What you need to know:
- Customer-specific pricing assures your buyers they are getting their correct pricing.
- Product catalog and availability drive online adoption; customers don't want to split orders across different channels.
- Lead and delivery times transparency results in better customer experiences.
E-commerce is a value-added service expected by most of your customers. As with all customer service, it can generate more revenue or turn off your customers.
Customer Specific Pricing
If your customers find they get better deals by picking up the phone or visiting your warehouse, they won't order online. It's not unusual to see Web pricing 30% - 40% higher than offline pricing.
Executive teams are "running scared" when it comes to pricing transparency. So they set higher prices and allow their sales team to create sales exceptions.
You're training your customer to ask for better pricing on every order. So getting your cost-to-serve down will be difficult as they won't adopt self service on their most of their orders.
When your sales team manually overrides your system price to what they think the “right” price needs to be. This indicates that your system price may not be at “market level” or your sales team doesn’t understand your pricing strategy. Top distributors use pricing optimization to group “like customers buying like products”, and then set data driven system prices that allow their sales team to win more business at more profitable levels. - John Gunderson, epaCUBE
Your salespeople should authorize exceptions, but you need to optimize pricing for items requiring constant exceptions, allowing customers to get a consistent experience.
Product catalog and availability
None of us want to do twice as much work for the same results. Your client doesn't want to buy select buy online and call-in orders for missing items.
Why not just call in the first place?
When building customer microsites, I've seen this happen repeatedly. Here's how it goes.
- A safety manager wants more control over safety purchases.
- They work to create an online ordering solution that has only the correct safety gear.
- Field personnel don't adopt the solution because it doesn't have non-safety-related products. They call or visit the warehouse to get what they need.
Or worse, they go to your competitor, who has a complete online catalog.
Include a large variety of your catalog online. This can require a huge effort to collect data, images and descriptions. But over time, it will lead to more online sales and acquiring more customers.
Lead and delivery times
Does the customer ever ask for lead times when they call? Or does the salesperson automatically give them that information? If they do, it's because they know it's a required part of the sales journey.
So why on earth would you leave out that information online and expect your customers, or new prospects, to order it online? Amazon and significant E-commerce players have spoiled folks.
This task can seem daunting. But if a team can look at inventory and then estimate when an item will be delivered, your online store can do the same. It just takes some elbow grease and a little creativity.
To get started, sit down with your field, pull any data you have, and build a matrix to predict lead times. You'll want to take things like bulky, hazardous and UPS shippable into consideration. The goal isn't perfection, but to get the suitable lead time at least 80% of the time.
Over time you'll get better at creating online lead times. Not showing lead times because it surfaces operational issues is the wrong approach.
Customers appreciate transparency. After you make an order, something back-ordered by weeks is way more damaging to your perception of the supplier versus knowing that upfront.
Today's customers, and yes, consumers, expect transparency in pricing, availability and shipping. If you can get these three core components into your platform, you'll be well on your way to winning e-commerce.
Your e-commerce numbers might be better than you think.