Unilog is a global technology and services company that specializes in e-commerce solutions and enriched product catalogs for the B2B marketplace. They transforms product data into enriched, optimized content that drives traffic and increases conversion. This blog gives insights into the world of B2B eCommerce from the perspective of the convergent commerce provider.
Affiliated stores can easily set up promotional websites to drive online sales and convenience
WAYNE, Pa., February 20, 2019 — Orgill dealers who have yet to establish a strong eCommerce presence can now easily get in the game, thanks to a new offering that Unilog announced today at the Orgill Dealer Market in Orlando.
Orgill, the world’s largest independent hardlines distributor, and Unilog, which delivers powerful, affordable eCommerce solutions and product data enrichment services, are pleased to collaborate on a new Promotional eCommerce program, which enables Orgill dealers to establish an eCommerce presence quickly, and at a very low monthly investment.
“We’re very pleased to offer our dealer partners this new way to increase eCommerce revenue and drive more foot traffic back to their physical stores,” said Orgill President Boyden Moore. “Our dealers have told us how important it is to them to be able to compete with a meaningful eCommerce solution that supports their local business. We’re glad that our work with Unilog provides another solution for our dealers to consider.”
Each month, Orgill will feature items which its dealers can choose to promote on their eCommerce site, allowing customers to place online orders for these items and conveniently pick them up at their local store.
“In addition to having an affordable online presence, Orgill dealers can also benefit from access to a catalog of items that have been significantly enriched,” said Unilog CEO Suchit Bachalli. “The master catalog is robust with improved product descriptions, images, complete specs and attributes, and more, enabling dealers to display more useful product information for their online shoppers. Quality product information is a leading factor in attracting potential customers to your site.”
This new offering is in addition to the Integrated eCommerce program that Unilog launched in conjunction with Orgill at last year’s Dealer Market in Las Vegas (August). The most recent Orgill Dealer to take advantage of the Integrated eCommerce program is Home Hardware Center, which went live with their new eCommerce website last week (see www.HomeHardwareCenter.com).
“With 23 stores in small towns all over the South, we see eCommerce as a way to extend our relationships to our customers whether they are close to a store, or live many miles away,” says Raymond White, VP-Operations for Home Hardware Center. “Partnering with Orgill is the only way we could ever imagine taking on this project. They have brought the cost down into a range we can afford and have simplified much of the process for us. We’re excited to be online and compete more effectively.”
Orgill Dealers interested in more information on any of the eCommerce programs offered by Unilog and Orgill can visit Retail Services at the Dealer Market in Orlando this week.
Orgill, Inc., the world’s largest independent hardlines distributor, was founded in 1847 and is headquartered in Memphis, Tennessee. Orgill serves more than 10,000 retail hardware stores, home centers, pro lumber dealers and farm stores throughout the United States and Canada, and in over 50 countries around the world. For more information, visit orgill.com.
Unilog is a global technology company that delivers powerful, affordable eCommerce solutions for the B2B marketplace. Our cloud-based eCommerce platform and product data enrichment services help distributors, manufacturers, and wholesalers increase online sales, reduce cost to serve, and enhance their digital channel. Unilog is an ISO 9001:2008- and ISO 8000-certified company with North American headquarters outside of Philadelphia, PA and international headquarters in Bangalore, India. For more information, visit www.unilogcorp.com.
We caught up with Carman Pirie, Co-founder of Kula Partners, to discuss why more manufacturers are selling their products on Amazon Business, and how wholesalers and distributors can respond and adapt to this growing trend. The leading marketing and sales consultant for manufacturers will be at Unilog’s EVOLVE 2019 eCommerce conference April 9-12 to speak about the changing manufacturer/distributor relationship and offer strategies to create a better partnership with shared accountability.
In our Annual B2B Digital Commerce Report, 43% of the manufacturers we surveyed said they sell their products directly on Amazon Business, at times bypassing their traditional distribution channel. What do you think of this trend?
