Despite wholesale buyers’ preference towards a B2C shopping experience, one in three electrical wholesalers do not have e-commerce capabilities
hybris, the world’s fastest-growing commerce platform provider ranked “leader” by both principal analyst firms, announced today the results of its Electrical Wholesaling E-Commerce Audit, which analyzed the websites of Electrical Wholesaling magazine’s top 200 companies. The audit found that despite the high expectations of wholesale buyers, nearly 40 percent of the top wholesale companies have extremely basic or nonexistent websites, missing an opportunity to enhance the buyer experience through e-commerce.
Supporting the audit findings, the hybris 2012 State of B2B E-Commerce survey found that the majority of B2B procurement specialists (88%) prefer vendors that offer e-commerce over those who do not. Many buyers, however, indicated that the quality of the B2B e-commerce experience is inferior to that of B2C, limiting its effectiveness.
“The demand for quality online shopping has moved beyond the consumer marketplace and into B2B sales,” said Steve Kramer, Executive Vice President Sales Americas at hybris. “B2B purchasing professionals want a quick and simple online buying experience. This audit shows a huge opportunity for improvement among businesses in the electrical wholesaling sector.”
According to Kramer, buyers want content available on any device (PCs, tablets, smartphones), and electrical wholesalers should amplify the effectiveness of traditional channels like print catalogs and over-the-counter sales. With only two in three wholesalers taking full advantage of e-commerce capabilities, many are missing an opportunity to gain a competitive advantage by delivering an integrated customer experience.
Product Details and Customer Reviews Enhance the Buying Experience
Buyers can’t see or feel products through an e-commerce platform, so B2B websites must make up for this by providing detailed descriptions and product information. According to the audit, three in five websites showed a list of dimensions and other specifications, but only one in four allowed the customer to enlarge the main product image. To provide the information buyers need, websites must have high-resolution product images, offer full technical specifications and downloadable PDF manuals when applicable. Product reviews are also helpful, but are largely unavailable on wholesaler websites.
“One of the best ways to provide detailed product information is to allow customers to submit their own reviews. They often highlight specific features that brands don’t even realize are important to customers,” said Kramer. “In the B2B world, reviews demonstrate that a wholesaler is partnering with their customers by offering the best and most useful advice for choosing the right product.”
Search Is Vital, But Underutilized On Electrical Wholesale Sites
Although advanced search functionality is a staple of most B2C e-commerce offerings, many B2B sites only offer basic search functions. According to the audit, 98 percent of sites allowed customers to search by product code, but only 48 percent enabled customers to search by product attributes like size, brand or price.
Advanced search options increase the chance of returning appropriate results and add value to buyers in the form of convenience, efficiency and cost savings. Despite these facts, less than half of the sites audited allowed customers to filter search results by product attributes, such as size, brand and price. Additionally, only six percent of sites offered an auto-complete function and only 15 percent produced results for misspelled search terms.
“B2B websites should cater to consumers by allowing them to search by application, product names, codes, keywords or the ability to look up the details of prior orders,” Kramer said. “A website’s search function should also recognize frequently misspelled words and offer auto-complete capabilities that consumers have come to rely on in traditional search engines.”
B2B Customers Want Easy Checkout and Shipping
Customers expect online checkout to be quick and easy, and B2B customers typically want the option to pay via credit account or credit card. Of the sites where the information was available, 96 percent allowed B2B customers to pay on a credit account or credit card. Only half of those that did not require a customer log-in made it clear that the checkout process was secure.
In addition to a quick and easy checkout, B2B purchasers want to receive products on a timeline that is convenient for their business. The best e-commerce sites offer a range of shipping options – next-day delivery, on a weekend or during a specific time period. Of the audited sites where information about shipping was available:
- • Nearly nine in ten offered next-day shipping, but very few offered additional options
- • Only 7 percent made information about shipping ready and available to anyone visiting
- • 14 percent showed shipping cost information on their product page
“For electrical wholesale customers who often need items on short notice, fast and easy shipping is crucial,” said Kramer. “From shipping to product details, our research found that there is a large disparity between what buyers want in an e-commerce platform and the current state of electrical wholesaling websites. By investing in an optimized e-commerce channel, wholesalers can equip their organizations with the tools they need to meet their customers’ e-commerce expectations.”
About the hybris Electrical Wholesaling E-Commerce Audit
The hybris Electrical Wholesaling E-Commerce Audit surveyed the e-commerce functionality of the top 200 electrical wholesale companies indicated by Electrical Wholesaling magazine. The extensive audit analyzed websites for best practice functionality across a variety of categories, including search and navigation, product details, checkout, shipping options, customer accounts and customer services. For more insights from the audit and to learn about best practices for electrical wholesalers, download the eBook E-Commerce Checklist for Electrical Wholesalers at www.hybris.com/en/downloads/whitepaper/e-commerce-checklist-electrical-wholesale.