Many traders have either already made ‘the step to online’, or are in the process of doing so. Many think of setting up a webshop when starting out in e-commerce or digital trade. Rightly so, but a webshop is only the beginning.
The importance of an online presence
Obviously, digital trade is indispensable for wholesalers today. It’s important to keep up with the world around us, which is rapidly changing and becoming increasingly digitised. Business customers expect online availability of relevant data and the options to order or connect their own digital processes. The success of today’s wholesale depends on this digital transparency and availability.
I recently spoke with a large wholesaler who already does 50 to 60 percent of his business online. This is partly via the webshop, but also includes digital orders via mobile sales apps, EDI and OCI. Never heard those terms before? Keep on reading!
It starts with a webshop
The fact that you need a (B2B) webshop is a no-brainer for most wholesalers. After all, it couldn’t be easier. Most connections and integrations are standardised and can be delivered out-of-the-box. These types of sales portals support customer-specific prices and discounts as a standard, provide real-time insight into stocks and ensure ease of ordering by, for example, using order lists which are integrally managed by the ERP.
EDI for automatic order processing
As soon as the volumes of your order and information flows with a specific supplier or customer increase, an Electronic Data Interchange (EDI) gateway is an incredibly useful service. This allows you to automatically order from one ERP system in the other, resulting in a much more efficient process. EDI is relatively expensive to set up, but significantly increases your efficiency thanks to the automatic exchange of business documents such as article data, stock data and packing slips.
Sales apps: online trade for on the move
In addition to webshops and EDI, sales apps are another important component for online trade. The advantage of sales apps is that they form a bridge between purely digital and human contact. For example, when sales staff use them with a customer. The advantages are obvious: the sales rep can write orders with the app on location, whereby customer discounts and other elements of the trade agreement can automatically be applied.
OCI (Open Catalogue Interface)
OCI (PunchOut) provides customers with the option to view a supplier’s webshop from their own ERP system. The order this may result in isn’t completed, but exported to the customer by way of XML. This allows the customer’s ERP system to know that it concerns a purchase order and therefore doesn’t need to be entered manually. In other scenarios, OCI purchase ‘messages’ are immediately imported into the supplier’s webshop.
POS (Point of Sales)
Customers want to be assisted quickly and well. That’s no different digitally than in a store. In turn, as a wholesaler you want the correct prices to be used and stocks well maintained. In order to achieve this, you use a POS system where an order or invoice can easily be created or scanned with a few clicks. POS systems make use of the same ERP business logic used by the sales office and webhops.
One single source of truth
In short, e-commerce is more than just setting up a webshop. It’s a sum of various digital channels and links, each with their own area of application. Your ERP system is the driving force behind all this.
It’s therefore essential that you have this ‘single source of truth’ in good order. Whether it concerns product information, pricing or customer relationships, this data and logic must be available centrally and in realtime for each of the e-commerce services. By doing this, you ensure that the customer approach is consistent in all aspects and across all channels.