It’s interesting that we consider selling on Amazon Business as selling direct to the customer because that’s not really a true statement. When manufacturers sell their products on Amazon, they’re effectively selling through another distributor. So I can see why distributors would be concerned with this trend because Amazon is seen as another competitor to them. But my advice to distributors would be not to panic. There are perfectly suitable reasons for a manufacturer to sell on Amazon Business in a way that doesn’t necessarily damage their relationship with distributors. Many use Amazon as a testing ground for new products before putting them out through the traditional distribution channel. Others use it as an outlet to sell off discontinued inventory they want to clear out.
In some ways, when manufacturers sell on Amazon they are essentially telling us they consider Amazon a better marketer – or at least a different marketer – than traditional distributors, and, of course, they are. CNBC recently reported that Amazon’s marketing costs were $13.8 billion last year, which is up 37% year over year. Their marketing spend as a percentage of revenue was 5.9% – the highest in 18 years. And for the first time ever, Amazon became one of the top five ad spenders in the United States in 2018. How many distributors can say that they are proportionally spending that same level of investment on marketing and sales? But, while Amazon may be the leader in marketing the products they sell, in the end it’s the person who delivers the best customer experience that will win the day.
What are some of the things distributors can do to support that better customer experience?
Wholesalers and distributors have entered a new arms race in terms of how to serve customers better. Right now, they have some advantages over Amazon: they know their customers better, and they’ve lived closer to them for longer than Amazon has, so they’ve built deeper relationships and trust with buyers.
However, Amazon has the digital experience, which is why distributors need to think more strongly about their investments in their digital platforms. They also must consider how they can connect their digital presence to their physical one in more intimate ways. I’ve seen lots of distributors rest on the laurels of their human relationships with their customers, thinking that is all they need. But in some cases, they’re failing to build that bridge to the digital customer experience that they need to deliver tomorrow in order to compete.
Will Amazon find additional ways to compete with distributors?
Yes I think it would be folly to try to plan your strategy as a distributor on an assumption that Amazon isn’t going to evolve. They have the economic ability to do a lot of things. Distributors may have the upper hand with that direct customer relationship and physical presence right now, but they only have about a three- to five-year window to figure how to expand that experience into a digital one. You hear a lot of talk about omnichannel commerce but, ultimately, this is what distributors need to achieve success.
So what can distributors do to compete against this goliath retailer?
Well, I don’t think the best strategies are born out of a defensive posture. I would hope that a really savvy distributor would put a dot on the map at some future point and say that this is where we’re going to be; this is the experience we’re going to be delivering to our customers. Don’t obsess so much about what Amazon is doing – you can deliver something better to your customers if the transformation is informed by your superior knowledge of your customers and not simply a desire to mimic Amazon.
Even though technology changes very fast and Amazon’s economic advantage isn’t going away anytime soon, the good news is humans don’t change that fast. Yes, buying behaviors may change to become more digital, but distributors will find buyer motivations really don’t change. That’s why they need to double down on the notion that marketing and sales is really important, how they serve their customers is really important, and they need to get busy taking their business to the next level. It’s one thing to be customer focused, but clearly new prospect acquisition has to be an important part of your strategy as well.
What do you think about distributors using Amazon as a sales channel?
I think it’s a move in the right direction because there’s no substitute for experience in the platform. When distributors better insert themselves into how buyers are shopping these days, they’re more likely to better understand their behavior, which makes them better poised to cross those experiences that will move their businesses forward. I’m not saying that all distributors should be there, but it’s a good indicator that they’re at least experimenting with some of the right things.
I’m excited when I hear people are not feeling defeated by this new marketplace phenomenon but, rather, are looking at Amazon and asking themselves what’s really at play here and how can we take advantage of it.
Tell us more about your presentation at the upcoming EVOLVE 2019 conference.
