E-commerce is both the greatest opportunity and most difficult challenge you will ever face as a distributor. There is more information in e-commerce distribution than you could possibly realize, and the potential for growth of your business is exponential. However, e-commerce can be scary and unforgiving. Fortunately, you can improve your chances of success by understanding the top 10 things or best practices, reports Leslie Hansen Harps of Inbound Logistics, every distributor should know about e-commerce.
1. Mobile E-Commerce Distribution Is Real.
Mobile e-commerce distribution is not simply an ideal; it is a fact. The majority of online shopping is through smartphones and apps, and your company needs to leverage this by providing services to those companies who have app-based and mobile-optimizing shopping environments for their customers.
2. B2B E-Commerce Is King.
As a distributor, most of your customers are actually businesses. In the modern supply chain, you are going to need to realign your business strategy with partnering businesses. In other words, you need to transition to a business-to-business strategic partner and services provider.
3. AmazonSupply.com Is Your Biggest Threat.
AmazonSupply.com, reports Insite Software, is one of your biggest threats to maintaining a role in the distribution network. Amazon has flooded the market with products, and now, the company is doing the same process to flood the supply chain. You need to consider that some of your business will be lost to AmazonSupply.com, and you need to work to encourage your customers to stay with your company. However, do not be discouraged when some clients or customers decide to abandon ship in favor of Amazon.
4. Overseas Manufacturing Is Not the Solution to E-Commerce Distribution Problems.
Overseas manufacturing is more like opening a can of worms than opening doors if you plan on only selling your products in the U.S., reports Sean Ogle. While some overseas manufacturing can help your company, more customers are turning to products manufactured in the U.S., and this mindset is only growing stronger with the 2016 election. In another scenario, the 2016 election could have serious consequences for companies making products overseas, so today’s distributors need to focus on products manufactured in the U.S. as a priority. Ultimately, not counting on overseas manufacturing of products for sale in the U.S. can act as a safety net for today’s distributors.
5. You Need to Focus on the Customer Experience.
The customer experience is one of the greatest problems in meeting the demands of an e-commerce driven world. According to Bob Trebilcock of Logistics Management, clients are focusing more on cycle time, and as a distributor, your ability to get products out equal to, if not faster than, Amazon can be the determining factor in if your customers or clients continue to work with your company. The key to making this practice work is by giving your clients options. For example, offer shipping options that range from two days to one week. Some customers will not mind the week, but those who need it sooner have the ability to get it sooner.
6. E-Commerce Is Ongoing and Continually Evolving.
E-commerce distribution is not static; it is always evolving and growing in scope. More small businesses are entering the realm of e-commerce daily, and your competitors are waiting for the chance to pounce. You need to be proactive in getting your company in front of customers and other businesses. Even if business seems to be booming, you still need to work on marketing for e-commerce consumers because some time in the future the number of customers you currently have could change dramatically, and you need a backup plan.
7. Align Distribution Strategy With Information and Insights From Analytics.
Use analytics to stay informed of how your business needs to adapt to the needs of e-commerce B2B businesses. Your strategy needs to align with the strategies of your B2B clients, and you should be willing to use this information to create new ideas and ways of working to give your clients the best rates and services possible.
8. Increase Your Visibility Through Advanced Shipping Notification (ASN).
An advanced shipping notification (ASN) helps to keep your carriers happier and engaged by notifying them when you are about to ship a specific purchase order. This gives them a time to expect arrival of the product, and you can include all of the relevant information on the ASN for your shipment. Ultimately, this keeps the supply chain effective and connected.
9. Hold Vendors Accountable.
Some vendors will ignore your processes and refuse the common decencies of business. As a distributor, you need to hold vendors accountable. If a vendor does not meet your expectations or adhere to the rules and guidelines in your company, create a way of encouraging adherence. This can be a suspension or other form of penalty. Advise the vendor that future occurrences could result in the dissolution of the B2B relationship. However, you must be reasonable in your rules and requests.
10. You Still Need to Manage the Returns Process.
E-commerce distribution is going to inherently result in more returns than brick-and-mortar shopping. Customers may order the wrong size, incorrect color or wrong product. You need to be prepared to handle a flow of goods back into your warehouse and distribution network from your customers, and nearly all online retailers offer free shipping on returns. As a result, you need a system to manage the whole returns process and print out return shipping labels for customers on-demand.
Your education on e-commerce does not here. E-commerce is also evolving, and today’s insights may not necessarily reflect what tomorrow may bring. Rather than simply hoping for the best, you need to leverage the information found in these 10 factors to provide better service and products than your competitors. Ultimately, you can get more customers than you could have dreamed through e-commerce, but turning a blind-eye to e-commerce can spell your doom.