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Most distributors say that what sets them apart is the value they add to the product sale, whether that's knowledge, aftermarket service or something else. Many also believe that value can't be translated through e-commerce. Eric Hills, Zilliant's chief evangelist and senior vice president, disagrees.
"E-commerce provides an opportunity for these companies to provide superior service," he said in the latest episode of MDM Executive Briefing, E-Commerce in Distribution: Why It Can't Be Ignored. "If you think about the core value propositions of leading distributors – efficiency, reliability, availability – all of those characteristics can be amplified or enhanced through a well-designed e-commerce system."
And, Hills said, a well-designed e-commerce platform can actually help avoid having to compete on price – a common fear in the e-commerce space, thanks in part to the existence of AmazonSupply.com.
The key is to make sure you're giving customers access to relevant information and a personalized experience. They want to see the prices that are part of their agreements, not just the standard price. That makes it easier for the customer to do business with you, Hills said, which makes them want to do business with you.
A big benefit to distributors is that having an integrated e-commerce platform with all the relevant information tied together takes a lot of variance out of the pricing process. "The whole idea of price optimization … is to get the right price and not over-discount," Hills said. "E-commerce is actually an enabler of that paradigm."
In a recent MDM Webcast, What Distributor Innovation Looks Like in 2013: Rethinking Your Business Model, Mike Marks reiterated the idea that if all that matters is price, you're in trouble because "the dumbest guy in the market will always control pricing." It's no different with e-commerce. Make your e-commerce platform a key piece of your sales strategy and use it to sell your value and build upon the core values of distribution.
Click on the video below to hear more from Hills and Insite Software's Linda Taddonio and Brian Strojny. View the entire episode of MDM Executive Briefing on e-commerce at www.mdm.com/executivebriefing.