Content provided by: Product Genius Technology
In 2018, Amazon accounted for more than half of ALL eCommerce sales in the US, beating their goal of 50 percent by 2019. The competition is getting fierce. Can you imagine a business out there that doesn’t have an eCommerce website? If that’s your business what are you waiting for?
Where to start when creating an eCommerce Website?
Taking your distribution company online is difficult and crucial to the longevity of your business’ future. The difficulty of going through the process of bringing your business online is something the vast majority of small to medium sized distributors and manufacturers are experiencing right now. Making a website is not easy so let’s just get that out of the way. Industrial supplier websites face complex product categories such as fasteners that can result in thousands of results for a single product type. The more complicated the product category the more customization and filtering systems required to provide clients a good customer experience. Keep in mind that most out of the box e-commerce platforms were not designed for complex product categories. Yes, it will be a huge undertaking for businesses of any size, but the end result will be worth all the resources and efforts you put into the digital transformation of your business.
The nuts and bolts of how to get started.
Stay informed/Education: The best way to begin is to use the many free tools and resources on the internet such as: Industry blogs and articles, google anything you might want to know and you’ll get a good head start. Try searching youtube.com for educational videos on any subject from: website creation, eCommerce, coding 101, search engine optimization, digital transformation, social media, content marketing, etc. Consult Google Merchant Services for Product Data Specification.
Attend Conferences: B2B eCommerce Conferences may be a good idea for advanced beginners. Attending eCommerce conferences isn’t just about learning all the new technology that’s available today, it’s about seeing what competitors are doing and strategically planning. Coming up is the B2B NEXT CONFERENCE & EXHIBITION happening September 24th – 26th, 2018 in Chicago. B2B Next Conference & Exhibition helps executives address a new and unprecedented level of digital disruption. The event is designed for B2B companies that want to create more intimate and personalized buyer journeys online in order to produce greater customer loyalty. B2B Next is an intensive learning experience for senior executives of large and mid-size B2B companies who need to strengthen their command of digital commerce strategies, practices, and technologies. B2B Next has the right parentage to deliver this premier B2B eCommerce event. It is the product of a joint venture of the world’s foremost authority on B2B eCommerce, Andy Hoar, and the world’s leading eCommerce media company, Vertical Web Media. In addition to its B2BecNews and Internet Retailer franchises, Vertical Web Media publishes extensive industry research and founded the world’s largest eCommerce event, IRCE (now owned by Emerald Expositions LLC).
Many events, from megamergers to globalization, have transformed business-to-business relationships over the years. But the biggest challenge facing B2B executives today may be even more disruptive, and it’s happening a whole lot faster: the reinvention of B2B companies for a digital-first economy.
B2B e-commerce is already an $850-billion market in the U.S., larger than B2C e-commerce, and Forrester Research predicts it will exceed $1.1 trillion in just three years. Leading analysts believe that the digital commerce share of the B2B market could mushroom from the current 10% to 40% in the next decade as buyers rapidly migrate to more efficient and convenient digital purchasing channels.
eCommerce Website Planning: Imagine that you’re going to be building a house; you first need a floor plan or a blueprint, in turn when building a website you will need to first get a request for pricing (RFP) with an experienced technology company. The first step is the creation of a document for the information architecture of your website. You will develop a well thought out plan for the building of your website, considering functionality specifications, product data, format, best practices, site search, all with the intent on building your brand online. Good design should prioritize customer experience with customer loyalty as the end goal. Some technology companies or agencies call this document a ‘scope-of-work’ which includes: website flows, site features and wire-frames, also known as a page schematic or screen blueprint, is a visual guide that represents the skeletal framework of a website. This document (RFP) is extensive and should be budgeted for in early stages of planning.
Building a custom website is a difficult task which takes experience, knowledge. research and cooperation from a team of key individuals from the company’s different departments. It is extremely important to understand the costs of planning, outsourcing, SaaS (software as a service) applications, eCommerce platforms, cloud services, and the necessary employees to maintain the company website. You will need to know how many sku’s your company offers, and what path customers will take when searching for products on your website.
When the scope-of-work is prepared you are now ready take the project out for bid. As a business owner it may be daunting to oversee technology implementation, but it is crucial to be hands on when creating and implementing the plan laid out within this document. You will save a lot of time, headaches and money by taking earnest efforts to understand the technologies and platforms that are being implemented. A well planned out and designed industrial supply website should have a good lifetime use with intermittent updates, most changes driven by customer use/feedback and data driven insights. Your scope-of-work document will allow you to determine what budgets and resources will be needed to achieve your digital transformation goals.
Now you have your scope-of-work document, time to start exploring agencies that can help you achieve your technology goals. You are now in the beginning phase of the company’s digital transformation. With this new knowledge and findings you can consider budgets, including what will it cost in-house for employees to run the website you plan to build and what key positions should we expect to fill?
Considering Platforms Options: There are many platforms for your business to choose from that will depend on your specifications and budget. Beginners might consider an Amazon Store. Amazon is also the world’s largest provider of cloud infrastructure services, which is available through its Amazon Web Services arm. If you determine that you will begin with low/no budget you can search Google for free website design templates to get many options to choose from, although you may still require help in the process of using the free website creator tools. We recommend you also check into: Shopify, Big Commerce, Squarespace, WordPress, or Wix to name a few.
If you have a larger budget you might consider some of these platforms for building your custom site on some of the more flexible and powerful eCommerce platforms such as: Magento, Oracle, Netsuite, and there are several industry specific platforms such as: INxSQL, DistributionOne, Computer Insights, Epicor, etc.
When contacting agencies for bids. Make a list of questions for developers and website design companies. Technology is something we all love but few understand and can lead to loss of time and money if due diligence is not part of the equation.
Here are a few questions we’d suggest you consider asking:
- How long are they in business?
- Where is their headquarters?
- Where is their team located?
- How do they manage their team and workflows during project development?
- What platforms do they recommend for implementation of your plans?
- What is their hourly rate?
- How long will it take for work to be completed?
- What will we get for our allotted budget amount?
- Will they be outsourcing project to other countries, if so where and with whom?
- What data and documents will you need to provide? What types of files should you provide your product details on?
- Will my website work on all devices? Is it responsive to mobile and tablets?
As you would on any other major investment ask for references of similar work for which you will engage them.
This is the new way of doing business. Supply chains are changing, technology and the internet of things will drive the factories of the future. Manufacturers will look for distribution partners that can offer digital buying experiences.
There are many reasons why you need to have an online presence, some we can control better than others but being unprepared should not be one.
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