Many manufactures employ distributors to sell their products into markets in which they don’t have a marketing or distribution capability. This is a great idea to get products broader reach but are your distributors representing your brand as well as you do in your home market?
We recently surveyed 362 global distributors of a medium-sized US industrial products company and found a shocking fact:
Lack of B2B eCommerce capability
More than 72% of those surveyed did not have a useful digital product catalog on their website containing the manufacturer's products, product specs and other details as well as brochures and images. Furthermore, less than 15% actually had the ability for customers to obtain a quote or place an order online. This correlates well with our recent study of over 1,000 exhibitors at a large US Manufacturing Expo where more than 76% of those researched had no quote to cash capability on their websites.
Furthermore, in those distributors that had the manufacturer’s products online, most of them did not represent the full product portfolio of the manufacturer.
These results are from established markets in North America and Europe. When looking at distributors in Central and South America, the results were close to zero.
Now granted, not all manufacturing products are suited to online sales and distribution. Some are engineer-to-order for example or require complex pre-sales configuration. But for ones that are, these results are shocking.
Forrester suggests that over $1.7T in US B2B eCommerce sales will result by 2023 but only represents 17% of all B2B sales. So there is huge headroom for growth in this area with a long list of benefits ranging from greater scale and customer reach, to customizing the customer experience and better customer analytics to increased order efficiency and accuracy to better brand awareness and omni-channel selling.
What can you do?
If you use third-party distributors, you should do a simple investigation: go to their websites, see how they represent your products. Do they have a product catalog? Are they representing your full inventory? Do they host your brochures, product specifications and other documents? Are they up to date? Can they easily process a customer quotation and take an order?
If not, you’re likely missing out on many of the benefits mentioned.
So why don’t many distributors have this seemingly table-stakes capability?
Besides lack of an overall eCommerce strategy and plan, it appears that it is challenging and time-consuming for distributors to keep their product portfolio up to date with that of the manufacturers’ products they distribute. It’s extremely difficult to have the latest product information available from all their suppliers. This can add to customer frustration as the wrong products are ordered, no longer available or have been super resend by newer versions.
Are there any solutions?
We'd love to show you our solution. We’ve built the ability for manufacturers to host their catalog on the cloud and be up and live within 30 minutes (depending on the amount of products). We’ve also built all of the eCommerce capability required to process quotes, accept Purchase Orders, share shipping status and tracking information, invoices and even payments. Lastly, we’ve made all of this available via standardized JSON API so that it can be easily integrated with your ERP or other enterprise systems. Better yet, distributors can use this facility for free (limits apply).
The elegance of this solution is that it adds value to all parties:
Manufacturers ensure that their latest product catalog is available to distributors via the cloud and easy to pull down in .csv format or via API
Distributors that do not have catalog or quote to cash capability on their websites can use our white-labeled catalog and storefront tools. They simply add the catalog URL to their website on a button that says, “Shop our products here”
Distributors can either use our quote to cash workflows or they can integrate with their Sales Order system and proceed from there
Distributors always have the latest product information up to date and never have to worry about being out of sync
Customers can always be assured that the information they are looking at is true and accurate
Manufacturers can receive drop-ship Purchase Orders from the distributors automatically because the platform is fully integrated
Manufacturers and Distributors can automate invoices and payment and reduce AP/AR overhead, errors and disputes up to 80%
If you’re interested in offering your distributors a white-labeled product catalog and e-commerce capability for free, then contact us today. We would be delighted to help you take your sales and supply chain capabilities to the next level.