Recently there have been a number of distributors who have launched upgraded websites with eCommerce capabilities. Reportedly launch times range from 4 to 28 months … and maybe more (Kirby Risk, State Electric, Independent Electric, Fairmont Supply, Turtle & Hughes, Electric Supply (Tampa). And we know other major ones coming online soon and some are upgrading their product content). Now, after the site development expense the companies are investing in “digital marketing” specialists / marketers to help monetize their efforts.
The question then becomes, what is the definition of monetize? Because, after all, if you develop it, will they come?
In the world of eCommerce, and websites in general, it’s about capturing share of mind so that someone remembers your website. If you build it and don’t remind your customers, prospects and others about it the site becomes stale … out of sight, out of mind.
While content is important, and an ongoing expense as product content does change monthly (consider – do manufacturer product offerings remain constant? as a distributor, do you add, change or stop doing business with lines?), and marketing content is needed to keep your site informative and fresh, frequently engaging your audience and reminding them of your sight, even subliminally, is critical.
And engagement is the key metric, not sales, as not all of your customers are ready to transition to buying online … today.
In fact, data we’ve seen from a few distributors suggest that about 20% of customers who register for your site may become “active”. This term is somewhat loosely defined as regularly visited and/or someone who has placed an order.
But placing an order and placing orders is two different things. One relates to frequency; the other is easy / cherry picking.
So, what got me thinking about this?
Recently I was at Dunkin Donuts. There was a sticker on the bag as I was leaving.
Have you thought of purchasing a cup of coffee via a website?
Via a mobile app?
From your car (okay, hopefully not while your driving, so sitting in the parking lot or before you leave the house)
And then picking it up … at Dunkin Donuts.
But, consider …
- The sticker captures attention.
- It minds you of their website (and then).
- Mobility creates another opportunity … a new service lane … get customers in and out quicker, therefore a happier customer.
For distributors, consider:
- What new service can you offer using your new eCommerce capability? Perhaps a mobile order service guarantee?
- How are you marketing your site? Are you using all of your assets to get the message out?
- Are inside and outside salespeople mentioning it?
- Is it on your message on hold?
- Your packaging?
- Reminders on invoices that statements, invoices, payment capabilities and more (if the capabilities are there) are online … be audience specific
- Consider online only promotions … or extending promotions
- Or adding a feature to your incentive program of double points for online orders or perhaps bonuses for x number of page views per account?
- Perhaps run a scavenger hunt promotion
- Are you tracking your salespeople’s internal usage of your site as a resource to support their customer service efforts? After all, if the site is robust and maintained, couldn’t they go to it to gather all of the spec sheets / .pdfs, features & benefits, videos, installation information and more that they need to service a customer? To support incremental product training?
- Promotions for mobile ordering
- Of course, you have an e-newsletter. What’s in it?
- Social marketing
And if you are thinking that your website is a virtual branch, you need to think much beyond a grand opening event. You need a plan. You need consistency. You need idea generation. You need creativity. And yes, you need resources.
The key is thinking about visibility, engagement and interaction. While marketing, for many distributors, isn’t a strength, monetizing your recently launched website requires thinking about this asset differently. You need to think about your website from a retail perspective to increase your engagement rate … and you need to define engagement for yourself?
Your engagement rate is the KPI for your website. Is it:
- # of customers registered?
- # customers who purchased a minimum of $X
- # of customers who purchased a minimum of x times
- The number of page views? Per customer?
- The number of download events?
- Monthly sales?
- Internal usage?
- Something else? A combination of a few? Just like a salesperson or a branch manager has performance goals, what are the performance goals for your website or your digital marketing specialist / digital or eCommerce group?
The key to KPI achievement, however, is engaging your marketplace / your customers (internal and external) to visit and use the site. While many hope that the significant investment in launching a site reduces once the site is launched, the reality is this is when the heavy lifting should start.
While some think that manufacturers should help fund development of a site and development of content, the reality is that they have already developed the content albeit it may need some standardization (after all, how many ways do you want “black” spelled on your website). Once your site is launched this is where you need to 1) invest your money in marketing your site and 2) consider how to use co-op / MDF monies to help you promote / market your site.
Manufacturers, how can you arm your salespeople to support distributor site launches? Promote your content to gain more virtual shelf space? Prepare to help distributors market their site with ideas as part of your 2019 planning process? (oh, and is your product content regularly updated and pushed to your distributors through all of the industry content providers?) And as an FYI, we project that 5-8% of electrical distributor sales will occur online through distributors next year.
A website, especially a commerce-enabled one where all have performance expectations, is similar to a boat. Consider, a boat is “A hole in the water, surrounded by wood, into which money is poured.”
If you don’t spend for the “upkeep” and keep it shine and new it will be out of sight, out of mind and you’ll be out a site.
What creative distributor marketing for a website have you seen?
And for every relevant comment posted through Friday, June 29th, we\’ll send a $5 Dunkin Donuts gift certificate. (And if you don\’t want to add your name to the comment, email me and you\’ll get the certificate.)