You may not even know it, but more and more of your distributorship’s customers are turning to Amazon to look for products. Here’s how to turn the tide and steer them back to your site and/or a search engine like Google.
Electrical distributors would like to think that, when the need to research and buy products online arises, customers will either pull up Google and do a quick search or—best case scenario—navigate right to their supplier’s URL to find what they’re looking for.
This may have been how things worked 5-10 years ago—when business-to-business (B2B) e-commerce was still taking shape—but it doesn’t work that way anymore. In fact, a high percentage of B2B customers are skipping right over to Amazon to find what they’re looking for, and forgoing the “direct URL” and/or Google search altogether. In a recent Raymond James study, for example, 52% of people said that Amazon is their first choice for product searches. That number has grown steadily over recent years, rising from 47% in 2015 and 38% in 2014.
This presents an interesting challenge for electrical distributors that see Amazon Business as a potential threat, but not necessarily an online “partner” that they can sell through. To those that would rather “beat ‘em than join ‘em,” so to speak, Justin King, co-founder of the DigitalBranch, and senior partner at B2X Partners, says one of the best lines of offense is to focus on redirecting customers’ minds to think about your distributorship first when shopping online. Ignore this step and you risk losing market share to a company that’s made a name for itself for being the go-to place for everything and anything.
“When your customers go to Google and Amazon instead of your site first,” King says, “it basically means you didn’t do a good enough job of putting yourself in front of that customer and making sure that person knows that these particular products, services, components, and applications are fulfilled here.” In fact, whenever customers think about the product or service, their brains should automatically go to your company, and to a website where they can easily access product search results, pricing, and product availability.
Here’s how to make that happen:
- Don’t ignore B2C e-commerce trends. In many cases, B2B pretty much follows in B2C’s footsteps—albeit about five to 10 years behind in most cases. King expects this to continue, which means distributors should be paying close attention to what’s going in the B2C space. “We’re definitely watching this happen in the B2B arena,” he says, “but only in cases where Amazon has done a better job than everyone else, and particularly when it comes to getting a product in front of a customer online.”
- Use multiple means of customer outreach online. It takes more than just a website to reinforce your brand in your customers’ minds. For example, if a contractor searches a website and gets five different product results, you can extend your reach by putting the same five products in front of that customer on Facebook (inside of their feed). Ignore any fears about not getting the transaction at this point, says King, and focus instead on keeping your company’s name in front of that contractor. “If the same product that he just was looking for two hours ago out on the job site suddenly pops up on the Facebook feed, and if your company name and brand is associated with that information,” says King, “where you do think he’s going to purchase the products from the next morning?” Amazon does a particularly good job of this, in fact, by displaying its products on non-Amazon sites after someone searches for those items. “Every electrical distributor can do the same thing,” King adds.
- Put pictures in your customers’ heads. When King wants to buy a new laptop, his mind doesn’t automatically go to Amazon. Even if the online e-tailer has a cheaper price and wide selection, in fact, he’ll pull up the Best Buy website to explore his options. “That’s where my brain goes because I’ve had a good experience with Best Buy,” King says, “I can picture the retailer’s homepage, and even its logo and colors as I envision my new laptop.” These branding elements and good feelings both go a long way in helping customers think about your site first when they go online to shop. “Am I on Best Buy’s website looking for a laptop because it did a better job of fulfilling my needs? I really don’t know,” King admits. “But I can tell you that the company did do a better job of associating its brand with those components.”
- Start searing your brand into your customers’ heads now. Instead of throwing up the white flag and allowing Amazon and other e-tailers to chip away at their online profits, King says electrical distributors should put a concentrated effort into searing their brands into their customers’ minds. “Since everyone has a finite brain, people can’t remember everything that they encounter. The average person’s brain is swirling with so much information that they can’t keep track of all the ideas, products, and services around them,” marketing expert Robert Eager points out. “So, a brand acts as your ally by creating a mental shortcut that makes you easier to remember.” Fully leveraging that “ally” requires an ongoing effort, says King, because it only takes a couple of instances for a contractor to start thinking about Competitor X first when it comes time to place an order.
“Branding has to be a constant effort because one decent experience on Amazon can make a customer conjure up the e-tailer’s logo and remember that experience,” King concludes, noting that distributors can always “pull someone back” from a brand, but that doing so requires an intentional effort. “The key to success is to always be fighting to stay on top of your customers’ needs and expectations regarding how they associate the products that they’re buying with the suppliers that they buy from.”Tagged with Amazon, B2B, e-commerce