Exclusive Features

How’s Your E-Commerce Strategy Looking?

How’s Your E-Commerce Strategy Looking?

By Scott Costa, Publisher, tED magazine

We took a pretty bold step with our “Exclusive Features” during the month of January, focusing almost entirely on the state of e-commerce in our supply chain (we still gave you the weekly copper price updates every Wednesday).  Obviously, we think it’s extremely important.  It may not be the number one issue we are facing today, but we do believe it’s easily in the top 5.  It’s safe to say the e-commerce issue is only going to grow larger in the next few years, not disappear.

I’ve talked to manufacturers and distributors throughout my time as publisher here at tED magazine.  I hear what both sides are saying.  Right now, e-commerce sales are around 1-2%, which isn’t great.  Many feel like investing in e-commerce right now is expensive and, quite frankly, will fail against the online giants and DIY chains.

One distributor explained it to me pretty clearly.  We are in a chicken/egg scenario.  What should come first, a great demand for an e-commerce site or a great e-commerce site that exists and demands the attention of our customers?  That’s a tough question to answer.  But the reality is still right in front of us:  not having a robust and functional e-commerce site in the next few years is going to have a significant impact on your bottom line.  Your customers want it.

In our first story of the month, The State of E-Commerce in 2016, we asked contractors if they wanted their distributor partners to have a robust e-commerce platform. The answer was an overwhelming “yes.”  We asked if they thought those needs were being met.  You can click on the link above for that answer.  And keep this in mind:  We didn’t talk with 25 different contractors until we got the answers we wanted to hear.  We called our regular contractor contacts, and we got our results.

Next, we did a story that happened to me personally at a recent NAED event. In “Are You Missing The E-Commerce Target,” we look at the expectations on e-commerce throughout the supply chain, and why there is so much resistance to fully getting into the e-commerce strategy, despite the research and despite the growth by the online giants.

Then we went straight to those pesky millennial contractor purchasing agents. Yes, they do exist. And yes, you can expect to see a lot more of them in the future.  In “What Does the Next Generation of Contractors Really Think About E-Commerce?” we got some real truths (its not like we asked them to lie to us) about why they are disappointed when their distributor partners do not have a robust e-commerce site, and what they are doing to work around traditional distribution because it’s just easier for them.

On January 12, things really got interesting.  In our story “E-Commerce: The Great Equalizer,” we tracked down a tiny distributor named Del-City, who fully committed itself to e-commerce 15 years ago, and today is winning its online battle with Amazon.  Make sure you read the story to see how they are doing it.

On January 14, we sized up the e-commerce competition.  “Jeff Bezos and His Competitive Edge” shows us that a guy who is willing to spend money on sending a rocket to Mars and having it return is also willing to spend his money on wholesale distribution, especially since he might actually make a significant amount of money doing it.  He might not be turning a profit today, but after you read the story, you will understand that he’s not going away any time soon.

We followed that story with “Harnessing the Power of E-Commerce,”  which was a great story that should help many of you.  Springfield Electric Supply was kind enough to pull back the curtain to show us some of their e-commerce strategies, which, by the way, are very successful.

The next week, we did something different.  We found a strong B2B E-commerce expert, and we asked him to poke around some of the websites in industrial distribution. Want to see his reviews?  You can by reading, “The Distributor’s E-Commerce Crystal Ball.”

After that, we did two stories on Amazon, because we wanted to see what strategies it has recently put in place.  If you want to know what the online giant competition is doing, you can read “What Has Amazon Been Up To Lately” and “Amazon Business Jumps Into The Punch-Out Game.”

And then there is “The Rise Of Automated Bidding Software.” I attend a number of trade shows every year, where I get to observe electrical contractors walking the show floor.  The number one place that they stop:  Lighting booths.  Number 2?  Bidding software.  This story looks at what contractors think of distributors who do not have quality data on the bid software that they paid to use.

Finally, we looked at the hard numbers in “Ensuring Your Distributorship’s Survival In A Digital World”.  In just four years, B2B e-commerce, not just plain e-commerce but B2B e-commerce, is expected to reach $12 trillion.  That’s $12,000,000,000.  What will be your percentage of that amount?  We examine what your customers will expect from you four years from now, and why you can’t wait four years to get started.

This certainly is not the end of our stories on e-commerce in electrical distribution. We are extremely committed to showing you not just what the competition is doing, but also what the customers want.  If you missed any of these stories, take a moment to read what we were able to discover for you during January.  We would love some feedback or ideas on more e-commerce stories, so feel free to leave a comment below, or contact me at scosta@naed.org or 314-812-5311.


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