturing
As you can see, learning about different eCommerce platforms is a complicated affair, and yet, it is vital that you go even further beyond just choosing a platform. To make sure that your B2B platform is as effective as possible, you also want to ensure that you have the right eCommerce and digital marketing strategies in place to support your investment.
Learning about eCommerce strategy can be overwhelming, especially when you first enter the online space or expand to new channels. When you join our industrial supplies buying group, you can learn from similar companies who have experience in your field, which is the best way to keep growing. Contact us today to learn more and get started!