Ecommerce for SMB Food Distributors: Time to Panic?

Mar 2, 2018 11:20:58 AM

Your food distribution company sees it coming – Amazon is a leader in an ecommerce revolution that could drive prices down, raise the stakes for online customer experiences, and put at risk the small and midsized food distributors that can’t keep pace. But is the sky really falling on SMB food distributors?

There’s no question that the food distribution landscape will shift due to ecommerce, but it won’t be a 2018 phenomenon that rocks the SMB food distribution world. In fact, Forrester Research projects that B2B ecommerce won’t reach 12% of all B2B revenue until 2020 – and that’s ecommerce in general, not food ecommerce exclusively.

Prepare Your Ecommerce, But Don’t Stress Yet

online shopping cart.jpgThe good news is you have time to prepare your ecommerce strategy, which is a necessity because ecommerce customers are among the most unforgiving and expect an exceptional customer experience. Since you have time to prepare to do ecommerce right, the remainder of this post discusses the areas you should consider.

Focus on an Easy Shopping Experience

The best ecommerce sites make it easy for shoppers to find the products they need with as few clicks as possible. If you know your customers well, you can provide catalog views of the most relevant products versus a long list of all products to sort through. Also, as an SMB food distributor, your salespeople have a deeper understanding of specific customers, which will allow you to use the personalization features of an ecommerce platform to provide a unique, customer-centric experience when users visit your site.

You can also proactively engage customers you know will be attracted to certain product features and offers as they come available. One of the more useful features of ecommerce apps is the interactivity they allow. Imagine how appreciative a customer will be when your system automatically notifies them of discounts and special features without them asking. Moreover, customers will be able to submit an order directly from the notification you sent them, boosting your revenue without requiring an additional sales call.

Makes Sales Teams Part of Ecommerce Planning

No amount of automated ecommerce functionality can replace your sales force. Particularly as behemoths like Amazon move in and established distributors like US Foods become ecommerce-savvy, the personal touch and intimate customer knowledge your sales force has will grow in importance.

Mobile order writing solutions will make sales reps more accurate and efficient; they’ll also allow them to close a sale on the spot, after delivering a strategic or powerful tactical pitch.

Another aspect of including sales involves technology usability. Which ecommerce solution will best suit the needs of reps? Many companies assume they’ll develop an iPhone app because most of their reps use iPhones. But you need to document all aspects of the sales process as well as desired aspects of an ecommerce sales process to arrive at the best technology solution. Perhaps a mobile app isn’t in the cards. Or maybe an Android app works best with your system. You won’t know until you study customer needs and perform an analysis with your sales team and other stakeholders.

Get Ecommerce Advice Now

A lot goes into an ecommerce initiative; we’ve only touched on two aspects here. User experience, system integration with ERP, upstream and downstream EDI requirements, and marketing your ecommerce presence are areas you need to start considering now. By starting in 2018, you can be ready for the disruptive ecommerce wave that’s coming. Having your systems, tools, and processes in place will help you thrive, not just survive, with ecommerce.


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