Future Proof Your Distribution Business By Going D2C (Direct To Consumer)

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Steph Fenton
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To survive the digital age and remain competitive, many distributors have already embraced B2B eCommerce. This has allowed them to acquire new trade customers and strengthen relationships with existing ones. As an additional step to further future proof their business, distributors are now looking to sell directly to consumers.

Going D2C needn’t upset your existing customers, so long as you play fair and sell at the RRP, it can be a win-win opportunity for both parties. Many distributors who’ve already started selling D2C have in fact reported an increase in trade orders due to greater brand awareness and demand for their products.

If you already have an online operation, expanding into D2C should open your business up to new customers without the need to significantly increase your workload or headcount.

Benefits of selling D2C:

.01 Collect valuable data

.02 Increase profit margins

.03 Develop relationships with end consumers

.04 Take control of customer experience

.05 Protect your business with an additional revenue stream

.06 Improve your B2B sales

Considerations when selling D2C:

.01 Mobile

.02 Pricing

.03 Payments

.04 Product information

.05 Delivery offering

.06 Customer support

.07 Software

.08 Stock Management

.09 Order Management

.10 SEO

.11 Digital upselling

6 benefits of selling direct to consumer

1. Collect valuable data

When consumer orders are placed directly with you, you gain a wealth of valuable data including; browsing behaviour, product performance, customer preferences, customer demographics, and customer feedback.

All this allows you to make more informed business decisions, improve your product offering, widen your customer base and ultimately increase both your B2B and B2C  sales.

2. Increase profit margins

One of the biggest benefits of selling directly to consumers is that products are sold at their recommended retail price – automatically increasing the profit you make on them.

When selling D2C, it’s really important to always have your trade customers in mind. Don’t be tempted to undercut them by selling below the RRP. This will both damage your relationships with retailers and devalue your products.

3. Develop relationships with end consumers

As you’ll be fulfilling consumer orders directly, you’ll be in control of the communication and support they receive pre and post purchase. By sending out automatic order and delivery updates you can ensure that your customers are kept informed about the status of their order and that their expectations are correctly set.

Listening to end consumers by requesting reviews of your products and services will enable you to address any negative feedback, and gain valuable insight into consumers’ wants and needs.

4. Take control of customer experience

Selling directly to the public means that you can take control of how your products are sold and the experience customers have when buying them.

A seamless shopping experience across all channels is now expected by customers. If you don’t provide one, they will shop elsewhere.

Selling via your own website and/or stores means that you can ensure:

  • All customer and order data is kept in sync
  • Customers don’t experience any blockers when trying to purchase your products
  • That orders are fulfilled on time

5. Protect your business with an additional revenue stream

Whether you think the death of the high street is overstated or not, it can only ever be a good thing to not put all your eggs in one basket. This is especially true with the added pressure of COVID-19 on retail. By selling directly to consumers, you open your business up to a new customer base and an additional revenue stream.

This is not to say that you should neglect your relationship with your B2B customers – their combined custom is still likely to make up the majority of your revenue.

6. Improve your B2B sales

By improving the experience, you provide on your website with things like better site functionality, more detailed product information and helpful user guides, you’re likely to increase conversions from all customer types.

To prevent retailers from feeling threatened, offer them exclusive products or free gifts that they can offer to their customers. This will help them to feel as though they still have a competitive edge and are still valued as a customer.

11 considerations when selling direct to consumer

1. Mobile

Whether B2B or D2C, having a mobile-first, user-friendly website is essential when selling online. A report by CBRE predicts that over half of all eCommerce sales will be carried out on mobile by 2021.

In order to remain competitive when selling D2C, you need to ensure that:

  • Your web pages load quickly across all devices
  • Your content is automatically and correctly reformatted to fit different screen sizes
  • Your website is well designed and easy to use with a touch screen

To find out more about the importance of mobile experience in eCommerce, and how to improve yours, you can read our report here.

2. Pricing

As you’ll want to continue to sell to your B2B customers at a lower price than your D2C customers, potentially even with additional discounts agreed by your reps, it’s important that you are able to display personalised, vat-free pricing once a B2B customer has logged in.

You also need to consider if you want to offer any exclusive discounts to specific groups of D2C customers, for example, students, NHS workers or employees.

You should choose an eCommerce platform that makes it simple to set up complex pricing rules, and automatically display and apply discounts based on the individual customer’s profile.

3. Payments

When selling to other businesses, you’re likely to let them put their orders on account or pay via bank transfer. You’ll need to ensure that your eCommerce platform allows you to hide these options from D2C customers and instead provide them with more convenient ways to pay.

In addition to accepting debit and credit cards, it’s now seen as a must to provide customers with as much choice as possible when it comes to payment. Digital payment methods such as PayPal, AmazonPay and ApplePay give customers an easier way to checkout without the need to enter their card details or fill out lengthy forms.

Depending on what you’re selling, you may also want to consider offering a “buy now, pay later” option such as OpenPay or V12 Finance. This can often help to secure a sale ahead of payday and give customers a reason to shop with you over your competitors.

