5 Reasons Wholesale Distributors Can’t Master Ecommerce and Omnichannel

By: | Category: Distribution / Manufacturing, eCommerce, ERP

To compete effectively in the digital selling environment, wholesale distributors need robust, user-friendly ecommerce storefronts and omnichannel platforms that can meet the needs of B2C and B2B customers that want their orders fulfilled accurately within one or two days. Meeting these demands is difficult using antiquated, disparate systems that weren’t designed to tackle the rigors of today’s ecommerce and omnichannel selling environment.

Here are the key challenges that these technology systems are creating for distributors:

1. Company systems are disconnected. Working with a web of disconnected, disparate systems that don’t communicate with one another, distributors are forced to piece together information across various departments, software platforms, and information repositories. This eats up time, money, and human resources while also impairing operational ability. A customer relationship management (CRM) system that’s not connected to inventory management or financials, for example, probably isn’t talking to the company’s ecommerce platform either. This lack of communication leads to poor data visibility, limited connectivity, and organizational silos.

2. Information is never up to date. When staff members have to manually enter every single order that comes in, match invoices against those orders, pull those orders to manage customer service requests, and take myriad other steps as the orders are fulfilled, keeping the data up to date and accessible is nearly impossible. The disconnected technology systems drive the need for all of these manual steps. As a result, information is never up to date or accessible.

3. Most integrations are manual. In a world where application programming interfaces (APIs) have streamlined the process of integrating both internal and external systems, manual, labor-intensive integrations have become a thing of the past. Still, most wholesale distributors are grappling with these manual integrations as they try to connect with their vendors and customers. Most of this is still handled manually, versus using a middleware program that integrates seamlessly and kept up to date automatically.

4. Poor customer visibility. Today’s customers have high expectations. Without a comprehensive view of those buyers and their activities—made possible by data and information collected at various points along the customer’s journey—distributors can’t effectively interact with and serve them. Mandatory for both B2C and B2B distributors, the 360-degree customer view is impossible when systems are disconnected, thus creating significant information gaps and, subsequently, poor customer visibility. When CRM isn’t connected to ERP, there’s no way to get real-time visibility into order status and no good answer to the question, “Where’s my order?” The same visibility gaps impact inventory management, where knowing whether an item is in stock and ready to ship requires manual intervention. These issues stand in the way of a good customer experience and create major challenges for wholesale distributors who can’t effectively manage buyer expectations.

5. Staff members that aren’t empowered to make decisions. Under pressure to compete more effectively with the Amazons and Walmarts of the world, wholesale distributors have to be agile, flexible, and responsive. They rely on their employees to help them reach these goals, but when those staff members don’t have accurate, up-to-date data at their fingertips—and when the departments they work in are siloed and disjointed—making quick decisions is difficult at best. Right now, all companies are trying to figure out how to grow revenue and manage shrinking delivery windows, both of which can only be attained when employees are empowered with good, accurate data.

Fully-Integrated Omnichannel Ecosystems

Working with distributors of all sizes, Net at Work blends NetSuite with the ConnectPoint implementation methodology. Implementations typically take about 4-6 months, with the resultant solution connecting the distributors’ sales channels (i.e., Amazon, eBay, Wayfair, etc.) plus their ecommerce platform (SuiteCommerce, Magento, Shopify).

These integrations are essentially connecting any and all of the distributors’ existing networks into the unified ERP. This helps distributors unleash the power of their businesses and the complete omnichannel/multichannel loop that all retailers, manufacturers, and distributors are striving for.

By implementing a unified cloud ERP that incorporates financials, CRM, inventory management, and other functionalities, distributors can vastly improve this customer service component without having to add headcount. Going a step further, the integration of that ERP with ecommerce creates a fully-integrated omnichannel ecosystem in a world that demands it.

For an extended look at this topic, access our white paper for a detailed look at how leading distributors are addressing these challenges to reach full potential in the online and offline selling environment.