E-commerce is now a standard element of almost every business’ sales strategy. Today, both business to business (B2B) and business to consumer (B2C) companies, are expected to have an online shopping feature on their sites to increase their market reach.

Although e-commerce is now a required investment, a 2016 Modern Distribution Management (MDM) study found that in the world of distribution, customers still prefer traditional purchasing methods, with 74% of respondents choosing to email their purchase orders (POs). This may be due in large part to the challenges B2B customers face when using e-commerce, notably the duplication of effort required to place their orders.

With their own internal processes in place, B2B customers must create a PO in their own system before beginning the purchasing process. Email ordering allows them to simply attach a copy of this PO and click send. But to use their supplier’s e-commerce site requires substantially more effort. They must first create their PO before going online, log in, find and choose the parts needed, start a shopping cart, make sure pricing matches their records and then finally place their order. With large wholesale purchases to make typically involving hundreds, if not thousands of complex line items, it is easy to see why buyers shy away from ordering online.

While distributors had hoped this objection would pass once the millennial generation of computer-savvy buyers entered the industry, the MDM study further indicates that this is simply not the case, with 71% of respondents under 25 and 52% of respondents between 26 and 35 still preferring to place their orders by email.

Bridging the Gap

So, with this reluctance to duplicate effort, how can you leverage your e-commerce investment without disrupting your customers? The answer is simple – sales order automation. While many see this technology as an e-commerce competitor, it can be integrated into your platform with significant benefits:

1. Cut down on customer effort: No company wants to become a burden to their customers. At least not if they want to stay in business. Asking them to double their workload for your benefit is completely unacceptable. Treating email orders like standard electronic documents, sales order automation captures complex PO data with 100% accuracy and zero need for human intervention. When integrated with e-commerce technology, order data is then directed through the same channel as online orders and into your ERP system for delivery. Your customers can continue doing business as usual, while your customer service staff avoid error-prone, time-intensive manual order entry.

2. Enhance customer’s experience: Whether order tracking or pricing alerts, everyone enjoys the perks of e-commerce. Since sales order automation technology can send email orders through your e-commerce platform, it gives your email customers access to the same features as your online users, offering greater visibility into their ordering process and uniquely enhancing their experience with your company.

3. Simplify & accelerate order processing: From email to e-commerce, to phone and fax, your customer service staff face a difficult challenge monitoring all your ordering channels. No wonder that processing speeds are slow and errors common. By combining sales order automation and e-commerce technology, email and online orders can be merged into one workflow. Your staff can process orders and resolve issues in one location ensuring your customers receive exactly what they ordered on time, every time.

4. Boost sales capabilities: With the majority of your customers emailing their POs, you miss out on a key sales opportunity – product recommendations.By connecting e-commerce and sales order automation, you can track your email customers’ order details. Once an order is placed, an email can be automatically sent with customized suggestions for other products your customer may find interesting.

Ultimately, in our fast-moving, omni-channel world, efficiency is king. Businesses today must cost-effectively optimize workflow and productivity or face falling behind in the fierce competition to deliver the best customer experience. By integrating sales order automation into your e-commerce platform, you can package the two technologies together, attributing the benefits of their combined powerful features into one spend. Maximizing efficiency, visibility and processing speeds, this formidable technology combination will ensure you stay ahead of the competition.