The focus of my presentation will be building better manufacturer-distributor relationships. I’ll offer ways to create stronger partnerships between distributors and manufacturers because, as the industry moves more digital, there are interesting, new opportunities to incorporate more accountability into those relationships and improve how manufacturers and distributors go to market together.
If you’ve spent any money on Google paid search to promote your website and products, you’ve probably seen some major changes in your spend versus revenue over the last few months. Ryan Garrow, Director of Partnerships and Client Solutions at Logical Position, says you’re not alone. The digital marketing expert and certified Google Analyst explains many businesses are seeing their bids for paid search text ads increase while their online rankings decrease, and it’s all because Google has changed some rules of the game.
Google’s recent changes to paid search offerings
For years, businesses have been utilizing Google’s paid text search offerings to help elevate their brand awareness and site traffic. But, with Google’s latest covert move to promote their Google Shopping service, text ads are now being pushed down in rankings in order to bring Shopping ads to the forefront.
These image-based ads display prominently on Google’s search results home page in an effort to draw customers to product-specific web pages instead of more general product category pages. Unbeknownst to paid text search customers, Google has begun pushing customer-paid ads lower in search engine rankings by bidding the exact amount – or in most cases, more – for the same search terms in order to give their Google Shopping ads preference.
While Google hasn’t been forthcoming about their recent paid search ad changes, they do make available a number of reports concerning their ad traffic. However, if you’re unsure where to look for them or even what to look for, those reports can be difficult to find. Garrow and his team are well-versed in Google methodology and, as a result, are able to access and analyze Google’s reports in order to track how much of that traffic is moving from text ads to product pages within Google Shopping. The numbers reveal their new paid search practices will have a big impact on retailers moving forward.
Garrow will share his collected data and insight at Unilog’s upcoming EVOLVE 2019 conference and provide unique strategies to help businesses compete in the paid search arena. “Not having the awareness or ability to see into that data and then make the appropriate change is pretty impactful,” remarked Garrow. “So I’m hoping I can bring a lot of that data to the forefront for many of the EVOLVE attendees so they can take advantage of these Google changes before their competitors do.”
As paid search continues to evolve, so should your strategy
Platforms like Google are constantly changing their rules to increase their profitability, which means the strategies you have in place today are probably not going to work tomorrow. As a result, you must constantly shift and adjust your strategy to stay relevant.
Garrow suggests you start by leveraging every possible resource that Google provides within the paid ad space: build extensions that customize the browsing experience, add review stars on your website search results, and game the shopping system with lower price points on large-quantity items.
Historically, some of the best converting pages for paid text search have been category pages. When users land on a category page as a result of their initial product search, they can perform a faceted search filtering by size, color, or other attributes to quickly find the exact product they want. But, with a Shopping ad, users are directed to a product page for a single item, which may not be the specific product the user is looking for.
Data shows that over 50% of the time people buy something other than what they click on when they land on a product page from a Shopping ad. The key is helping them find that “something else” they’re going to buy. Garrow suggests using product suggestions, breadcrumbs, and easy faceted search features to guide buyers to your products. Also consider employing optimization tactics to make your product pages appear more like category pages so the buyer can find the right product easily – and stay on your site.
For those who don’t invest in paid search, but instead rely solely on organic search rankings, Garrow agrees organic search is one component to success; however, he says it’s difficult to build a business on organic traffic alone because Google has an incentive to shake up those organic results. He explains if you’re ranked #1 on a term, you’re currently getting about 27 to 30% of traffic. But, if you happen to move from the #1 to #2 position in organic rankings because Google changed how they’re ranking sites, your traffic is going to shift from 30% to about 12% – which is a huge loss in site traffic. From a business perspective, it’s difficult to build a business just on organic traffic knowing that it doesn’t necessarily help Google.
“There’s a lot of traffic out there that goes to paid clicks because that’s how Google keeps their stock prices going in the right direction,” says Garrow. “It comes down to aligning your goals with the platform you’re working with – in this case, Google. You have to create a long-term goal that works for both parties.”
