5 Reasons To Take Your Distribution Business Online

5 Reasons To Take Your Distribution Business Online

4 MIN READ

Driven by the demands of millennial trade customers and the need for real-time visibility of sales and stock, many distributors are choosing to take their businesses online. If you’re still unsure about the opportunities digitalisation could bring and whether it’s right for your business, here are five ways you could receive an instant return on your investment.

Allow trade customers to place orders with you any time of the day or night

Over the past few years, the buying behaviour and expectations of trade customers have changed. They are no longer happy to sit through long sales pitches or shift through paper catalogues. Instead they want to be able to complete research, consult with colleagues and place orders in their own time.

According to Forrester, 93% of business buyers prefer to buy online when they’ve decided to buy. Offering a transactional B2B eCommerce website, on top of your telesales team, instantly gives your customers the option to shop at their own convenience. Busy independent business owners will be able to place orders with you 24/7, from any device and any location.

Increase sales without increasing staff 

Another benefit of having a B2B eCommerce solution is that you’ll be able to provide customers with a personalised experience without the need to increase sales and customer service representatives. You will always want to give your customers access to these teams, however by providing answers to common questions, custom product pricing, credit limits and online order tracking, you will reduce the number of telephone enquiries you receive significantly.

Having a single view of your customer data will also allow you to anticipate your buyers needs automatically. You can upsell with on-site product recommendations based on their previous buying behaviour, send out relevant follow-on marketing campaigns suggesting new products, and send replenishment reminders when you think their stock may be running low.

Get your products live fast

 

If you still offer your customers traditional paper catalogues, you’ll know how much work goes into each one, from content to organisation, design to proofreading, layout to imagery. Even once you’ve finished planning your catalogue, you still need to wait for it to be printed and posted before you can get it in front of your customers! With a digital catalogue, your new products can be in front of customers within a matter of hours. Product details and specifications can be uploaded in bulk via a spreadsheet and automatically formatted into a pre-designed, clean and easy to navigate layout.

In addition, online product pages contain far more information to help buyers make their decision. You can, and should, include multiple images with the ability to zoom, demonstration videos, detailed specifications, frequently asked questions, customer reviews, and customised pricing once the user has logged in.

Reach new customers

Listing and selling your products online automatically opens you up to multiple new audiences. You are no longer restricted to selling to the select few who receive your paper catalogue. SEO is one of the best ways to increase the visibility of B2B eCommerce sites.

To improve your chances of being found by trade customers on Google and other search engines, provide as much unique information about your products and services as possible. Identify phrases that your customers are likely to query when searching for your products then use them in your product page’s meta title, meta description, H1 tag, image and video file names, image alt text and naturally throughout the description and specification.

If in the future, you find that you are receiving a high amount of traffic from overseas, an online catalogue means that you can easily provide translated content, currency converters and international delivery information for your new customer base without having to set up a large native-speaking customer service team. For more tips on expanding overseas, see our 7 Steps To International Success.

Reduce admin and keep data in sync

Taking your distribution business online gives you the opportunity to manage your entire B2B and B2C operation through a single platform, reducing the time, money and headaches involved in transferring data from one system to another.

Having one cloud-based solution will also allow data to flow around your business in real-time so that every team has a clear, up-to-date view of stock, accounts, and orders. This means:

 

  • Buying will have visibility of stock and sales across the business.
  • Finance can quickly pull up outstanding invoices or cash availability.
  • Customer service teams can accurately predict when stock will be replenished or when a customer’s order will be delivered.
  • As soon as orders are placed, they are sent directly to the warehouse and worked into picking lists, leading to faster and smarter fulfillment.
  • Orders can be fulfilled from multiple locations to get them to your customers in the most efficient way possible.

If you’re a distributor interested in finding out more about how Venditan Commerce could help you to survive in the digital age, take a look at our Bradshaw Taylor case study.

Sign Up To Our Monthly Newsletter

Have our latest blog posts, company and industry news delivered direct to your inbox.

