It’s not exactly a new thing, but e-commerce to date isn’t particularly big in the fenestration industry. In fact, it’s fair to say that we’re a bit behind the times on this one, with some manufacturers dipping a toe in and most just getting on with business as usual. While that’s quite all right, there is the distinct possibility that you might be missing out on valuable gains in efficiency and performance by not getting on to the e-commerce train. Let’s find out why.
First, some definitions. E-commerce itself isn’t hard to understand, it’s what Amazon, eBay and any one of hundreds or even thousands of online sellers do. But there are nuances; e-commerce isn’t just ‘business to consumer’ (B2C), which is the case for most retailers. It is also business to business (B2B).
B2B is the more interesting incarnation of e-commerce for most window and door manufacturers. If you’re a business that does sell direct to the public, B2B needs a bit more explaining to expose its value and the potential gains which might be within your reach.
Here’s the truly staggering thing about B2B e-commerce: in the United States alone, it is expected to grow to $1.2 TRILLION by 2023, according to market analysts Forrester Group. The reason for that growth is also the reason why you should take a closer look at it. There are distinct and proven performance advantages. And these advantages make a difference to customer service, your ability to deliver and where it matters most. The bottom line.
What is B2B e-commerce?
Quite simply, it means selling your windows and doors to your regular customers – distributors, architects, project managers, and retailers – through the internet. Where you might currently have your salespeople handling order details on the phone or over email with manual processing, B2B e-commerce typically runs through an online sales portal.
That’s the one direction in the value chain in which your B2B e-commerce platform can extend. It can also extend in the other direction, to your suppliers. This allows procurement of your raw materials and other goods required for production using the same online portal and delivering the same advantages.
What B2B e-commerce can do for you?
Let’s take a look at the advantages. The big gain is efficiency. But that’s not the only gain; by effectively ‘digitizing’ your supply chain, other opportunities arise. This can include better record keeping, easy performance analysis, and rapid pinpointing of any bottlenecks or issues in the supply chain.
What e-commerce delivers is, in a nutshell, an improved supply chain management process. It also facilitates a collaborative approach which can increase customer loyalty. By making it easy for your customers to buy from you, they may very well buy more. They might also become aware of other line items they hadn’t previously ordered. These benefits boil down to potentially increased sales, and who doesn’t like that.
Then there’s cost reductions. A more effective supply chain with reduced manual overheads means lower costs for your businesses. In many cases, the fiddly stuff done by salespeople is automated, eliminating errors and the associated costs of mis-keying information.
Also, digital data means better analysis. An e-commerce solution can feed into better forecasting, improved sales reports and a clearer understanding of your product lines and people performance.
How Soft Tech can help?
We’ve worked with thousands of window and door manufacturers around the world, some of which have indeed gone down the B2B e-commerce route. And some of those have done so very successfully and are seeing the results of improved efficiency, lower costs and greater visibility. The best solutions integrate sales, manufacturing and financial systems, providing a complete view across your business.
If B2B e-commerce is of interest to you, please get in touch. We’d be happy to show how we can help improve your business.