In 2020, eCommerce has achieved 10 years of growth in just 3 months. And seeing how rapidly eCommerce is advancing, it’s important to ensure that you are able to catch up in the coming year. So, what are your most important investments for 2021?

Author Radiana Pit | Copperberg

If creating a digital sales strategy is at the top of your priority list, that’s great. If not, you should strongly reconsider putting it at number one.

You may be wondering why. Kris Harrington, President & COO at GenAlpha Technologies, has explained the importance of investing in eCommerce during her Spare Parts US Summit session titled “Your Most Important Strategic Investment for 2021” — and you should definitely be in on it.

The truth is in the numbers

In late July, Morgan Stanley Research has released new statistics, revealing that the shift to work from home is creating a new normal consisting of changing consumer behavior and preferences in the United States. The company raised its U.S. eCommerce estimates by roughly 10% for both 2020 and 2021, projecting its U.S. eCommerce at $836,000,000,000 — that’s a staggering number.

Another staggering number is 126,000,000 — that’s how many members are part of the Prime Loyalty Program in the U.S. as of September of this year. The current COVID-19 pandemic has definitely boosted the increase in numbers, as buyers working from home resorted to bigger online purchases more frequently. Additionally, Prime’s promise of fast delivery has helped establish Amazon as an alternative to other existing buying experiences.

But Amazon is not the only one offering the preferable buying experience in 2020. Leading retail chains like Home Depot, Costco, Walmart, Target, and Best Buy have all experienced massive eCommerce growth in the most recent quarters. Behind this growth lies the fact that the personal lives of people are changing because of the pandemic and the expansion of digitalization. And these changes have naturally lead to new expectations in the professional and business landscape.

It’s no surprise then that 15% of B2B buyers are willing to spend $1,000,000 or more using digital self-service and remote human interactions for a new product or service, according to a McKinsey & Company survey published in October of this year. The company’s research on the shifting behavior and preferences of B2B decision-makers has debunked the myth that many spare parts and components sellers may still believe today: that eCommerce and digital self-services are solely used for low-value purchases like industrial supplies or consumables. Additionally, another B2B survey by McKinsey & Company revealed that 36% of respondents prefer ordering digitally from a self-service option.

If these numbers aren’t compelling enough, then knowing that 97% of shoppers indicated they shop on digital marketplaces might do the trick. Marketplaces offer a quick way to compare similar products on prices from multiple suppliers as well as the ability to buy multiple products on a secure, user-friendly, frictionless website, so B2B sellers are increasingly looking into joining or creating their own marketplace.

Last but not least, it’s important to note that around 70-80% of B2B decision-makers prefer remote human interactions and digital service because of the ease of scheduling, savings on travel expenses, and safety. So why not simply give customers what they really want?

Invest in a digital sales strategy in 2021

Now’s the perfect time to increase or make your initial investment in eCommerce. Remote interactions and digital sales are here to stay and they are changing human behavior individually and professionally. The way customers research and buy your products has changed and it will continue to change and digitalize. Businesses across the entire spectrum are experiencing this change and your parts business will experience it as well sooner or later.

If you are serious about thriving in the new normal and embracing eCommerce, then you will be pleased to know that Kris Harrington has revealed five steps to success that will help you get started:

  • Step 1: Identify the customer journey
  • Step 2: Implement an eCommerce channel
  • Step 3: Uncover product and customer insights
  • Step 4: Act on your insights
  • Step 5: Grow your market share

Any digital sales strategy starts by mapping the customer journeys of various buyer personas. You should ask yourself three main questions to get started: What are you offering that others can’t? Why should your customers care? Who are those customers?

Next, you want to understand what your customers need and that goes beyond the transaction mindset. It’s important to identify what information they might look for when accessing a self-servicing portal and making that information easily accessible to them.

When it comes to your web launch, you must ensure that you have a dedicated team that consists of a strong leader with eCommerce experience and decision-makers from across different departments within your organization. Empower this team to define business, functional, and system requirements and build user adoption internally and externally.

Additionally, you should strongly consider creating a product information strategy. It doesn’t have to be perfect from the very beginning, but having high-quality images and insightful product descriptions is extremely important in an era where content is mostly consumed online. To expedite this process, you might want to consider investing in a third-party PIM solution if it makes sense to you from an ROI perspective.

Alongside a PIM solution, having a strong analytics platform can help you take things to the next level and start mining the treasures hidden within your online transactions. With the help of analytics, you can derive valuable insights concealed within the data collected from search and buying behaviors on your site. You can easily determine if it makes sense to direct your resources into attracting new buyers or if you should spend your resources on developing existing relationships.

The possibilities created by a good analytics platform are endless. You can identify which products sell better, which ones don’t, you can determine which products go better together, and all these pieces of information can be turned into new offerings customized for specific types of buyer personas. Based on these insights, you can adjust product availability where needed, re-align pricing, manage product up-selling and cross-selling, invest in digital advertising, and more.

If you follow these recommendations, the results will be increased customer satisfaction, improved brand awareness, increased average order value, and more. Once you have this under your belt, make sure you invest in future growth.

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