Stephanie Fenton

22nd October 2019

Loyalty And Other Customer Retention Strategies

Loyalty And Other Customer Retention Strategies

4 MIN READ
Research by Hubspot has indicated that a huge 93% of customers are more likely to make repeat purchases with companies who offer excellent customer service. 

 

Ask any retailer and they’ll tell you that their most profitable customers are the ones who come back time and time again. So why are so many retailers fixated on acquiring new customers rather than looking after their existing ones? 

According to research conducted by Bain & Co, increasing your customer retention rates by just 5% can increase profits by 25-95%.

If that isn’t a statistic to make retention a priority for you, then I don’t know what is! 

We’ve put together our top tips on how you can keep your customers happy and increase repeat purchases.

Implement a loyalty scheme

 

Loyalty schemes are a great part of any customer retention strategy. Give customers more of an incentive to shop with you by offering them a reward every time they do. Not only will these rewards make them feel valued but they can help prevent them from swaying towards your competitors. 

The kind of loyalty scheme that’s right for your business will depend on your customers and the products you stock. For frequent low-value purchases, points-based schemes are often preferred but for higher value items, tiered rewards schemes are popular – encouraging customers to spend that little bit extra every time they shop.

If you have both an online and bricks and mortar store, make sure your loyalty scheme is multi-channel so that customers can redeem their rewards both on your website and in-store.

Don’t let customers forget about you

 

The buying cycle doesn’t end when a customer makes a purchase. Make sure that you’re using post-purchase email marketing to keep customers engaged with your brand. 

As a starting point make sure transactional emails include brand personality, are engaging and inform the user of any important aftercare information. You can even use these emails to tempt customers back to the site to purchase complimentary items or to read your recent blog posts.

A big no-no when it comes to email marketing is to bombard every customer in your database with every newsletter you produce. If you do this you’ll most likely see low open rates and high un-subscription rates. Instead, send your user’s personalised emails based on their previous purchases and browsing history. If you have the customer’s birthday it’s a nice touch to email them with a discount during their birthday month – a technique that works well for a number of retailers we work with.

If you don’t want customers to forget about you then don’t forget about them! If a customer hasn’t bought anything from you in a while then send them a personalised “We Miss You” email with a discount to encourage them back. 

Don’t forget to join up to dots by providing email receipts in-store. This will allow you to merge in-store and online customer data and prevent customer frustration. There’s nothing more annoying than receiving an abandoned basket email with a discount code for something you’ve already bought in-store! 

Integrate with a third-party review site

 

Reviews are not only great for creating trust, but they will also help you to provide better customer service and can be a key part of your overall customer retention strategy. 

Third-party impartial review sites give you the opportunity to find out where there are problems within your business and prevent them from happening again. 

Not only this, the star ratings that can be pulled from third party reviews are great for improving your click-through-rates from the SERPs.

It goes without saying but where customers do make complaints or leave bad reviews, make sure that issues are resolved quickly and that the customer is left feeling satisfied.

Provide great customer service

A bit of an obvious one but something that a lot of retailers are currently overlooking, and should be one of the most important customer retention strategies you use. With the growing use of the social media spotlight for brands and customers to interact, it’s so important to get this right first time. 

Great service starts as soon as someone lands on your website or enters your store. Make sure that every interaction a customer has with your brand is a good one. Don’t neglect your website’s user experience and make sure you’re getting feedback from shoppers on a regular basis. 

When the customer is on your website, make sure you’re providing contact telephone numbers on key decision pages and offer the use of a chatbot to help customers find what they’re looking for.

Customers’ delivery expectations are far higher than ever before. Customers expect delivery to be fast, precise, and most of the time, free. With retailers like ASOS and Boohoo offering 1-hour delivery windows and lots of retailers offering next day delivery when you order before 10 pm, the competition is high. Depending on the volumes you are shipping, these offerings may not be realistic for many small independent retailers. 

One thing smaller retailers can do is to constantly review their delivery offering and make sure that it is the best they can possibly provide. Couriers are continuously bringing out new services and solutions that may not have been available when you first integrated with them. You can also speak to your eCommerce provider about implementing a hybrid shipping solution that will work out the best service and price for both you and your customer on an order by order basis.

