With more customers purchasing from alternative channels such as home centers, online distributors, catalog houses, and direct sales (from manufacturers,) some distributors are struggling to acquire new buyers and retain existing customers.
Many of these alternatives offer competitive pricing. They also make it easy for customers to place orders online and get the products delivered in just a few days.
Sometimes you may wonder — is there a place for small electrical distributors that primarily serve a local or regional market?
Don’t despair! Even though your customers have more choices now than ever, you can stay competitive by getting the right product to the right customer — at the right time, in the right place, at the right price, and in the right quantity.
Here are some advantages you have as a local distributor:
- You can provide a local touch and build relationships with your customers by offering outstanding online and offline (i.e., in-person) customer service to improve loyalty and increase retention rate.
- Your customers can depend on you for immediate response and supplies during an emergency when they can’t wait a few days for items to arrive in the mail.
- You can anticipate customer demands and have the right product selection at the ready based on local conditions and market needs so your customers don’t have to hunt and peck from multiple suppliers.
- You can offer delivery directly to a job site for a seamless and convenient customer experience that saves your buyers time and headache.
- You can provide prospects and customers with unique content and training, positioning yourself as a one-stop resource for technical, application, pricing, and availability information on hundreds of products.
Here’s what you should do to leverage these advantages so you can stand out and attract more customers:
1. Become eCommerce-Focused
As the new generation of B2B buyers prefers to do business online whenever and wherever is most convenient for them, it’s no longer enough to have a “catalog” website.
If your customers can’t easily find the product information or purchase the items they need from your website, they can easily go back to Google and search for another distributor.
Without a robust eCommerce platform, you risk losing existing customers and failing to attract new buyers.
Here are some key features and functionalities to include on your eCommerce website:
- Guest check out
- Dynamic and bulk pricing based on account status
- High-quality product images and in-depth product information (e.g., demo videos, comparison charts)
- Customer reviews and rating
- Account management (e.g., past purchases/reorder list)
- Self-service tools (e.g., knowledge base)
- Search and filter
- Featured items, upsell, cross-sell, and product recommendations based on local market and/or customers’ browsing behaviors and purchase history
- Customer support (e.g., live chat)
- Delivery options (e.g., same-day delivery and in-store pick-up)
- Payment options, such as credit/debit card, ACH, e-procurement, and trade credit
2. Deliver a Mobile-First Customer Experience
Not only do buyers prefer to do business online but they’re also making more purchases with their mobile devices.
To attract more customers, make sure they can find the right products, complete their orders, and manage their accounts easily on a mobile device by using a mobile responsive framework for your eCommerce website.
Your site should be optimized to load quickly on mobile devices. Place important content close to the top of a page to minimize scrolling and simplify the mobile checkout process by paring down the information required from the customer to what’s needed to complete the transaction (you can always ask them to update their accounts later.)
In addition, leverage mobile device specific technologies such as tap-to-call, location services, and autofill to streamline the user experience and make buying from you quick and easy.
You can also create a mobile app with which customers can quickly look up product information, manage their accounts and make purchases.
3. Optimize For Local SEO
As we mentioned earlier, your ability to offer a local perspective and personal touch can help you stand out from your competition. But first, you need to get found!
89% of B2B researchers use the Internet during their research process. 72% of users who perform a local search visit a store within five miles and 30% of mobile searches are location-related. It’s therefore critical that your eCommerce website is optimized for local SEO.
In the past, many B2B distributors “locked” their websites to shield certain information from the public and their competitors. However, doing so prevented Google from crawling and indexing their websites, which impacted their search engine ranking. Instead of locking your website, use an eCommerce platform that can display dynamic content (e.g., pricing) based on visitors’ status.
You can also increase the chances of your website getting found in local searches by:
- Claiming and optimizing your Google My Business listing so your business can be shown in the “local pack” at the top of relevant search results.
- Including and ranking for location-related keywords in your content.
- Getting listed on local directories and third-party review sites.
- Creating local content that is relevant to your target audience.
4. Offer Unique Information and Training
Your customers don’t want to spend the time and effort visiting dozens of websites to get product information or place their orders.
You can add value and convenience to attract more customers by becoming the one-stop resource where they can get all the technical, application, and product information on hundreds of items.
You can also enhance your expert status, build relationships, and improve loyalty by providing prospects and customers with unique how-to information or training content that will help them use your products for better results.
Not to mention, having unique and in-depth content on your website communicates your relevance to Google, increases engagement, and improves your SEO ranking.
To stay ahead of your competition, you need to establish an online presence that allows your customers to do business with you quickly and easily.
Your eCommerce website should do more than processing transactions. By optimizing the content and customer experience, it’ll help you get found on relevant online searches, put you in front of new prospects, increase conversion rate, and nurture relationships with your current customers to improve loyalty and retention.
Want to learn more on how to win the eCommernce game in the electrical distribution industry? Download the eCommerce Apruval Report for Electrical Distributors here.
Author Bio: Matt Osborn is the Senior Marketing Manager at Apruve, a Fintech company that is revolutionizing how businesses buy from each other. He is a gifted “dad joker” although he has not fathered any children and currently has the second highest score in NES Donkey Kong in company history.