Essendant’s Girisha Chandraraj explains why the OP industry must update and evolve e-commerce and digital capabilities.
The shift to the digital marketplace is a key factor driving workplace purchases as almost 70% of transactions with independent dealers are made online, a number that will likely continue to grow.
To compete and succeed in the online marketplace, independent dealers, resellers and distributors must focus on updating their digital capabilities and evolving their e-commerce solutions to drive growth and new opportunity.
Trends guiding the user experience
According to an Essendant survey of end users, 89% of customers have purchased products online for personal use in the past 12 months. Although individuals are increasingly comfortable shopping online for their personal lives, the B2C arena currently has an impressive array of digital capabilities that the B2B world has yet to effectively utilize.
It may be another decade until B2B catches up to the current state of B2C, but there are several areas dealers and distributors can and should focus on now. First, the customer does not clearly distinguish between a B2B and B2C user experience – he or she will expect B2B sites to provide a similarly gratifying, convenient online shopping experience as the B2C sites they use for personal purchases.
Next, there are three primary digital capabilities, or key pillars, that are necessary for success in the B2B online marketplace: search, merchandising and marketing. While not particularly complicated from an e-commerce standpoint, a number of resellers are lagging in these areas and quickly losing ground to competitors.
Looking ahead, resellers should also recognize the role that mobile devices play in digital purchasing as 71% of Americans currently own a smartphone and the influence of mobile purchases continues to grow. Resellers that are not prepared to adapt in three to five years may miss out on significant revenue opportunities.
Steps to optimize the user experience
In order to optimize the user experience, resellers should address the following topics:
- Determine your capabilities and resources. Are you able to rely on internal resources or will you need to utilize the capabilities and skills of your partners?
- Evaluate the platform you’re on. Are you using independent or third-party vendors, such as ECi or BMI? This will determine the tools and capabilities that are available to you and what you may need to add or enhance to evolve your digital offering.
- Ensure you have the necessary tools to help you compete. At Essendant, we have a series of tools that can aid across all of the key pillars (search, merchandising and marketing) and capture a wide variety of metrics to enable an optimal digital presence. These metrics allow dealers to better understand areas of weakness or potential opportunities to drive additional growth.
- Engage partners in optimizing tools for your categories and customer base. Partners can aid in maintaining content, testing your site, making sure marketing triggers are launching and making sure emails that go out are triggered against the right events (first purchase, sign up, etc).
The expansion of digital technologies and e-commerce capabilities presents dealers and distributors with an important opportunity that will likely have a significant impact on business in years to come.
By choosing to embrace these technologies, specifically focusing on the key pillars of search, merchandising and marketing, resellers will be able to adapt to the demands of the modern customer and ensure success in the digital marketplace.
Girisha Chandraraj is the Chief Digital Officer at Essendant.