Unilog delivers affordable e-commerce solutions to midmarket B2B companies. Unilog’s cloud-based platform and product data enrichment services help distributors, manufacturers and wholesalers increase online sales, reduce cost to serve and enhance their digital channels.
I spoke to Suchit, whom the Philadelphia Business Journal voted one of its 2015 “40 Under 40,” about issues to consider when building and optimizing your e-commerce strategy.
What are the top general issues to consider when thinking about optimizing your B2B e-commerce site?
One of the most overlooked issues is product content, meaning robust product descriptions, attributes, specs, images, brochures, multiple part numbers and other useful information about the products you sell online. So many companies think that an e-commerce site requires little beyond the product name and a brief description, but copy that explains what a product is, how it works and what makes it different from the competition can make a real difference.
Content does a lot of heavy lifting online. A unique marketing description both maximizes on-site keyword searches and helps sell the products, standing in for a salesperson. Content that suggests substitute products and required accessories goes one step further, opening the door for cross-selling and upselling. Content also helps clients and prospects find a site, because well-written, detailed content gets noticed by search engines, and that lifts the e-commerce site higher in the search results.
Then there’s the underlying infrastructure of the site. All the great graphic design, content and features of a site mean nothing if it’s hosted in a subpar environment. Customers expect speed. They demand high availability. That’s why we deploy all of our customer sites in the Google Cloud and leverage modern hosting and deployment technologies like container orchestration. This allows e-commerce sites to dynamically scale computing and storage resources as needed. For example, if your site gets hit with an unexpected spike in traffic, you want the site to automatically spin up the proper resources to handle the load, so your customers never notice degradation of site performance. Plus, hosting your site with a top-tier provider like Google ensures the strictest security measures are in place.
Why do some B2B distributors still not have a strong e-commerce presence? What are the barriers to entry for them?
Some distributors have a hard time envisioning their e-commerce site as a primary revenue driver. Though we see this less and less, there are still companies that struggle to justify an investment in e-commerce; they tell us that they expect it to account for just 5% to 10% of their annual revenue. These companies may be overlooking the business they’re losing out the back door to companies like Grainger, Amazon Business, Home Depot and other big-box players that have a strong e-commerce strategy in place.
A true e-commerce presence isn’t just about having a website where you sell products online. It’s a company-wide strategy that requires the right people and processes to succeed. That shift can be difficult for some distributors.
There’s also internal politics at play. The salesforce may not immediately embrace the concept of having their customers buy online. They fear losing the relationship with the customer. They may say, “Don’t go to our website, come to me instead. I’ll get you the best price for that product.” That approach can kill an e-commerce initiative. The reality is that the website allows sales reps to focus on higher-margin, more complex sales while the site captures higher-volume, lower-margin repeat business. It shouldn’t matter if a sale starts online and finishes with a phone conversation or vice versa. Customers want that omnichannel experience where they can conduct business in a frictionless manner that allows them to purchase when, where and how they desire.
What qualities set Unilog apart from the pack of B2B e-commerce suites?
Unilog’s defining feature is that the company was built to address the needs of distributors, manufacturers and wholesalers in the B2B marketplace at an attractive price point. Many larger vendors can see the opportunity for growth in the midmarket, but they try to scale down their solutions rather than design something specifically for midmarket B2B companies. We address the common pain points with an all-in-one platform that provides customers with everything they need – including product information management, intuitive search, a mobile app, the content management system and integration with the customer’s ERP software.
And again, I’ll go back to product content. Unilog is the only e-commerce provider in the B2B space that delivers both the e-commerce site and the enriched product content for the SKUs selling online. Having one vendor provide both solutions saves time, money and headaches.
M.R. Rangaswami is co-founder of Sand Hill Group and publisher of SandHill.com.