It's no secret that modern retail and distribution marketplaces are more digitally driven than ever before, and organizations have had to quickly learn the tricks of the trade when balancing traditional and advanced management frameworks. For small and medium-sized distributors, the need for integrated platform solutions has never been greater in order to keep up with big box retailers.
In 2014, Forbes reported that the global B2B eCommerce market would reach a total value of $6.7 trillion by 2020, citing research conducted by Frost & Sullivan. In such a competitive landscape, organizations need to determine ways to stay ahead of the competition, or risk getting left in the dust.
Integrated eCommerce is characterized by a seamless connection between various management tools including enterprise resource planning, customer relationship management and others. For modern distribution and retail, cohesion between platforms provides far more insights in a much smaller timeframe than handling each component separately without data interaction.
Although integrated eCommerce is critical for organizations that are solely brick-and-mortar or online, it is even more vital for distributors that have a footprint in both landscapes. Integration provides these organizations with a seamless customer experience - no matter which environment they choose to interact and conduct business. Many SMB distributers have not yet embraced modern integrated eCommerce out of false belief that it is either too expensive, complex or otherwise inaccessible. Years ago, integrated technology platforms were indeed reserved for those with deep pockets and a level of sophistication that enabled them to take advantage of the new opportunities being created via technology.
But today, integrated solutions are becoming more widely available and affordable to organizations of all shapes and sizes, and the matter is simply one of adoption.
The first step is to understand why integrated eCommerce is so critical to overall business growth and success by overcoming challenges such as:
- Poor customer experiences
- Improper inventory management
- No automation within the sales cycle
- A rift between ERP and CRM
- Siloed business functions across the brick-and-mortar location and the eCommerce component
On the whole, integrated eCommerce can transform the customer experience, as well as employee activities within the organization, leading to operational and financial improvements.
Take a look at these common scenarios:
- A customer makes a purchase with a service representative by phone. The representative logs the order, but the customer prefers to pay for the item online.
- A customer buys an item in a store but wishes to return it online.
Neither may not be possible if their technologies are not linked. An integrated eCommerce solution would enable customers to log in, see their complete order history, select the items on a particular order that might be eligible for a return, issue the RMA, package things up and send back. Now, when that item hits the receiving dock, the ERP is already expecting that item to come in.
With an integrated platform, activities are logged and managed in a largely automated fashion, boosting the intelligence of decision-making. Distributors competing in the modern marketplace must have these solutions in place to meet the demands of today's customers. The value of the solutions will only continue to rise as time goes on.
For some additional insights into this discussion, view our OnDemand webcast, Integrated B2B eCommerce - Selling Online Isn't Just for Retailers.