Many established companies, especially those in the B to B space, are reluctant to venture into ecommerce. The reasons are many, but among the ones we hear most often:
- Ecommerce is hard to set up and manage
- We don’t want to compete with our own direct sales force and distributors
- We can’t compete with Amazon. So why bother?
If any of the above sound like you, perhaps it’s time to take a closer look at your options.
In terms of the initial setup and management, yes, ecommerce was a bear to set up five or 10 years ago, especially if your budget and time options were limited. Today, however, it’s pretty easy to get started, particularly if you’re inclined to start small, see what works best, and build from there. In the world of WordPress, for example, there are many ecommerce extensions from proven providers that can be used to add an attractive and easy-to-manage online store to your existing website.
Plenty of B to B companies live or die by the talents of their direct sales, so it’s understandable why they might be reluctant to examine online sales. But in the spirit of starting small and seeing for yourself what works best, why not consider launching your store with just a few of your less expensive or low margin offerings? One of our clients uses its own direct sales force and overseas distributors to sell high end testing systems to life sciences customers. However, customers are encouraged to buy from their online store when it’s time to replenish the consumable test tubes that these systems reguarly require.
As far as competing with Amazon goes — yes, Amazon commands an astonishingly large part of the ecommerce market. That said, mass merchants like Amazon will never be able to match the customer service strengths that many smaller companies can offer. Right now we are on the cusp of the holidays, and one of our larger B to C clients — they sell customized Christmas ornaments to people all over the world — is processing hundreds of online orders per day. Yes, Amazon will sell tons of Christmas ornaments this year as well, and the prices are tough to beat. But try to get someone at Amazon to take the time to personalize each of those ornaments with family names, memorable dates and messages of the customer’s choosing, and suddenly the Amazon mass sales model seems vulnerable.
Ready to try ecommerce? Nothing ventured, nothing gained.
Until next time…