Leveraging E-Commerce Functionality to Increase Software ROI in Wholesale Distribution
A functional requirement that is often overlooked when selecting a distribution software solution is fully-integrated e-Commerce software functionality. In addition to providing more methods to customers to place orders, e-Commerce functionality can significantly improve software return on investment (ROI) for wholesale distributors by reducing the need for excessive order entry personnel and decreasing the call volume to customer service when customers want to track the status of their existing orders.
When evaluating a given vendor’s e-Commerce software solution, there are some key criteria the vendor’s software solution must meet. First, data that is displayed on the Internet through the e-Commerce portal should be pulled directly from the distribution software’s database. For example, when Customer A has Price A for Product A, and Customer B has Price B for Product A, each customer’s specific pricing for Product A should be displayed when they place a web order based on the customer’s log in ID for the e-Commerce portal. Customers should also then have the ability to track the status of their orders and view their order history.
Secondly, the vendor’s e-Commerce software should deliver functionality that is capable of providing relevant customer and product information to sales representatives. For distributors who have sales representatives who place customer orders while at a given customer’s facility or from the road, such functionality can improve customer service and sales revenue. A given sales rep should be able to log in to the distributor’s customer portal and be able to obtain customer information such as pricing, order history, total sales, any outstanding accounts receivable, etc., as well as product information such as available, on hold, and committed inventory.
Lastly, distributors should be able to tailor the e-Commerce software solution to have the same look and site architecture as the distribution organization’s website. While the software that is used to create pages such as an organization’s home page and contact page is different than the e-Commerce software that is used to place and track orders over the Internet, the aesthetics of the website should be completely transparent to site visitors.
Assuming the software vendor’s proposed e-Commerce solution can meet these criteria, distribution organization’s can continue to gain a larger return on investment from their purchase of an ERP system. By allowing customers to place orders over the Internet, distributors can begin to cut costs that were formerly associated with customers placing phone or fax orders. With fewer orders being placed over the phone and a larger percentage of orders coming through e-Commerce, distributors can reduce the need for excessive order entry personnel due to the automated order entry processes an e-Commerce solution can deliver. Furthermore, by allowing customers to track the status of their existing orders and view their complete order history via e-Commerce any time of the day or night, fewer calls will be made to the customer service department regarding order inquiries. Again, this can lead to a reduction in customer service personnel by readily providing such information to customers over the Internet and a tangible ROI for the distribution organization.