Why distributors can’t wait any longer to get into e-commerce

Updated Mar 25, 2022
Warehouse worker online

What industrial customers and partners are looking for in a purchasing experience has changed drastically over the last few years. Whether due to the pandemic or the rise in digital transformation, buyers are looking for more from distributors. But providing them with a self-service way to purchase parts, track their purchases, and view digital catalogs is only the tip of the iceberg.

Being online is becoming increasingly competitive for distributors, and those that started early have a head start, but it’s not too late for those who haven’t. The longer you wait the harder it will be to break through the noise. If you’re still not convinced about e-commerce, that’s ok. We’re going to lay out why distributors can no longer wait to get into e-commerce.

Untapped Aftermarket Potential

Aftermarket sales present an incredible opportunity for distributors. Part and component sales are typically made to an installed customer base, and they’re made at a higher margin than sales of original equipment. But even though they have the potential to be a major revenue driver, that potential still goes unrealized by a lot of organizations. According to a McKinsey & Company study, billions of dollars are going unrealized because of the lack of investment in aftermarket sales. 

[RELATED: What a changing buyer demographic means for distributors]

Investing in the aftermarket for distributors can mean anything from e-commerce to extended warranty programs. And investing in these services can provide a tremendous return. According to that same McKinsey study, each percentage point that aftermarket services grow over product sales leads to as much as a 50 percent increase in overall enterprise value! That’s the type of return that’s hard to find anywhere else in an organization. So what all of this means is that it’s time to change how distributors view their aftermarket sales. Digital investment in this area is one of the best ways to grow revenues and overall company value.

Build Better Customer and Partner Relationships

Investing in a digital sales channel does more than just grow sales. It provides a better relationship with customers through an enhanced user experience. Customers and dealer partners are increasingly looking for online experiences, and 85 percent of B2B buyers believe the experience a company provides is as important as its products. Not meeting these lofty digital expectations will lead customers to make purchases elsewhere. Buyers have grown accustomed to the purchasing experience in their personal lives, and they are starting to bring that to work with them. 

Another benefit of using e-commerce to foster better customer relationships is reducing churn. If someone uses an e-commerce site and enjoys the experience, they typically don’t want to use a different site the next time. So this will lead to more repeat purchases and an increased base of repeat customers. This improved customer loyalty becomes incredibly valuable because customers are willing to pay 20 percent more when they can buy directly from a distributor. So increasing repeat purchases is another great way for an organization to grow. 

Remaining Competitive

If a customer comes to a website and finds a subpar or nonexistent digital sales channel, they’re not going to call the company. They’re going to head to a competitor that can provide them with what they’re looking for. And then the opportunity to create another loyal customer that drives revenue will be lost. 

In a recent study of industry leaders, 97 percent agreed that companies that don’t undergo digital transformation will not remain competitive. It’s become clear that it’s the direction that every industry is heading. Distribution has lagged slightly behind other industries, but it won’t for much longer. The longer companies wait to invest in digital technology, like e-commerce, the more competitors will pull ahead. That’s why it’s so important not to wait any longer to start the e-commerce journey.

So Why Wait?

Digital sales channels are becoming increasingly popular, and that will only grow. The longer you wait to get into e-commerce, the longer competitors will have to get ahead … the longer you’ll be leaving untapped potential on the table…and the longer you won’t be building the experience customers have come to expect. That’s why there’s no more time to wait — now’s the time to get into e-commerce!

Kris Harrington is the president and COO of 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 eCommerce 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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