Like many manufacturers, uniform makers have begun to understand the benefit of selling online directly to individual consumers as well as to their traditional customer base of distributors, wholesalers and retailers. The trouble is manufacturers typically need separate ecommerce platforms for their B2B and B2C customers, which prevents them from managing those sales channels through a single website.
To address that shortcoming, ecommerce platform provider UniformMarket developed and launched in January a distribution portal that allows manufacturers in the uniform, gear, and footwear industries to view and manage their B2B and B2C ecommerce accounts through a single administrative portal.
A main online store, plus secondary stores
To help manufacturers manage the nuances of creating separate B2B and B2C customer experiences on a single platform, the portal provides manufacturers the ability to create separate, independent secondary stores within the main online store, UniformMarket says. For example, if the main store is a B2C store, a B2B buyer can access a B2B secondary store after logging into the main store with a username and password that directs him to the B2B secondary store and vice versa.
All sales, fulfillment and shipping data are common across the platform and the system administrator can choose the shipping carriers and payment gateways for each sub-store. Manufacturers can also use the portal to restrict the visibility of certain products, offer custom pricing for clients, and manage payment options for different customer groups, such as wholesalers, retailers and dealers.
“In certain cases, the manufacturer wants to release certain brands or certain lines only to those retailers with whom they have a partnership or an agreement with,” says Avinash Mallidi, head of product for UniformMarket’s parent company, SellersCommerce LLC, a digital technology company that provides Uniform Market’s ecommerce software. “In some cases, the pricing is different for these buyers, and it completely depends on the sales or locations they are serving.”
Connecting with product data and ERP systems
Also, the UniformMarket distribution portal includes built-in enterprise connectors to sync data between a manufacturer’s product information management and enterprise resource planning applications and their marketing automation tools and accounting software. The portal also includes a reporting engine that provides analytics and reports across all business groups.
“In this connected world, data plays a major role,” Mallidi says. “By providing both B2B and B2C in a single platform, and integrating manufacturer’s ERP or PIM systems, the data flows between the systems. Having all these built-in tools in one platform is a real benefit and can help solve a lot of integration issues.”
Since launching the portal last December, UniformMarket had three enterprise customers conducting business on it by late January. Overall, UniformMarket is targeting the 200 manufacturers in the medical and public safety uniform industries and the 5,000 large distributors serving those markets. In January, UniformMarket expanded its presence to the Australian/New Zealand market. The company also services uniform manufacturers, distributors and retailers in North America and Europe.
Portals for medical and promotional products
UniformMarket is looking to develop similar portals for the promotional products and durable medical equipment markets. Manufacturers using the portal pay a monthly fee and a one-time set-up fee.
The launch of its B2B/B2C portal builds on prior enhancements UniformMarket made to its ecommerce platform. Last September, the company launched Group Builder, a cloud-based set of sales tools that allows sales representatives for uniform distributors to launch Group Stores, which are stores for employees grouped by a specific designation, such as by operating department, in as little as one hour.
Group Builder features several pre-loaded webstore templates, which clients can customize to enable sales representatives to launch a group store in six steps using either a desktop computer or a mobile phone, UniformMarket says. The templates are applicable to all products, departments, embroidery, and payment configurations.
“We noticed a lot of our uniform distributors were required to wait for weeks before they could get their new Group Store live,” says Ashok Reddy, chief executive officer of UniformMarket. “This resulted in a backlog of stores that were required to be created, effectively delaying a lot of business for them. Taking this into consideration, we have come up with a tool to create Group Stores on the go.”
That move was followed a few weeks later by the launch of 40 new enterprise connectors to SellersCommerce platform. The connectors assist SellersCommerce clients in integrating popular applications like SAP, Salesforce, NetSuite, and others with their online stores. As of last October, 72 apps were available on SellersCommerce’s App Store for both their B2B Program Manager and B2B Retailer Pro platforms.
SellersCommerce’s platform also includes Brand Syndication, a feature launched in 2018, which enables manufacturers to load catalogs and have them sent to subscribing retailers. Manufacturers can also track sales and traffic of their merchandise within their subscribing retailers’ stores. The feature gives retailers the flexibility to choose a manufacturer’s entire catalog or simply one item to feature in their store; it also lets them instantly upload items to their online store.
Other tools on the platform include microsites that look like retailers’ own stores but are built and managed by the manufacturer for the retailer. That gives manufacturers more control of how their brands are presented to consumers.
UniformMarket lists on its website such clients as All Uniform Wear, Raley Scrubs, Allen Uniform Sales and Simon Uniform.
Peter Lucas is a Highland Park, Illinois-based freelance journalist covering business and technology.
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