When Amazon.com announced the beta launch of AmazonSupply, a store for business and industry folks, many distributors and wholesalers began to wonder if they could successfully compete against the online juggernaut.
“Any wholesaler or distributor who isn’t asking this question is underestimating what is probably the largest change in the wholesale and distribution marketplace since the introduction to ecommerce,” Brian Strojny, CEO of Insite Software wrote in the whitepaper “AmazonSupply.com: Can Today’s Distributors Complete? How to Succeed in a Changing Marketplace.”
According to the beta site, AmazonSupply is aiming to “offer Earth’s largest selection of essential products for businesses, labs, workshops and factories.” The site currently offers 500,000 “essential products,” a 365-day return policy, low prices, free two-day shipping on anything over $50 and more, corporate credit lines and great customer service.
Yes, AmazonSupply.com might have a sleek web design and a large network of shipping warehouses, but according to Strojny, it’s lacking something most established businesses most likely already have: established relationships, product knowledge and expertise, and a wider product assortment.
“Leveraging each of these advantages will set the independent wholesaler and distributor head and shoulders above the low prices of AmazonSupply.com,” he wrote.
“The launch of AmazonSupply.com is not the end of your distribution success. I firmly believe that your organization can compete and flourish alongside AmazonSupply.com, provided you take the necessary steps to solidify your position in the market,” Strojny wrote.
Here are twelve ways Strojny believes you can position your business for success in light of AmazonSupply.com or any other new competitor in your market:
Evaluate your ecommerce strategy
If you currently have an existing ecommerce site, it’s important to evaluate your strategy. The best way to do so is to identify the changes need to be made to get your site up-to-speed and where your trouble spots are. Once these areas are addressed, it will allow you to make those improvements before AmazonSupply.com or another competitor can get a foothold in your market.
Upgrade your site’s platform and infrastructure
Now is the time to make your site as easy to use and intuitive as possible while maintaining your current ecommerce strategy. Encourage your customers to buy from you by making your shopping experience intuitive and customer centered.
Consider bringing more/all of your SKUs online
AmazonSupply.com’s strategy is likely to sell as many big volume items to as many business-to-business verticals as possible. They are not likely to offer the more specialized or slower moving products, therefore, if you have items that are not currently available on your site, make them available now to offer your customers the largest possible selection.
Beef up online product content
Content and resources will set you apart from all of your competitors, not just AmazonSupply.com. Evaluate your product descriptions, product specifications, FAQs, support documentation, and product images. The more relevant information you can provide to your customers, the more likely they will continually seek out your site when they need to make a purchase.
Evaluate your traditional commerce experience from the customer’s perspective
How easy is it for your customers to purchase from you? Are there glaring errors in the buying process that you should fix? If you’ve never had an outsider purposely evaluate your ecommerce experience with the intent of providing candid feedback, now it the time to do so.
Refuse to get into a price war with Amazon
AmazonSupply.com will always be able to offer lower prices than you. Rather than engaging in a price war with them, consider lowering prices on key items to remain relevant or implementing a price matching guarantee on identical items when a customer asks for it.
Increase customer-centric promotions
AmazonSupply.com is offering free two-day shipping. Consider offering a similar free shipping incentive. Additionally, do what AmazonSupply.com will not be able to do: provide no hassle returns and interactive customer support via live chat. Educate your customers on the products you sell by providing product recommendations, strategic cross-selling and up-selling as well as relevant discounts on the items they use most.
Leverage your ability to provide personalized service
No one knows your customers the way you do. Use this to your advantage to provide world-class, personalized customer service. Empower your customer service and fulfillment team members to do what it takes to delight every customer, every time they order.
Create a social network for your customers
If you don’t have a social media presence, now is the time to get one. Social networking allows you to connect with customers outside of the transactional buying process and will give you insights on what they think about your products, how to make them better and what products they wish you offered.
Overhaul your fulfillment and shipping processes
Examine your order fulfillment process from start to finish and fix any issues you discover along the way. Integrate your commerce platform with your enterprise resource planning (ERP) and shipping systems to improve speed-of service and eliminate errors.
Recognize the power of having a physical presence in the market
Recognize the power you have by having a physical store that customers can visit. Allow the customer to search for products online and determine which location nearest them has the item in stock. Promote physical store locations or online ordering with an on-site order pick-up on your ecommerce site with a store locator function. Better yet, if your organization has a regional presence with delivery trucks at your disposal, offer any customer in your area free same day delivery for orders placed before a designated cut-off time.
Empower your employees
Encourage all employees to go above and beyond the customer’s expectations to ensure the current sale—and future loyalty—stays with your organization.