The incredible opportunity to capitalize on e-commerce in 2021

Updated May 13, 2021
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The fact e-commerce is still relatively new to the truck parts industry is providing forward-thinking distributors with a huge opportunity. Those who can adapt quickly can start boosting their sales today and positioning themselves to claim more market share as younger, tech-savvy customers increase in numbers.

Sellers are quickly realizing how they sell a product is becoming just as important as the product they are selling. With Baby Boomers, Gen X, and digital natives all operating in today’s workplace, customer expectations aren’t so easy to meet. Building an e-commerce platform that satisfies a variety of audiences is key to finding aftermarket success.

With this in mind, it’s crucial to understand buyer expectations and trends. We’ve compiled the five most important trends for distributors in e-commerce in 2021 to help you learn how your organization can attract more buyers and increase web traffic.

Create an omnichannel experience

Omnichannel selling is designed to ensure customers have a consistent and seamless purchasing experience, regardless of the device or sales channel they utilize. This can help increase your sales, as it will provide prospects with multiple avenues through which they can purchase your products via the devices and shopping habits they prefer. 

This not only means that every sales channel is important, but it also shows that the ability to offer multiple channels to buyers is an important asset for making purchasing decisions.

Here are some methods to create a successful omnichannel experience in 2021:

[RELATED: Building cohesive pricing strategies key to parts distributors’ e-commerce success]

  1. Optimize your website to be accessible from mobile devices.
  2. Utilize an e-commerce analytics solution to keep track of important buying patterns and behaviors across all devices and channels.
  3. Identify your customer response times across all channels and be sure to service them equally. Live chat, SMS, and email are all tools that ensure a satisfactory customer experience no matter the channel.

Add high-quality photos

You’ve made sure that your product descriptions are detailed and are appropriately categorized, but it’s just as important to have product images and supporting materials (specifications, brochures, videos, audio files, etc.) that help customers securely validate they have selected the right product.

There’s nothing worse than finally finding the part number that you’ve been searching for, only to discover that there are no product images available. Not only does this negatively impact the seller’s ability to move that particular product, but it creates unnecessary confusion for their customers.

Having at least one image available for each product sold online is considered adequate, but why not go the extra mile? Buyers will appreciate being able to see what they’re purchasing from multiple perspectives.

[RELATED: Five ways for distributors to improve conversion rates]

Multiple images and 2D and 3D media allow for buyers to closely examine the product to ensure they’ve found the product they need. Good descriptions and product images will be valuable when it is time for developing and executing a sound search engine optimization (SEO) strategy for your business.

Implement real-time inventory management

Inventory management is crucial for any business to maintain efficiency and consistency. In e-commerce however, it’s often overlooked.

Dependability is paramount when dealing with e-commerce, and your customers need to know that they can rely on you to have what they need when they place an order. The ability to provide accurate inventory levels is integral to this functionality. The customer needs to be able to trust the information your web site is displaying. In the event that a customer places an order for a part but the seller doesn’t have any in stock, the buyer will feel misled.

Real-time inventory solutions assure sellers that they are providing customers with the most accurate inventory information possible. This functionality also provides valuable analytics for sellers as to what items need to be replaced or replenished more frequently. Both the buyer and the seller should feel confident about inventory management to maintain a successful relationship.

Ensure responsive web design

Responsive web design allows web content to render properly regardless of the user’s device or screen size. The benefit of this feature is that users can load a website with no distortions and be able to enjoy its content regardless of the device they are using. This creates a positive mobile experience for users–-which helps increase reorders and builds customer loyalty. 

According to The Boston Consulting Group & Google, “more than 90 percent of B2B buyers reporting a superior mobile experience say they are likely to buy again from the same vendor compared with only about 50 percent of those reporting a poor mobile experience.”

Another benefit of responsive web design is that Google takes into consideration the responsiveness of a website in determining its ranking within its mobile search results. This additional SEO tactic provides an opportunity for better brand visibility while also creating a positive user experience.

Customize the shopping experience

It shouldn’t come as a surprise that buying behaviors have shifted dramatically over the course of the past year. While COVID-19 is partly to blame, e-commerce purchases were already on the rise. Regardless of the cause, buyers are utilizing e-commerce more than ever before. To take advantage of this opportunity, sellers should be focusing on delivering a personalized shopping experience that mimics the same feel as traditional sales channels. This can be accomplished in a variety of ways including tailored shopping experiences after customer login.

Logins are a great way to deliver specific data to a customer because organizations know something about them when they enter the site. Most distributors are operating in a B2B environment where organizations make purchases.

In this case, when a logged-in customer enters a site, they should see the price levels according to their contract. All bill-to and ship-to information should default according to the traditional ways in which they purchase, as this information resides in a distributor's ERP and is easily accessible. Any favorites that a customer orders frequently, like product consumables, should be stored and available after each login.

Additionally, if an equipment distributor knows which products are owned by that logged-in user, all bills of materials and 2D and 3D drawings should be made available for easy and safe product selection and ordering.

In a B2B environment, personal experiences should be designed to make a purchaser’s job easier. When organizations increase confidence in the product and speed up the transaction time, buyers will faithfully return to the e-commerce site to complete their work.

Kris Harrington is the president and COO, GenAlpha Technologies.  During her time with OEMs in the mining industry, Kris and the other founders of GenAlpha saw a need to find a better way for B2B brands in manufacturing to do business. This led to the development of an e-commerce solution for manufacturers and distributors who want to grow their business online. For more than 10 years, the experienced team at GenAlpha Technologies has been helping equipment manufacturers repurpose their bills of materials, 2D and 3D engineering data to make it easier for customers to safely identify and purchase parts

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