More than half of distributors and wholesalers turn to e-commerce to reach new customers, according to an exclusive survey by B2BecNews. Survey findings are revealed in the new Distributors’ Playbook for B2B E-Commerce report.

Atlanta Light Bulbs, a family owned distributor founded in 1981, has been selling online to corporate buyers of general and specialty light bulbs and related products since 2001.

But to maintain its edge as a distributor to commercial and industrial customers, it’s doing a lot to upgrade its back-end business software systems and website features to keep its e-commerce operation up to date and relevant.

Several years ago Atlanta Light Bulbs swapped out a nearly 15-year-old, mostly homegrown e-commerce platform for a new one. The new platform did away with the hand-coded web pages that sometimes took Atlanta Light Bulbs developers hours to code a single product change on up to 12 pages.

The new technology enabled the lighting distributor to introduce new website features, including one tool that lets buyers calculate an order and submit a price they are willing to pay, and another that lets buyers receive a detailed quote on the website or via a mobile app, along with an optional emailed checkout link to complete the purchase through the distributor’s online shopping cart.

The 46-page Distributors’ Playbook for B2B E-Commerce research report is filled with survey data, analysis and case studies.

Atlanta Light Bulbs is an example of how distributors and wholesalers are seizing the opportunity to build and refine their B2B e-commerce strategy. Some 62% of distributors, wholesalers and dealers recently surveyed by B2BecNews have an e-commerce site today. Results of the exclusive February survey from 122 companies also show that of those that don’t have an e-commerce site, 35% expect to launch one in six months or less, 26% plan to go live within one year, and 19% expect to launch one within two years, according to a new report based on the survey titled Distributors’ Playbook for B2B E-Commerce.

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Growing sales is the top reason why distributors and wholesalers begin to sell online, cited by 71% of the executives surveyed. But many distributors and wholesalers also are entering e-commerce as a way to reach new customers—that was named as a motivator by 57% of the companies surveyed by B2BecNews.

Once these companies roll out e-commerce, garnering buy-in from sales reps is a challenge many distributors and wholesalers face. Some do so by convincing reps that e-commerce tools can help their customers serve themselves by placing recurring orders online, thus freeing up reps’ time to pursue new customers or bigger sales with existing clients. The B2BecNews survey found 37% say freeing up sales reps to sell complex products is among their main reasons for selling online.

Creating a new channel for repeat orders can provide sales reps more time to concentrate on more lucrative sales. Nearly one-third (31%) of survey respondents derive more than half of their company’s online sales from recurring orders and a like amount get 10% or less that way. Increasing the rate of recurring orders online can give reps back a precious commodity: time.

The 46-page Distributors’ Playbook for B2B E-Commerce research report is filled with survey data, analysis and case studies that explain how distributors, wholesalers and dealers such as Tech Data, Grainger, Amazon Business and others are expanding their online sales. It’s filled with lessons that can help other companies as they pave the way to e-commerce success.

Sign up for a complimentary subscription to B2BecNews, a twice-weekly newsletter that covers technology and business trends in the growing B2B e-commerce industry. B2BecNews is published by Vertical Web Media LLC, which also publishes DigitalCommerce360.com, Internet Retailer and Internet Health Management. Follow Bill Briggs, senior editor, on Twitter @BBriggsB2B.

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