Before entering the paid search game, build out a detailed strategy and commit to reviewing it on a regular basis to ensure its viability. Garrow suggests analyzing your strategy at least twice a year to determine if you need to make adjustments or utilize different platforms. If Google is not performing the results you want, perhaps Bing can offer better traffic opportunities. Likewise, you may find LinkedIn paid search brings in higher search traffic than, say, Facebook.
Also, to help manage expectations, view paid ads as a customer acquisition center – not as a profit center. While you may not necessarily see profit in that channel, you’re going to be growing your business incrementally and, in the end, your long-term profit will grow as well.
For more paid search insights and strategies, catch Garrow’s presentation at our EVOLVE 2019 event April 9-12 in New Orleans. If you haven’t registered yet, spots are still available. Click here for more information.
If you’re building an eCommerce strategy this year, or are reviewing your existing strategy, it’s the perfect time to consider if emerging technology trends can help you achieve your goals. Digital commerce has changed the dynamics of the B2B marketplace, causing wholesalers and distributors to rethink their strategies in order to maintain their competitive footing. As you bolster efforts to enhance your eCommerce offerings and the user experience, bet on these three big trends to help pave your way:
From a business management perspective, blockchain technology is going to be a game-changer for the wholesale sector. Initially developed to allow safe, real-time transactions of cryptocurrency like Bitcoin, blockchain is now being used to improve the supply chain.
In the B2B marketplace, blockchain can provide more transparency and visibility of product data, giving businesses a clear view of every product throughout its lifecycle. As it moves through the supply chain, the software tracks the product’s location, housing the information within a single, shared database. To provide added security, a set of controls determines what each database member or user can see or do with the data. By monitoring products at every touchpoint, companies are able to track issues immediately and resolve them more quickly – which translates to fewer errors, greater efficiencies, and more cost savings.
Walmart is one of the first retailers to incorporate blockchain technology into their food distribution channel, but industry experts predict B2B online merchants like Alibaba and Amazon Business will soon follow suit to become a differentiator in the marketplace. Get a head start on the competition and start looking now into blockchain applications that can bring greater transparency and efficiency to your business.
Buyers have come to expect a personalized online experience where the retailer seems to know exactly what they’re looking for by providing them with products and content tailored to their needs. This method of creating personal interactions is known as personalization, and it’s a must-have for any wholesaler or distributor with an online presence. With the help of personalization tools, businesses can create more meaningful and relevant experiences for buyers at every touchpoint, beginning with targeted messaging and promotions via e-mail marketing campaigns and continuing with dynamic content and product recommendations on their eCommerce site.
Analysts predict that customer experience will replace product and price point as the key differentiator in the B2B marketplace by 2020, and expect those companies that offer a more personalized experience to outsell their competition by 30%. Distributors echoed these sentiments in our 2018 B2B Digital Commerce Survey. Results showed 63% of respondents think personalization of the eCommerce experience is the most important competency they will need three years from now. If you want to make aspects of your site relevant for each visitor, make sure your eCommerce platform has a robust experience management system with personalized functionality.
Internet of Things (IoT)
The term “Internet of Things” (IoT for short) sounds a bit abstract, but it’s actually a very tangible concept that is gaining enormous popularity. IoT refers to the connection of devices or objects (ones that normally wouldn’t have a digital connection) to the Internet, which then collect and communicate data across networks without human interaction. While IoT may be more familiar to people on the consumer front – think smart speakers like Google Home or Amazon’s Alexa that have the ability to turn on lights or operate a coffeemaker – this technology is quickly building traction in the B2B marketplace.
Manufacturers are adding sensors to the components of their products so that they can transmit back data about the product’s performance. Used in tandem with blockchain technology, companies can collect more accurate information to help them better manage inventory and logistics, project future maintenance on products, and improve the overall customer experience.
