By Michael Elmgreen, Handshake
Today’s consumer can go online, purchase an item with a few clicks, and get it delivered fast. Too often, the B2B buying experience stands in stark contrast to these simple mobile and web shopping experiences. Many foodservice distributors (and their customers) are still dealing with pen and paper, phones, fax machines, outdated legacy technology, and other manual methods to create, submit, and process orders.
Driven by their experiences as consumers, B2B buyers’ personal shopping habits are transforming how they operate professionally. According to Accenture, 75% of B2B buyers say they would buy again from a supplier with an easy-to-use website. And Forrester Research has found that 52% of B2B buyers are using their smartphones to search for products, browse catalogs, and read reviews. For foodservice distributors, meeting the evolving needs of their customers requires a new approach. Modern B2B eCommerce solutions are designed to handle the complex relationships and processes inherent in B2B while delivering modern, simple and intuitive user experiences on par with the most popular eCommerce sites and mobile commerce apps.
Suppliers adopting these solutions are making it easy for customers to instantly order the right products anywhere, anytime, and they’re gaining a major strategic edge over competitors.
Convenient, Fast Ordering Increases Order Frequency
B2B eCommerce solutions include websites and native mobile apps running on consumer devices like tablets and smartphones. These intuitive solutions have familiar user interfaces, search tools, and high-resolution digital product catalogs, so products can be easily searched or scanned and added to the order. Customers can also quickly start a new order based on their order history or create a reusable template with frequently purchased items and quantities.
Using these solutions, buyers can quickly build a new order from their desk on a computer or by using a mobile device from a kitchen or storeroom. They can then immediately submit that order for processing any time they like, no longer at the mercy of their supplier’s hours of operation to make phone calls or ensure a fax was received.
By making it faster and more convenient to purchase, foodservice distributors are seeing their customers place more frequent reorders, ensuring they never run out of key ingredients.
Easy Product Discovery and Great Content Drives Order Volume
Digital catalogs with detailed product specs included as part of web and mobile B2B eCommerce solutions provide buyers with a single source for all products. These catalogs should include only the range of products the buyer is eligible to purchase, along with their specific pricing, inventory levels, and restock dates. Providing personalized catalogs that make it easy for customers to explore and discover new products helps foodservice distributors expand organically within their customer base.
B2B eCommerce also presents enormous opportunities for foodservice distributors to communicate directly with customers. Companies are now able to drive traffic to eCommerce portals and dedicated mobile apps through email marketing and other forms of web engagement, including notifications about new products, promotions, and recommended orders. Beyond just driving general awareness, buyers can take immediate action––creating and submitting orders.
Eliminating Order Management Inefficiencies Accelerates Cash Flow
Once an order is written, B2B eCommerce solutions provide the ability to sync that order to back office systems.
Digitizing order writing and automating the submission process offers suppliers a seamless, error-free process that removes the delays and fulfillment errors that occur when dependent on paper order forms and data entry. Orders can then be sent to the warehouse and packed for shipment the same day and delivered the next.
By moving customer ordering online, foodservice distributors also reduce the cost of servicing all accounts. By doing business more efficiently, distributors can serve smaller customers that may have been too expensive to serve via in-person channels. By providing them with a straightforward, self-service experience, suppliers are better positioned to profitably capture the long-tail of their potential customer base.
Giving Reps Digital Commerce Solutions Improves Service
It’s important for foodservice distributors to look at the development of eCommerce as building on their sales teams, rather than eliminating them. Providing sales reps with mobile order writing solutions that also include B2C-like user experiences makes them more effective and efficient. They have the product and customer information they need at their fingertips for strategic conversations and a seamless digital format for writing and submitting orders.
By delivering multiple direct ordering options for buyers and providing field sales teams with mobile solutions that make it faster to write and submit orders as well, the sales rep’s job is no longer focused on transactional processes. Reps can talk with buyers about how to increase margin and phase purchases, while differentiating themselves and their products.
The most successful foodservice distributors will be those who respond to the B2B eCommerce opportunity in a thoughtful way. Delivering an online experience with personalized and tailored information that frees customers to quickly learn about and order products at their convenience creates a level of service that is a more long-term differentiator than product or price.
By making it easier to do business with them both in-person and online, these suppliers are growing their businesses and creating more loyal buyers.
To learn more about how Handshake can give you a competitive edge for mobile and web, please visit B2B Commerce Digital.