E-commerce is Like Farming: You Reap What You Sow

Embracing e-commerce is easier said than done. Between the technical expertise and the extra workload, distributors are looking for guidance and simplicity.

Farming is a numbers game. The more seeds you plant, the more crops you’ll sow. This philosophy holds true for distributors and manufacturers too. The more distribution channels you set up, the more revenue you’ll see.

Over two thirds of distributors are already participating in e-commerce channels. Clearly there are a lot of customers that prefer online shopping. It’s a good fit for the portion of your customer base that require additional information prior to making a purchasing decision that is based on their own sourcing. And with the prevalence of mobile devise usage, it’s only going to rise. So the question isn’t if you’ll embrace e-commerce channels, but when and how you’ll venture out.

Building your own e-commerce platform is a natural impulse. But have you considered if you have the necessary technical expertise in-house to build an effective platform? And how will you handle steady updates? Technology is always changing, as are your customers’ expectations. If you can’t keep up, you’ll find yourself in hot water fast.

Another popular alternative is to license a ready-made e-commerce platform. It’s a great way to simplify the steep learning curve and the endless customization options make it easy to get something that fits. Of course this option requires a large capital investment, so it’s essential to do your research before getting started.

Another option is to put Amazon to work for you. Although e-commerce giants are commonly viewed as competition, it’s not necessarily the case. E-marketplaces can work as a complementary solution to your own e-commerce platform. They can help you reach new geographic markets or sell direct to consumers. They offer mega exposure, a mature marketplace and proven technologies to make it easy to sell.

Keep in mind that building out an e-commerce presence introduces expectations regarding faster order-to-delivery cycles and order processing. Consumers buying through Amazon or other e-marketplaces are often price-sensitive and have higher expectations for order fulfillment so use it to supplement your other omni-channel buying methods so you don’t start sending your customers to your competitors.

It’s important to embrace how your customers want to do business with you and don’t force them to change. Don’t select a platform and make assumptions that all your customers will openly embrace it. E-commerce is simply one method of many for order automation. You will have other buyers, for example, who require a PO to receive against and will see your e-commerce website as duplicating the effort (entering their order in their own system and again on your website).

No matter what option you choose, investing in e-commerce channels is a strategy that’s sure to payoff. It’s also a wise move to consider an automated sales order management solution to prepare for the impending avalanche of orders. Automation can revolutionize data-flow from purchase orders to the existing ERP system with zero human intervention.