When building/updating a manufacturing company’s website, the question of including e-commerce capabilities needs serious consideration. Manufacturers that sell their products through a network of retailers are rightfully concerned about protecting these precious relationships when considering adding an e-commerce component to their corporate website. Supplying products to brick and mortar retailers is usually the largest segment of their sales, thus their decision to include online sales requires a delicate 3-way balancing act between the goals and needs of the manufacturer, its retailers, and consumers.
That’s why including the right mix of online and retail sales support as part of an overall website development plan can offer significant short- and long-term benefits for consumers, manufacturers, and retailers.
For the Manufacturer
When investing in adding e-commerce to a website, the manufacturer’s goals should include increasing sales for both its retailers and online sales. Because retail distribution is usually a manufacturer’s largest business segment, including an intuitive store locator page on the website – as well as pricing on the website that is at or near retail price points – supports retailers.
Equally important, the manufacturer wants to generate sales from customers who are not located near a retailer and thus rely heavily on product delivery capabilities. Online ordering captures can capture those sales that might otherwise be lost to an online competitor that does offer product shipment. While e-commerce brings with it additional decisions and expense for the manufacturer regarding offering effective fulfillment and shipping processes as well as payment and reporting processes, the ability to capture sales from remote consumers who must rely on products being shipped to them is a benefit.
Thinking even longer-term, those remotely located online customers may one day move to a location that will allow them to become a customer of a retailer’s mortar-and-brick storefront. Building brand loyalty by making products available for purchase both online and in retail stores serves the customer’s ultimate need for quick and easy access to what they want – now!
For the Retailer
The retailer’s goal is to move products out of the bricks and mortar store by bringing new customers in to shop.
Being able to view a manufacturer’s product line online not only creates interest in and sales of its products, it also “pulls” customers into the retail outlet where they can find and purchase other products made by the manufacturer as well.
A manufacturer’s online “store locator” is also a sales advantage for those retailers that are included. Using today’s location technology, a store locator helps customers who know the product they need to easily locate the retailer’s store – whether they are sitting at a home computer or holding a mobile device on the go.
In addition, with online access to a manufacturer’s product demonstration video library, the retailer also has the advantage of serving an educated customer base that knows what they want and how to use it.
For the Consumer
The consumer’s goal is simple, but perhaps the most important – “Educate me about the product I need, tell me how to use it, and make it easy for me to acquire” is his/her goal. Thus the following website components are critical to making the sale either online or in-store:
- Search Engine Optimization – Make sure that a potential customer can find the product on the website based on relevant search criteria.
- Product Education – The consumer wants to quickly identify which of the manufacturer’s products he/she needs to resolve the problem or need. Clear and consistent content as well as product demonstration videos make this step easy and intuitive.
- How and Where Can I Buy It – This customer need must be met quickly and easily. The option of a clear and accurate store locator with address, directions, and phone number – coupled with the choice to purchase simply and directly from the manufacturer – ensures the customer’s needs will be met.
Proper balancing of the above benefits for manufacturers, retailers, and consumers will make a manufacturer’s decision to include an e-commerce component to its website a win-win-win all around!