And the early signs of this transition are clear in away-from-home food:
- Sysco: 51% of sales online
- US Foods: 70% of sales online
- Gordon Foodservice: 76% of sales online
- DSR headcount expected to reduce by 5-10% in the next 5 years
Foodservice distributors are already focused on improving the experience with their digital offerings. For manufacturers, now is the time to do everything they can to own the digital relationship with the operator throughout the path-to-purchase and ultimately connect them to an easy way to purchase online. This is not a small transition, good news: when it comes to creating a seamless connected commerce experience, every step counts.
If you feel like ecommerce on your site is at an infantile stage at this point, or you have infrastructure barriers to overcome, you’re not alone. Here is a crawl, walk, run path to seamless ecommerce that will help you build operator trust and enhance your relationships with operators.
The start of this process is taking control of your brand. Your products are almost certainly available to purchase online, and likely in some unexpected places. Do some online searching and locate your products in ecommerce marketplace (Amazon and distributor sites are a great starting place). Ensure your brand is well represented wherever you encounter it, and if it isn’t, take steps to change it.
Next up: improve the offer. That doesn’t necessarily mean inserting a BOGO offer to each ecomm site you encounter (though that can be a part of an effective strategy), it simply means enhancing the quality of your content. If you add to the content that’s currently in those places nearest to purchase—with targeted ads or compelling articles—you have a better chance of reaching the people in the consideration stage of the buying journey.
Finally, you need to decide which direction to run, and get going. There are two ways you can go to enable a seamless ecommerce experience for operators. Each have unique benefits, but either bring real value to your targets:
- Connected Commerce—This approach consists of connecting your brand site to suppliers who sell the product directly to the consumer. Depending on your target and how they typically go about purchasing, this could be the most practical and convenient way to help complete the purchase. The best-in-class execution of this approach involves allowing an operator to choose their preferred distributor or online supplier.
- Direct to Operator—Direct ecommerce is becoming more common on B2B websites. There is no quicker way to finalize a transaction, and more operators are finding this service appealing. This approach requires a number of considerations on your end, including fulfillment and operator behavior (are your targets more comfortable adding to their current distributor order?).
Regardless of the state of your current site, there is an opportunity to attract more business by ensuring purchase is smooth and easy. By keeping an operator’s experience as a consumer in the retail space in mind, you have a better chance of delivering on their heightened expectations.