Find out more about how to optimise your checkout process and make online payments simple here.

4. Product information

As you won’t be using sales reps to sell your products D2C, it’s important that your product pages provide all the information required for users to make an educated buying decision. Failure to do this is likely to result in low conversion rates and high return rates.

As a minimum, you should include the below content on your product pages:

  • Accurate and detailed imagery capturing all key features and showing the product from different angles.
  • Clear descriptions detailing the particulars of the product. Ideally the person writing this description should be in front of and have tried the product out for themselves.
  • Measurements and size charts so that users know the exact dimensions of the product are before they place their order.

Find out more ways to optimise your product pages here.

5. Delivery offering

Compared to the bulk B2B orders that you would normally receive, D2C orders are likely to be much smaller and lighter. Your new customer base is also going to expect more choice and flexibility when it comes to delivery. This means that you’ll need to work with your shipping partners and negotiate a number of new services.

When deciding on which services you would like to offer your D2C customers, bear in mind that free delivery thresholds and next day delivery are now the norm, with many websites also offering named day and even a choice of delivery slots.

If you have your own delivery vehicles, you could potentially consider offering same day delivery within a local radius – getting products to customers who need them faster. This is a great option for essential products like groceries, medical or health supplies.

You’ll also need to consider how you’re going to package up your D2C orders. Here are some tips for creating a memorable boxing experience.

6. Customer support

To reduce the number of customer enquiries you receive, it’s important that you make it easy for users to find answers to their questions on your website. As a minimum you should cover off; delivery and returns information, what customers should do about various order issues, details of the payment types you offer and answers to common stock questions.

You should also ensure that it’s easy for users to locate your contact details across all devices should they need to get in touch.

By providing customers with regular email or SMS updates when their order is placed, dispatched and out for delivery you can also help to set expectations, reassure them that they’ve made the right choice and reduce the need for them to contact you.

7. Software

Using the same solution across both your B2B and D2C operation can be incredibly beneficial. It can help to reduce the time, money and headaches involved in transferring data from one system to another.

Venditan Commerce allows you to manage warehousing, inventory, orders, fulfilment, web content, customers and in-store EPoS through a single system -allowing you to streamline your internal processes and become more efficient.

As it’s cloud based, all teams throughout your operation will have a real-time, single view of stock, customers and orders allowing them to react quickly to changes and make better business decisions.

Get in touch to see how we can migrate you over to Venditan Commerce in just 60 days!

8. Stock management

To avoid wasting time syncing stock data between B2B and D2C, it’s best to use a single system to manage your entire stock holding.

This means that all teams across your business will be viewing the same record of:

  • Which stock is available
  • Where stock is currently located
  • Each piece of stock’s journey from entering the business
  • Which stock is on an open purchase order
  • Which stock is allocated to customer orders
  • Which stock has already been sold

Depending on your B2B commitments, you may want to ring-fence some of your stock so that it can’t be sold through your websites or transferred to stores. You may also want to ring-fence stock that’s on display in one of your stores to prevent overselling and disappointed customers

As you’ll be buying for a new kind of customer, reporting will be key. You’ll need to keep track of your bestsellers, fast movers and slow movers per location in real time to ensure that your stock is available in the right place at the right time.

9. Order management

Using a single piece of software to manage all of your orders can help you to streamline your fulfilment process and prevent you from increasing your workload unnecessarily.

When selling D2C, you may be selling across multiple websites, marketplaces and physical stores so it’s extremely beneficial to have all orders listed and processed one place. This can both prevent overselling and reduce the number of systems and tasks used to get all your orders out on time.

10. SEO

To increase your online presence and attract new D2C customers, you’ll need to optimise your web pages for search engines.

As a starting point, think about what a customer might enter into a search engine when looking for your product. Now think about which page you would like them to land on if they’d searched for that phrase.

That is your targeted phrase for the page and you should include it:

  • Once in the meta title (preferably at the start)
  • Once in the meta description
  • In the H1 (the page heading)
  • In any image alt text
  • Several times within the copy on the page
  • In the URL

Find out more about optimising your web pages for search engines here.

Another great way of attracting traffic from search engines is to create new content that your target audience is likely to be interested in. Put yourself in the shoes of your target customer and think about which content they would find most helpful. An example of a retailer doing this well is Sigma Sports. They create lots of useful pre and post-purchase content to attract new customers and keep existing customers engaged with their brand.

11. Digital upselling

As you’ll mostly be selling D2C through your website, you won’t be able to rely on your sales reps and their traditional upselling skills. Instead, you’ll need to use digital upselling to increase your average order value.

A few ways of doing this include:

  • Displaying relevant related items on product pages and in marketing
  • Upselling complementary and low value add on items at the basket
  • Post-purchase emails with complementary and related items
  • Setting up bundles and bulk buy offers
  • Sending out reminders when perishable items are likely to be reaching the end of their life
  • Offering a loyalty scheme that encourages users to spend more so that they earn rewards

Final Thoughts

We can help you launch D2C in as little as 60 days

If you would like to start selling directly to end consumers and have any questions, please don’t hesitate to get in touch.

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