Last updated: B2B e-commerce: Helping your customer’s customers

B2B e-commerce: Helping your customer’s customers


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Managing a network of dealers and distributors is a complex endeavor. Yet, for many brand manufacturers it’s the lifeblood of their business.

In many cases, these long-standing channel relationships can span generations. So, when fundamental change occurs, it’s not without a fair amount of trepidation. Currently, that change agent is the rise of e-commerce.

Much of that fear centers on whether the manufacturer will bypass their dealers and sell directly to the end user. And while this may be a very real threat in some industries, in many others quite the opposite is true. Rather than create competition, a properly leveraged e-commerce solution can allow for unprecedented cooperation.

Channel complexity can be replaced with operational flexibility.  And this creates opportunity. Because in the B2B2C space, the math is fairly simple: when your customers sell more to their customers, everyone across the channel prospers.

Look and content

In a typical dealer network, the digital footprint is a mishmash of sites of varying quality. Some “get it.” Others don’t. But each is ultimately a reflection on the manufacturer’s brand.

Use the e-commerce solution as the gateway to the entire dealer network, creating co-branded dealer portals that appear perfectly seamless to the end user. In this way, the manufacturer controls the overall design aesthetics, user experience, and much of the underlying content.

Through defined user roles, the manufacturer ensures their dealers are supplied with the most current, relevant product content, while enabling dealers to add customer-facing messaging that’s appropriate to their audience. The responsibility for maintaining the site is shared. The consistency of the brand experience is assured.

1:1 marketing

Bring the principals of 1:1 consumer marketing to the B2B relationship. In this way, the manufacturer controls the available catalog, along with individually negotiated prices, on a dealer-by-dealer basis.

The manufacturer controls lead distribution, channeling in-bound inquiries to dealers based on geography or other predetermined criteria. Only when an end user is assigned to, or selects, a dealer can they delve into in-depth product information.

Meanwhile, the dealer can pull only the products available to them from a central catalog to display on their portal. Based on their margin needs, they determine the price charged to the end user and whether or not to display product pricing on their site. They control promotions specific to their customers, and maintain ownership over the end customer relationship. This allows each side to do what they do best.

Focus on where the profit is

Many products don’t lend themselves to direct online sales. That doesn’t mean the manufacturer’s website needs to be reduced to a glorified digital catalog. Enable transactional functionality for accessories, replacement parts, and other complementary products. Use self-service forms to schedule service requests.

This frees up the dealer to focus on the larger, high-margin sales that make up the bulk of their business. And for high-ticket items that require back-and-forth negotiation, leverage the platform’s quote negotiation functionality to streamline and track the process.

How else can the e-commerce channel be implemented to support the B2B2C ecosystem? Let’s see what the future holds.

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