Unilog’s CEO, Suchit Bachalli, feels IoT is causing a paradigm shift for distributors as well: from helping customers find their site, to making themselves discoverable. Bluetooth beacons and QR codes, for example, are emerging technologies that eliminate the need to search for products using a traditional web search with a browser. The beacon gives users complete control to decide what they want to do next, whether it be to learn more about the product, order it, or contact the seller with questions. “With IoT innovations like these,” Bachalli says, “we can change the beginning of the buyer journey from search to knowledge; that’s a huge transition for buyers.”
To compete in today’s B2B marketplace, you need a strong digital commerce strategy that evolves as technology and business needs change. Blockchain, personalization, and IoT are three promising ways to enhance your eCommerce offerings, streamline your business, and maintain your position as a market contender.
Yet more than half lack a strategy to combat the eCommerce giant, Unilog finds
WAYNE, Pa., Jan. 30, 2019 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) — Distributors and wholesalers overwhelmingly regard Amazon Business as their biggest threat, dwarfing other concerns. That’s one of the findings Unilog released today, after surveying 244 manufacturers, distributors and wholesalers.
Surprisingly, 52% of those same survey respondents admit they don’t have a strategy for competing with Amazon Business. And 43% of manufacturers surveyed said they sell direct on Amazon Business, often bypassing their traditional distribution channel.
The survey spotlighted a number of challenges the respondents face in eCommerce. Notably, more than half of respondents said it took them more than nine months to go live with an eCommerce site.
“Perhaps the number-one reason that so many B2B companies are unhappy with the time it takes to launch their eCommerce site is that they’re trying to achieve too much in one Big Bang moment,” said Unilog VP of Solution Delivery Brian Lombardo. “We recommend launching a new site in a rapid time frame and then evolving site capabilities and design over the years. You have to take a crawl, walk, run approach. It’s important to get your new site live as quickly as possible to recognize the business benefits.”
Nearly 80% of distributors said their eCommerce channel sales have grown over the past 24 months, while just 20% have seen stagnant or slowly decreasing sales
44% of respondents claim that 20% or more of their revenue comes from online sales (not including EDI)
37% of distributors are focused on converting traditional buyers to online customers, 31% are concentrating on generating incremental revenue online — and 22% of distributors – 1 in 5 – say they don’t have a good eCommerce strategy
“To fend off Amazon, B2B companies should focus more energy on product content,” said Unilog CEO Suchit Bachalli. “Better product content drives more eCommerce. That could mean the basics, such as cleaner product descriptions and specs, standardization of naming conventions, and crisp photos taken from various angles. It could also mean diagrams, videos, companion product information, and other useful content to help the buyer make an informed decision. The most successful distributors find ways to share their expertise online.”
Unilog is a global technology company that delivers powerful, affordable eCommerce solutions for the B2B marketplace. Our cloud-based eCommerce platform and product data enrichment services help distributors, manufacturers, and wholesalers increase online sales, reduce cost to serve, and enhance their digital channel. For more information, visit www.unilogcorp.com.
Unilog conducted a survey in 2018 of more than 250 small to mid-sized distributors/wholesalers and manufacturers to learn about their forays into eCommerce, their current and long-term strategies, and what they feel are the biggest threats to their business. Read this report to gain insights into the key findings from Unilog’s 2018 B2B Digital Commerce Survey.
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The past 12 months featured a flurry of activity in the eCommerce space, including mergers and acquisitions between major eCommerce solution providers, which has not only shifted the digital commerce landscape, it has also affected eCommerce customers – both enterprise businesses (those with $1.2 billion or more in sales) and small to mid-market companies. We’re here to give our take on the recent market activity, and provide input and predictions from industry experts on how these changes will have a ripple effect in the B2B marketplace.
