For this week’s episode we’re joined by Anise Madh, CEO of LeanSwift, to hear his advice for manufacturers beginning the transition into ecommerce.

LeanSwift is a partner of Infor – a familiar name to those of us who got to hear Guy Courtin discuss B2B ecommerce on our show just last quarter. Once the COO and now the CEO, Anise has been working in ERP (enterprise resource planning) for over a decade.

1. WHY BEGIN THE SHIFT INTO ECOMMERCE

As we’ve already seen, B2C buying habits are beginning to trickle into B2B and affect buyer expectations for industrial companies.

eCommerce is growing in popularity because it cuts costs for vendors and provides their customers with 24-hour opportunities to buy at their own convenience.

Transactions can happen faster, with less physical paperwork, outside usual limitations like office hours.

2. WHERE TO START THE TRANSITION

So when a company decides to dip their toes into ecommerce, what does the transition look like?

According to Anise, the transformation is a bit different for each company.

“Every company that provides services and products in the manufacturing space should be looking at…an ecommerce platform…and it doesn’t have to be a full-blown ecommerce site.”

Every year when you’re reviewing your strategy, consider this.

Ecommerce paves the way for more seamless transactions with buyers – and, at the very least, provides them with a way to collect information on products if they’re only browsing at the moment.

Adding ecommerce to your business is not an instant button that takes you from 0-60mph in seconds; it’s a step-by-step process, much like any other digital transformation.

3. IT’S NOT JUST SALES – IT’S CUSTOMER SERVICE

But also like any other digital transformation, the transition into ecommerce occurs for the usual reason: making things easier for customers. And it involves more than you might initially expect.

eCommerce doesn’t just refer to buying and selling online: it also refers to shipment tracking, visibility overseas, customer service, and finding new vendors.

Of the various new customers who come to Leanswift wanting to sell online for the first time, Anise recalls a particular B2B company in Georgia who started the transition. Within two years, adding ecommerce and a B2C option to their business helped them grow between 200 and 300%!

Having an online store helped their site climb up in search rankings so that more potential customers would discover them.

“The more outlets that you have out there, the more you’re present online, the more recognition you’re going to get, and the more people can know about you.”

Some people might say that print is gone – but interestingly, catalogs are not!

Your customers still want all the content from your catalogs…they just want it online now. They may not use your catalog to buy, but they just might use it to educate themselves.

4. BUT HOW WILL DISTRIBUTION REACT?

But Anise understands how unsettling the sudden change into selling directly can be.

Many manufacturers worry about damaging their relationships with the distributors who normally sell their products. It was a topic covered on LinkedIn by Ian Hellar, referred to as a looping event called “The Wholesalepocalypse.”

How will the distributors react? How will B2C buyers receive the same level of product education as B2B buyers that distribution usually informs?

Distribution channels do have value, but transactions are changing; and there’s value to giving your customers as many options as possible.

“There is value to having a distribution channel, but also there is more value to having another option for consumers to get…just that first interaction.”

Just like in marketing, you don’t have to choose just traditional or just digital methods: nor should you dump old, reliable methods in favor of something brand new and untested.

The point isn’t to use a single channel, but to make the most of each one. And for B2B manufacturers, eCommerce is an up-and-coming channel that isn’t going away at all.

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