B2B eCommerce is expected to top $1.8 trillion by 2023. Clearly, eCommerce is the way professional buyers prefer to buy. So, it is interesting that in the industrial space, you don’t find widespread eCommerce. But eCommerce for industrial products is highly lucrative. Giants like Grainger bring in over 80% of their sales through digital channels. Obviously, eCommerce has a special ability to generate massive sales in the industrial products space. That’s one reason it is worth considering.
Why eCommerce for Industrial Supplies Isn’t Widespread
Several myths stand in the way of widespread adoption of eCommerce for industrial products.
To begin with, industrial suppliers have shied from eCommerce as they don’t believe this is how their customers want to buy.
They are wrong.
Today’s industrial buyers are millennials, and they are digital natives. These are the people that don’t do anything without consulting Google on their phone, laptop, tablet, or desktop. It’s the most connected demographic and they are looking for your company.
Clearly, the lack of eCommerce in the industrial supplies space isn’t due to the lack of demand on the part of buyers.
Research by Google shows that most buyers in the industrial space begin their product search with an online search. And online content makes it easier for buyers and researchers to share their findings with other team members.
Another myth standing in the way of eCommerce adoption is the idea that industrial suppliers offer products that are too individualized to sell online.
That’s because industrial supplies are frequently configured or customized for individual customers.
Once again, they’ve got it wrong.
Matrix displays allow for almost infinite customizations on a robust B2B eCommerce platform. And once you start selling online, you may find that different customers are ordering a product with the same customization. With that data in hand, you know it’s time to convert an offering from custom to stock.
For example, customer A asks for a widget modification to fit their machinery. Customers B and C also own that same brand and model of equipment, so they need the medication as well. Suddenly, what looked like a one-off offering has opened the company’s eyes to the needs of everyone that owns that specific brand and model.
That’s the kind of business intelligence that is often missed when you don’t have online channels.
Benefits of eCommerce for Industrial Products
Like any digital transformation, eCommerce for industrial products provides many benefits.
To start, eCommerce is a powerful engine to grow sales. You put your company, your brand, and your products out where buyers are looking. Whether you stand up an individual website or create an entire marketplace, you’ve got eyes you didn’t have before. Don’t let the complexity of customizable and configurable products scare you off. Saltworks sells salts for manufacturing and food processing by the 2200 pound pallet and individual salt shakers for home cooks. There’s a good chance there’s a market for your products you haven’t discovered. eCommerce makes reaching these markets easy.
In addition, eCommerce allows your sales team to work more efficiently. For example, a B2B eCommerce platform allows you to automate the RFQ and QTC workflows and streamline the process. Just define the pricing rules, define the workflow, and let automation remove the tedium from pricing proposals. Digitizing the process means you respond faster. That rapid response is what buyers want and you can seal the deal while your competitor is still juggling the spreadsheet and calculator.
Design a multi-level permission-based website and simplify the complex approval process for your customers. Let the customer define the flow while you keep up with the process. You’ll always know the status and can follow up with the right person at the right stage in the purchasing decision. This flexibility is what has made buying industrial supplies through Amazon Business so popular.
eCommerce is the most powerful tool you can use to improve the customer experience. Provide custom catalogs and price lists as granular as the customer. Allow for quick reordering, order tracking, and customizable B2B shipping options. Let the sales team focus on activities where a human touch is necessary and provide a self-serve portal for the routine activities.
Industrial eCommerce Perfected
Are Grainger and Amazon Business the only companies selling industrial supplies that get eCommerce right? Not hardly. Take a look at how these companies are successfully incorporating eCommerce into their sales arsenal.
For more than 60 years, France Air has been a major supplier of air treatment, ventilation, and heating solutions as well as hot water systems. With a client base of more than 30,000 customers, they saw a need to enter the eCommerce arena. They created a website that provides PDFs of all product information, so researchers find the product specs they need without calling a sales rep. They offer each customer a custom catalog and price list and even offer custom B2B delivery options. Customers get a seamless digital buying experience that meets their expectations.
TruPar hasn’t been around as long as France Air, but they entered the eCommerce area with a big splash. TruPar sells forklift parts in the US, Canada, Mexico, and Puerto Rico. Their eCommerce site digitizes an 8 million product database to provide buyers a complete self-serve experience. Even though prices change daily, every order and every contract are priced correctly. Dynamic pricing and integration with their ERP make this possible. Customers are happy because they get the right price, sales are relieved of the burden of contacting customers to correct pricing, and profitability stays high. In fact, since implementing their last website version, their online revenue increased 25% and the average order value increased 70%. Forklift parts are mission-critical to warehouses, and when a unit goes down it’s a problem. By integrating geolocation features as part of the eCommerce experience, customers get an instant shipping ETA. Those same geolocation features allow for localization so prices are expressed in the proper currency, unit of measure, and language.
Industrial eCommerce Is the Future of Industrial Supply
If you don’t see the potential for eCommerce to improve your market share in the industrial supply space, don’t worry. Your competitor will.
You can either chose to be a leader or a follower.
But eCommerce is the way industrial supplies are being sold and will be sold in the future. Think creatively, engage the right digital partners, and almost anything is possible.