It’s the bane of every retailer’s business but a percentage of returns will always be inevitable – especially when trading online. For those customers who do want to return an item, make it as easy and convenient as possible. If they have a nightmare trying to get their order back to you it’s unlikely they’re going to order from you again. 

 

If you want to have a push on increasing your retention rates this year, speak to us about how our Venditan Commerce platform can help you to track customer behaviour and implement some of the techniques mentioned above.

Sign Up To Our Monthly Newsletter

Have our latest blog posts, company and industry news delivered direct to your inbox.

Stephanie Fenton

5th September 2019

Boost Your eCommerce Sales With These 4 Strategies

Boost Your eCommerce Sales With These 4 Strategies

5 MIN READ

Looking for ideas on how your can give your online revenue a boost? Here are four effective strategies you can adopt to grow your eCommerce business in 2019.

1. Optimise your checkout for mobile conversions

 

Thanks to the recent rise in mobile-first websites, customers are now confident completing the whole shopping journey on their phone. Take advantage of this by ensuring your mobile checkout is as easy and pleasant to use as possible.

Complete regular testing and analysis of the checkout funnel to identify areas for improvement. Mobile users can easily become frustrated so make sure that their checkout journey is made clear and simple to follow.

At the account creation page make sure that you aren’t asking for any unnecessary information such as date of birth or gender. If you’re asking for the customer’s mobile phone number, make sure they know why you need this. If the user has already registered with you, prepopulate any known fields.

Ask yourself if your delivery options are as convenient and competitive as they could be. If not, speak to your suppliers to see if they are offering any new services such as same day delivery or if they are willing to negotiate on rates. Don’t forget to offer click and collect from either one of your physical stores or a local delivery collection point e.g. CollectPlus or DPD Pickup.

Finally, reduce the amount of typing the customer needs to complete by offering 1-click-payment options such as Apple Pay, Amazon Pay and PayPal.

For more ideas on how to improve the shopping experience on a mobile, read our post – 6 Essential Mobile First Features For Your eCommerce Site

2. Develop a better post-purchase relationship with your customers

 

It costs five times as much to convert a new customer yet many retailers focus the majority of their marketing efforts on acquisition. To make more of your marketing budget and give your revenue a boost, make it a priority to nurture your existing customer relationships.

Excel at post-purchase customer service – give your customers several ways to get in touch with you so that they can choose their preferred method. Some customers may want to speak to you on the phone whereas others may prefer to get in touch via live chat or email. Remember that if new customers aren’t provided with the level of service they expect, they will be less likely to place further orders with you.

Host focus groups, send out surveys and request customer reviews to get feedback on the quality of your products and services. Address any issues raised and provide additional training based on any negative feedback.

Delight customers by sending out relevant and personalised follow-up content, either about the products that they’ve bought or complementary items. Tell stories about your brand and products so that you are always front of mind when the customer is looking to replenish, replace or order similar items. For example if you have customers who bought school shoes last August, the chances are they’ll need to order replacements 12 months later, so send out marketing towards the end of July showcasing this year’s styles and offers.

At the checkout, always make sure that you are requesting consent to use the customer’s data for marketing purposes.

Design and automate the post-purchase funnel utilising customer data from all selling channels. This will ensure that every opted in customer receives a consistent but personalised experience based on their orders, location and interests.

Reward loyal customers with a tiered loyalty scheme that will make them feel special and encourage them to spend more with your brand.

3. Look out for international growth opportunities

 

International markets present huge growth opportunities for retailers. If you already receive orders from overseas then you could be missing out by not optimising your offering for those audiences.

For countries where you think there could be a growth opportunity, complete some analysis into the competition to see if you could compete on price and delivery. If you can then make sure that you accept the favoured payment methods for that market. For example, if you think your products could be popular in France, offer the option to pay with Cartes Bancaires. Similarly, for Japan offer the option to pay with JCB.

To increase awareness of your brand in the new market, partner with local influencers and complementary businesses who can showcase your products to your target audience.

