Since the COVID-19 pandemic hit, ecommerce has taken on greater importance for distributors as it has significantly increased the number of B2B buyers that prefer to purchase digitally, according to the preliminary results of the Digital Commerce 360 Distributor and Wholesaler Digital Commerce survey.
While the growing number of digital-first customers create new opportunities for ecommerce sales and ways to interact with buyers, it also creates new challenges for distributors, especially those that rely primarily on non-digital sales channels to interact with buyers to drive sales.
To better understand the challenges distributors are facing when it comes to ecommerce and their plans to grow their ecommerce sales channels, Digital Commerce 360 surveyed distributors on a variety of topics, ranging from how prepared they are to take advantage of the growth opportunities presented by ecommerce to their ecommerce priorities for 2022 and how much they expect to spend on ecommerce technology in 2022. The full survey and analysis will be published in the forthcoming 2021 B2B Distributor 300 research report.
When it comes to being fully prepared to take advantage of ecommerce, less than a quarter of distributors surveyed say feel they fully ready. Asked to rate their preparedness on a scale of 1-10 with 10 being fully ready, 21.7% said they are fully prepared to take advantage of the growth opportunities ecommerce provides. At the same time, nearly 40% of distributors gave themselves high marks for their ecommerce readiness but said they still have work to do before becoming fully ecommerce ready. Of the distributors surveyed, 17.3% rated their readiness at an 8 and 21.7% gave themselves a 7.
One of the biggest challenges distributors currently face—and will continue to in 2022—is adjusting to the new normal and innovating around it. Hence, distributors must reimagine their core value-added services and anticipate and meet their customers’ needs, Caroline Ernst, vice president, ecommerce Solutions, for Affiliated Distributors, an association that serves more than 850 independent distributors and related companies told DC360 – B2B earlier this year.
When it comes to reimagining their core services, distributors should look at how they run events and provide services remotely, how they provide contactless pickup, such as buy online and pick up in branch, how they promote ecommerce growth for customer convenience, and how they service customers through the always-on digital channel with technologies like online chat.
“Distributors thrive by anticipating and then meeting their customers’ needs,” Ernst says.
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