Brands need to be selling online – Direct-to-Consumer (DTC), selling Business-to-Business (B2B), or both. Choosing whether or not to play in this game is no longer an option. Your end-consumers are expecting to find your product on your brand site. Your retailers/dealers are giving their dollars to the brands that make their purchasing process the easiest. If you are already in the game and looking to learn more, or if you are only now realizing that you behind the eight ball, IRCE Focus: Brands and B2B in NYC is a perfect event to attend – the premiere event focused solely on these challenges.
The initial tumult caused by brands selling direct is easing as retailers realize the brands are not out to destroy them and that they have tools to compete against mono-brand sites. Also, as more brands pursue a multichannel strategy (including DTC), like Nike and Apple, and show that it can be done, it is becoming a more commonly accepted practice.
Brands are also figuring out ways to sell DTC from their brand site, intelligently: i.e., without upsetting their wholesale customers. Maintaining high price levels, minimizing aggressive promotional methods, and even involving retailers in the fulfillment process are all means that brands are using to avoid the dreaded channel conflict.
That’s not to say it is a walk in the park. Putting retail prices on brand sites can cause trauma to international markets because the prices are visible globally and prices are rarely equalized. This is particularly an issue for US brands that also sell in Canada where consumer prices in some industries can be as much as 30% higher than the US.
On the B2B side, the game is evolving rapidly. The days of having a minimalist site that is designed to “just take orders” are over. Purchasing agents expect the same user experience that they get when they shop online for personal reasons. Features like dealer specific pricing, product availability with live decrementing inventory, product onboarding capabilities, and shipping ETAs are a given. But now features like detailed product descriptions, multiple product images, product videos, and even end-user product reviews are increasingly expected at a B2B level.
Smart brands are even using B2B systems as forecasting tools, enabling retailers to enter forecasted quantities at a SKU level. The retailers are already familiar with the B2B systems and online availability enables forecasting to be done during odd hours and even without salesperson involvement.
This expectation of B2C functionality on B2B sites can be challenging for brands to manage but it is generally good news. It no longer makes sense to manage separate sites and multiple databases. Many of the ecommerce platform providers are responding by enhancing their products to address B2B needs. And Product Information Management (PIM) solutions are making storage and distribution of the massive amounts of content manageable.
At FitForCommerce, we work with some of the world’s greatest brands and help them maximize their online sales – whether DTC, B2B, or both. We have our finger on the pulse of online and a unique perspective on how brands are dealing with online challenges. At IRCE Focus: Brands and B2B, you will hear from their successes, struggles, and failures so you can benefit immensely from their experiences.
3 HOT TIPS:
- If you are a brand considering selling DTC, clear, thorough, and early communication to your existing dealer base is critical to minimize surprises.
- Ask your B2B customers what features they expect from your B2B online ordering tool. The answers may surprise you and be closely aligned to B2C.
- If you are an online retailer, figure out the value proposition that you can offer consumers vs. a brand selling direct.