If not an English speaking country, consider investing in website translation so that you are able to provide your new customers with an experience that competes with local retailers.

For more advice on expanding overseas, read our 7 Step Guide To International eCommerce Success.

4. Offer a subscription model

 

Subscription models for TV streaming, car leasing and mobile phone contracts have been part of consumers’ lives for some time now, but the past couple of years have also seen a boom in eCommerce subscriptions. Royal Mail forecast that the subscription box market will be valued at £1 billion by 2022, putting its popularity down to convenience and flexibility.

Look at your order data, are there any products that customers purchase on a recurring basis? For example, beauty products, vitamins, pet food or contact lenses. Take advantage of the possibility that customers might welcome the saving in time and money that a subscription model could bring. By automatically replenishing their products when they run out you reduce the threat of them shopping around and potentially being enticed by one of your competitors offers.

In addition to replenishment plans for products, consider offering an annual subscription for delivery. This works particularly well for next-day or international delivery which would normally cost the customer a significant amount. Instead of paying for delivery each time they order, they pay a larger one-off cost that gives them access to free delivery on all their orders throughout the year. This can help you to offset the cost of free delivery while still making sure that the customer feels like they are getting a good deal. This strategy has been particularly successful for Amazon (Amazon Prime) and Selfridges (Selfridges+ global delivery charge). By having an annual subscription with your brand, you will always be their first choice as they want to ensure they get value!

Make sure that your eCommerce platform is right for your business

 

Finally don’t forget to make sure you are using the best eCommerce platform for your business. If your current software doesn’t allow you to easily implement any of the above ideas then it might be time to consider alternative options.

You need to choose an eCommerce supplier that pushes you to grow and a scalable platform that can create efficiencies through automation and flexibility.

Sign Up To Our Monthly Newsletter

Have our latest blog posts, company and industry news delivered direct to your inbox.

Stephanie Fenton
31st May 2019

Dos & Don’ts Of An eCommerce Replatforming Project

Dos & Don’ts Of An eCommerce Replatforming Project

5 MIN READ

Moving to a new eCommerce platform better suited to your needs can present huge growth opportunities for your online business. However, eCommerce replatforming can still be a daunting task with a number of considerations and risks involved.

Here At Venditan we have a number of highly experienced migration experts who have put together their top dos and don’ts for your replatforming project. If you have any queries about the points mentioned below, please get in touch.

DO

1. Nail down a specification and stick to it

 

To prevent misunderstandings and remove room for confusion it’s critical that you define the requirements and expectations of your eCommerce replatforming project in a detailed specification.

This should include:

  • The key drivers for the project and current pain points
  • Mobile-first designs that cover each web-page layout
  • Features and functionality
  • Technical and functional specifications for any bespoke features or third-party integrations
  • Data migration requirements
  • A project timeline and launch plan

Defining what the project will encompass means that you will have a clear picture of what will be delivered and when. If your wishlist changes part-way through the project, add any amendments or additional features to a post-launch roadmap. This will ensure that the project launches on time and doesn’t snowball into a never-ending build.

2. Choose a platform that allows your business to scale up

 

It’s important that you choose an eCommerce platform that promotes growth and fits with your business goals. Think about your revenue targets for the next couple of years. How many orders would you need to be shipping? How much more stock would you need to hold? By how much would you need to increase your website traffic?

If your order levels increased to where they need to be, how efficient would the suggested dispatch process be? Choose a platform that comes with intelligent picking and packing functionality that can work for retail operations of all sizes. Ask if manual processes can be automated for larger order volumes and vice versa. For smaller order volumes automated processes may be more time consuming than manual ones.

Make sure that the platform can understand the layout of your warehouse and create picking lists following the most efficient route. If you’re really looking to scale up, make sure that the platform understands the concept of multiple warehouses and which location would be best to ship from if delivering to a specific postcode.

If you want to increase your revenue it’s likely that you’ll need to think about increasing traffic levels. This means that you need to think about the impact they’ll have on your server. If additional resources aren’t spun up, extra visitors could slow down your site or bring it down completely. Choosing a provider that uses cloud hosting means that your website will be able to respond to extra visitors in real time.

