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Sharpening Your E-Commerce Strategy

By Bridget McCrea

It's time to pump up those single-digit e-commerce sales numbers and make a bigger impact online.

If it feels like large e-tailers and national distributors have a leg up on your company on the e-commerce front, you're probably right. Both have already made significant inroads when it comes to setting up and honing their online selling platforms and the logistics/fulfillment structures that support those platforms.

But all is not lost. Consider the fact that retailing behemoth Walmart just got its e-commerce act together last year, when it bought established e-tailer Jet.com. And while you may not have billions of dollars in your company budget to make a similar move, there are ways to pump up those single-digit e-commerce sales.

“At the end of the day, the small to midsized electrical distributor isn't going to become a technology company,” says Alex Moazed, CEO of New York-based advisory firm Applico, “but there are plenty of tools out there that companies can use to build out a good e-commerce site.”

Four Starting Points
To help jumpstart your own firm's e-commerce strategy—or, light a bigger fire under a current initiative—Moazed offers this advice:

  1. Don't try to reinvent the wheel. For the small to midsized electrical distributor, building an e-commerce marketplace from the ground-up is a “bad idea,” according to Moazed, who points companies to the numerous out-of-the-box e-commerce solutions as a good starting point. “You're not a tech expert,” he says, “so don't try to be one.”
  2. Think about the value-added. Sure Amazon Business can sell lighting at a lower price, but can it offer the technical expertise needed to install and maintain those products? For now, at least, the answer is “no.” So be sure to play up the value-added offerings online (outside of just the “transactional” aspect of e-commerce).
  3. Weave some customizations into the mix. Even an out-of-the-box e-commerce solution allows for customizations. By building a custom widget, tool, or application that helps customers engage with your distributorship—and place orders via e-commerce—you can eke more out of your company's e-commerce investment. “Think about what type of tech would help you convey your value-added services,” says Moazed, “and weave it into your overall strategy.”
  4. If you can't beat 'em, join 'em. Most fiercely independent distributors would rather view Amazon as the “devil,” and avoid doing business with it altogether. And while this might be the best approach for a company that already has a solid e-commerce strategy in place, the one that's just beginning to sell online (or, that's not having much success at it) might considering selling through the e-tailing giant.

“We're working with a number of large B2B distributors in different verticals that are in the same position right now,” says Moazed, “and while my best advice is to play offense and roll out your own marketplace, selling your stuff on Amazon isn't the end of the world. In certain situations, it pays to benefit by joining them and making some additional revenue.”

McCrea is a Florida-based writer who covers business, industrial, and educational topics for a variety of magazines and journals. You can reach her at bridgetmc@earthlink.net or visit her website at www.expertghostwriter.net.



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