ecommerce considerations for disributors

Sell More Online: 10 eCommerce Considerations for Distributors

As our world becomes increasingly digitized, online sales channels are no longer a “nice to have” but a “need to have” for any business looking to make a profit. About 80 percent of surveyed distributors say they have an eCommerce platform, but only around 20 percent of distribution sales are happening online. This may leave you wondering if you should be looking into eCommerce considerations in the first place, and, if you already have an eCommerce platform, why you should be investing in this particular channel.

The reality is, many distributors view their online stores as more of a “digital catalog” than a reliable revenue stream. Their customers will visit their eCommerce website, look around, and even add products to their carts. However, these customers are price shopping with other distributors or adding products to their cart but never following through on the purchase.

Global eCommerce sales are projected to bring in more than $8 billion by 2026, and distributors that are not utilizing the untapped potential of this powerful channel will fall behind. Today’s distributors need to stand out among their competitors, and winning at eCommerce means leveraging eCommerce platform features that attract and retain customers. 

Key eCommerce Factors to Consider

White Cup recently launched an integration with eCommerce platforms, which is big news for distributors because this isn’t readily available elsewhere. This helps to close the gap between “online sales” typically managed by marketing and “offline sales” managed by the sales team.

We’ve identified 10 key considerations distributors should be mindful of when weighing their eCommerce vendor options. A winning eCommerce solution will help bridge the gap between the way customers shop via digital and traditional channels so your distribution business can boost sales from every revenue stream.

1: ERP-Integrated Product Hierarchy and Navigation

For distributors, the backbone of effective eCommerce lies in how seamlessly it connects with your ERP system. A top-tier eCommerce platform for distributors should offer more than just a user-friendly interface; it should integrate deeply with your ERP to ensure your online product hierarchy mirrors the meticulously organized structure you’ve established in your ERP.

Seamless integration with the existing ERP system is vital. The platform should be able to synchronize product data, pricing, inventory levels, and customer information from the ERP to the eCommerce site, and vice versa.

2: User-Friendly Interface

Your chosen eCommerce platform should provide an intuitive, easy-to-navigate interface for both customers and backend managers, with a B2C-like shopping experience. Just as successful B2C websites are easy to navigate, B2B eCommerce for distributors should offer a “flow” that today’s consumer is familiar with. 

As mentioned above, implementing a well-organized structure that follows the hierarchy in your ERP is essential. Enable customers to effortlessly browse through product categories, allowing them to search for, locate, and access desired items quickly. Other user experience considerations in eCommerce include utilizing filters, product categories, and intuitive menus to enhance the user experience and reduce bounce rates.

3: CRM/Business Intelligence Integration

Your eCommerce platform should offer robust integration capabilities with CRM and business intelligence solutions. Consider if your eCommerce provider offers an open API to allow for a seamless flow of customer data and insights between systems.

Get a better understanding of your customers’ buying patterns by seeing the big picture. Move beyond the mindset that some customers exclusively shop online while others prefer placing orders on the phone or in person. Integrate your eCommerce platform with your CRM to get a deeper view of your customers’ behaviors.

With visibility into customers who are looking at a product on your eCommerce site or adding it to their carts without checking out, your sales reps can proactively engage with them so no opportunity is left on the table. 

4: Customization and Scalability

No matter which eCommerce platform you choose, ensure it is customizable to match your branding and scalable to accommodate business growth. Take stock of how well it fits into the existing tools you are using to manage your website and if it supplements or supplants what is already working well for you.

The less time you have to spend ensuring a seamless experience from your marketing website to your eCommerce store, the better. Since marketing teams are often tasked with managing online stores, ensure your eCommerce provider makes it easy to build your online store the way you want it without burdening your IT department.

5: Effective Product Display and Catalog Management 

The platform should adeptly display products, drawing on the rich product information from the ERP, including detailed descriptions, specifications, images, and videos. Think of each product photo and description as a visual representation of your reps’ sales pitches.

Search functionality can also lead to faster purchases, as well as offering up relevant products your customers might not know they need yet. Personalization within search results can further enhance user experience, recommending products based on browsing history or preferences.

Incorporate advanced search options, autocomplete suggestions, and filters that enable customers to find products fast. The easier it is for customers to get what they’re looking for, the more sales you’ll make. Ensure your eCommerce platform of choice is set up to properly display search results, and see that those results are displayed clearly.


6: Mobile Responsiveness

With a large percentage of customers accessing eCommerce sites via mobile devices, distributors must make responsive design a priority with their online stores. Not every company has the time or resources to invest in its own mobile app, but ensuring your eCommerce platform offers a visually appealing and easy-to-navigate mobile shopping experience is imperative for customer retention and conversion. While you may not necessarily need a separate mobile eCommerce strategy, at least make sure your eCommerce store is user-friendly on any device. 

7: Security and Compliance

Implementing security measures and complying with industry standards help mitigate risks associated with cyber threats, data breaches, and fraud. This is crucial in safeguarding your customer’s sensitive information, which includes financial data, personal details, and proprietary business information.

Your eCommerce provider should have robust security and compliance measures in place to protect this data from unauthorized access, breaches, or theft. A robust security framework builds trust, and breaches can severely damage the reputation of a B2B eCommerce provider. Not to mention, cyberattacks can lead to disruptions that delay the normal flow of business as well.

8: Integrated Payment and Shipping Solutions

A key differentiator between your online store serving as a digital catalog and actually operating as a functional commerce platform is, of course, the ability to make transactions. Today’s eCommerce providers offer built-in integrations with payment processing platforms. Reducing any potential friction between the online ordering experience and the ability to purchase and receive items is crucial.

The backend of your eCommerce platform should make order fulfillment a breeze while offering different shipping options and methods on your customer-facing site. All payment, shipping, and shopping features should be seamlessly integrated. Ideally, your customer orders and behavior will be accessible in an integrated CRM or BI platform.

9: Customer Account Management

Essential features for B2B customers include personalized pricing, order history, reorder capabilities, and credit management. Connecting your eCommerce platform with a system like White Cup CRM enables a unified view of customer interactions and activity across touchpoints. It allows for personalized experiences, such as targeted email campaigns based on purchase behavior or abandoned cart reminders.

With automated workflows, distributors can facilitate streamlined sales conversations and customer service by providing your team with the right customer information at the opportune time, leading to more effective issue resolution, speedier sales, and increased customer satisfaction.

10: Analytics and Reporting

Access to comprehensive analytics and reporting tools is crucial for understanding customer behavior, tracking sales trends, and making data-driven decisions. Integrating your eCommerce platform with BI tools built for distributors makes accessing this customer data simple and actionable. They also facilitate sales forecasting, inventory management, and a better understanding of customer lifetime value, contributing to long-term business growth and sustainability.

Here’s the bottom line: Beyond leveraging your eCommerce platform itself, the integration of your eCommerce website features with a CRM is essential for today’s distributors. This connection bridges the gap between sales, customer service, operations, and marketing. It consolidates customer data, purchase history, preferences, and interactions, enabling personalized experiences and targeted marketing campaigns.

A well-optimized eCommerce platform, coupled with seamless integration with a CRM system with BI that’s built for distributors, forms the cornerstone of successful online sales considerations and strategies. Contact us today to convert online customer experiences into real sales.