3. Utilise your new eCommerce platform’s out-the-box features and functionality

 

Before specifications are produced, review your chosen eCommerce platform’s out-the-box features. Could any of these increase your profit margins, improve efficiency or help you to provide your customers with a better service?

Find out which couriers your new eCommerce platform has already integrated with. Speak to these couriers to find out which delivery services they provide and whether they could offer you a better rate than your existing suppliers.

When thinking about the delivery services to offer on your new website, find out if your platform has the ability to understand weight and postcode-based delivery pricing. Offering this to your customers could save you both money. This is especially important for free service categories where you’re going to be taking a hit.

One of the keys to providing a good shopping experience in 2019 is to allow your customers to checkout using their preferred payment method. If your new platform allows you to offer e-wallet payments such as Apple Pay, consider including these on your new checkout.

4. Use as an opportunity to cull and optimise content

 

Don’t just carry all content over to your new website, use the migration as an opportunity to get rid of any thin or duplicate content that doesn’t enhance the shopping experience for your users. Optimise and clean up any valuable content by updating copy, adding structured data markup, and reviewing keyword usage in your copy, alt text, heading tags and meta content.

DON’T

1. Forget to redirect all changing URLs

 

When migrating to a new platform and launching a new website, it’s likely that many of your URLs will be changing. It’s important that 301 redirects are put in place at the point of launch so that users and search engines can easily find your equivalent pages on your new website. Not doing this can have a devastating effect on your search engine rankings and ultimately the revenue driven from organic sources.

Here at Venditan, we will use the Screaming Frog SEO spider to crawl your current website and pull off a full list of URLs to be redirected. We will also request a list of all 301 redirects that exist within your current eCommerce platform so that they can be migrated into your new Venditan Commerce CMS with any chains removed.

2. Think that integrating with the best-in-class software for each area of your business is the right solution

 

Ideally, to create a true omnichannel experience, you should aim to manage your entire operation through a single piece of software. Managing different areas of your business through different systems is likely to be an administrative nightmare and leads to issues such as overselling and a disjointed customer experience. It’s also likely that you will be wasting money by using expensive third parties to do something that your platform is already capable of. Make sure you fully understand the capabilities of your chosen platform before planning integration projects.

3. Miss the migration of any key data

 

Ahead of the migration process it’s important to map out all areas of the business and the data required for each to function. This can then be used to form your specifications and prevent any key data from being missed.

Your eCommerce platform should be the master record of all data that your business owns. As a minimum you should ensure that all inventory, customer and order information is transferred to your new platform. This will prevent you from losing any of the data you have acquired that could help you to better understand your customers and provide them with personalised marketing and loyalty rewards.

4. Forget to give staff adequate training ahead of launch

 

Ensure that you allow enough space in your project timeline to train each of your teams thoroughly ahead of launch. The last thing you want is to lose out on sales because your customer service teams or store staff aren’t able to locate stock or take payments.

Representatives from each of your teams should have been involved from the planning stage and should have guided your decisions on future functionality and processes. If you’ve chosen the best eCommerce platform for your business it should create efficiencies and make the lives of your staff easier so they should be happy with any changes to their workflow.

Don’t forget that we’re offering free migration from Magento to Venditan Commerce for a limited time only. Enter your details below to speak to one of our migration experts about your requirements and to see if Venditan Commerce is the right solution for you.

Stephanie Fenton
24th May 2019

End Of Life For Magento 1: Everything You Need To Know

End Of Life For Magento 1: Everything You Need To Know

Back in November 2015 when the highly-anticipated Magento 2 was released, merchants and developers were made aware that it would only be a matter of time before Magento 1 became obsolete.

 

An original end date for support of November 2018 created panic within the Magento community. There weren’t enough Magento developers in the world to migrate every Magento 1 site within the set timescale. With no security patches after the cut-off date, any sites that missed out on a migration would be vulnerable to security breaches and hacks.