Many distributors put online development efforts on hold last year due to budget cuts. This year we will
likely see many distributors launch new Web sites and catalogs to upgrade online marketing and customer
service tools. This is one area where it is critical to keep it simple and clearly communicate the brand
that has been so successful for the company over the years.
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We can all think of bad examples of Web sites – too cluttered,
busy, confusing, flashy, self-absorbed. We leave within a few seconds. In this vein, don’t
underestimate how your customers and prospects might be using the Web. It’s critical
to design your site from the customer’s point of view, not yours. You need to get
someone’s attention within a few seconds and then clearly show them how to get what they want in the fewest clicks
possible. That’s true whether it is email or a Web page, a new visitor or longtime customer.
Example: Catalog distributor McMaster-Carr redesigned its site in 2009, a major upgrade for a huge catalog with nearly
500,000 items. There is no flash or motion, not a lot of color, just a customer-centric catalog that lets new and repeat
customers get to what they are interested in quickly. They were praised in an article on Web site design at BtoBonline.com
on ten great Web sites in 2009. Read the article on McMaster-Carr and other Web site best practices.
The article talks about how
McMaster’s site has a lot of content and graphics that are useful rather than flashy. The site
is easy to navigate and loads fast. It’s easy to find how to contact people.
think everyone is more focused on substance following this recession, especially customers. Your site should
have solid product and services content, organized in a way your customer wants to view it. And don't count
out video. It doesn’t have to be flashy, and it is one of the most viewed content forms on B-to-B
Web sites today.
Don't hand off the Web upgrade to the summer intern this
year. This is a critical piece in transitioning your marketing and customer service to match your customers’
Tom Gale is the publisher of Modern Distribution Management.
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