Six steps to e-commerce success (Supplier Perspective)

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RobMihalko.jpgJust as consumers use Facebook, Twitter, and Amazon.com to better communicate, share, and shop, organisations are now making the most of the available on-line networks to more effectively collaborate and interact with their trading partners.


B2B e-commerce continues to gain traction in the marketplace, with an increasing number of organisations taking a closer look at how to leverage it to drive sales and, ultimately, revenue. The potential for significant top- and bottom-line benefits is a compelling reason to adopt B2B e-commerce. Yet, many misperceptions exist and the confusion is causing many organisations to miss out on the exceptional rewards that online channels have the potential to deliver, says Rob Mihalko, who oversees Ariba’s, a SAP company, overall seller marketing initiatives, in this month’s SmartProcurement.


One common misperception is that e-commerce primarily benefits large organisations with sizable IT budgets. Not true. In fact, nothing could be further from the truth. US-based B2B sales management solutions provider Selling Power conducted a survey of sales and marketing executives and found that small and medium-sized businesses that implemented e-commerce initiatives achieved improvements in revenue, sales growth, and customer satisfaction that were on par with their bigger counterparts.


However, while all survey respondents realised benefits from their e-commerce efforts, significantly higher gains were reaped by organisations that took a more comprehensive approach to e-commerce. According to the Selling Power survey , organisations with broad e-commerce initiatives in place saw an increase in online revenue of 76% for new accounts and 10% for existing ones versus organisations with more limited e-commerce initiatives.


So, this begs the question: what kind of strategies are organisations employing to grow their e-commerce revenues at such a significant clip? And how are they maximising their efforts?


While it’s true that engaging in e-commerce strategies can be extremely beneficial to all organisations, no matter the size, understanding how to get started and how to accelerate your progress and the results you achieve is critical.


Each organisation’s approach to e-commerce is going to be unique. However, following the key factors that best-in-class e-commerce organisations have identified as critical to their success is a great way to begin your initiative and work on maximising your e-commerce ROI.


1. Embracing online/e-commerce channels
Social networks have made it easier than ever to drive conversations and manage relationships. Business networks provide an equally easy way to link and co-ordinate a virtual ‘extraprise’ of partners into a shared community that enables improved and coordinated processes in a more informed way than in the past. Your selling organisation can rapidly boost the reach and results of your efforts by integrating these channels into your e-commerce strategy.


2. Adopting new ways to reach customers
As with any new way of doing things, there will always be detractors. But the results speak for themselves: organisations that embrace innovative solutions and implement new ways of connecting with customers are reaching higher levels of productivity and profits. For example, 85% of the organisations polled in a recent survey by Selling Power are using business networks or engaging in networking or marketing opportunities such as webinars, social media, and trade shows. And these organisations reported levels of revenue that were 36% higher in new accounts and 40% higher in existing ones as a result.


3. Hiring the right skill sets
Best-in-class organisations recognise that the skill sets they seek in sales professionals have changed owing to engaging in e-commerce and online channel strategies. Continually assessing and adjusting the competencies to sell effectively with constantly changing business dynamics is crucial to long-term success.


4. Growing their teams’ sales skills and tactics
Leading-edge organisations recognise that continually upgrading their sales teams’ skills to accommodate business needs and customer demands in today’s economy is essential for success. Because so many of the functions that sales staff used to manage—including handling orders and configuring products and services—are now handled online, sales people are now able to take on new and more strategic roles and responsibilities.


5. Improving account targeting efforts
E-commerce provides accurate information to better reach your customers. Collaborating through business networks makes it easy to capture highly-detailed profile data on customers and prospects. You can identify their interests and understand their purchasing patterns. As a result, you can fine-tune your marketing campaigns and continually improve your products and services to better meet your customers’ needs.


6. Evolving from a “product” to a “solution” sales approach
As a seller, you know that you’re increasingly being called upon to work with customers to help solve their business problems. And business networks provide a great way to do that. Collaborating around the same information and executing on a common platform allow you to get much closer to your customers and meet their unique needs.


As the saying goes, don’t put off until tomorrow what you can do today. Unleash the power that e-commerce initiatives enable today and you’ll be glad that you did.


For more information on driving the success of e-commerce in your organisation contact dmocke@ariba.com

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