Three big happenings in 2018
The biggest shakeups in the eCommerce arena include an acquisition of a B2B software solution by a major CRM platform, a merger between an enterprise platform provider and mid-market provider, and a surprising exit out of the eCommerce game by a giant tech company. Here’s a breakdown of these big moves, and their significance to the marketplace:
Salesforce acquired CloudCraze
Leading CRM platform provider, Salesforce, had some success with selling multiple clouds to both enterprise and mid-market companies, but with only a B2C cloud platform to offer, they were missing the B2B side of the business. Their March 2018 acquisition of CloudCraze gives them the opportunity to help fill that gap. Oddly enough, while CloudCraze has always run on the Salesforce platform, Demandware – Salesforce’s proprietary B2C solution – does not. Many have questioned why their own products don’t use their platform and how the company will integrate these disparate offerings
Adobe bought Magento Commerce
In an attempt to become a player in the enterprise space, Magento has been slowly moving up market, and its May 2018 merger with Adobe will certainly help leverage that movement. Adobe hopes that Magento’s Commerce Cloud will enable better integration with the Adobe Experience Cloud to deliver a single platform that serves both B2B and B2C customers. In turn, Magento will likely benefit from Adobe’s industry-leading CMS. However, without a clear market focus, it’s unsure if Adobe will continue to service just the enterprise space, or if they will double-down and serve the mid-market space as well. Either way, integrating these two systems will prove a huge undertaking. And the high cost of ownership associated with implementing these platforms will likely turn away many small to mid-market customers.
IBM just exited the eCommerce platform business
Probably the biggest shocker of the year was when IBM announced in late December that they were leaving the eCommerce business. They sold all their eCommerce assets to India-based HCL Technologies Ltd., a systems integrator, without so much of whisper of the impending sale. In fact, many IBM employees weren’t aware of the move until the formal press release went out. When the deal closes in mid 2019, IBM’s on-premise eCommerce platform, WebSphere, will officially fall under HCL’s ownership. With a number of major retailers currently using WebSphere – including Home Depot and Lowe’s – many are frustrated and concerned at IBM’s lack of communication about the sale, with good reason. While HCL has demonstrated their technology innovation work, they have not proven they can succeed in the eCommerce platform business. Everyone is staying tuned to watch how this platform handoff is going to pan out for its customers.
While it didn’t make our big three list, another notable shift in the eCommerce landscape over the last 12 months was SAP’s removal of the Hybris Commerce brand name – as well as most of the Hybris team. Carsten Thoma, SAP Hybris co-founder and former CEO, exited the organization in October of 2017 and other changes have since followed. What was once a leading name in B2B and retail eCommerce software for large-scale organizations, Hybris has all but disappeared from SAP’s vocabulary and has been replaced with SAP Commerce Cloud.
Observations and predictions
As these mergers, buyouts, and exits from the eCommerce space take place, they are reshaping and redefining the market for both enterprise and mid-market solutions providers. At the same time, they are affecting wholesalers, distributors, and even some manufacturers, who currently have an eCommerce platform or are looking to evolve their digital channel. Here are some key observations about the changing eCommerce climate and forecasts for the near future:
Lack of innovation by enterprise commerce providers
Currently, the enterprise space is stagnant when it comes to innovation. From a solution perspective, the market is still somewhat saturated. However, from a go-to-market view, the enterprise arena is uncertain because on one side we’re seeing an exodus of important personnel, and on another we’re finding companies who are committed to the space but aren’t sure how to attack it. While industry experts don’t necessarily call what’s going on “chaos,” they do agree there is a significant transition taking place.
An eCommerce provider market stability shift
Traditionally, enterprise eCommerce companies were deemed more stable than mid-market vendors. But now, with the major acquisitions happening, there’s been a paradigm shift and mid-market eCommerce is considered the more stable market customers can count on for sustainability, reliability, and performance. Unilog was born in the mid-market eCommerce space, so we know from the start what our customers need. Our all-in-one B2B eCommerce solution, coupled with product data enrichment services, gives businesses the robust functionality and performance they expect at a price they can afford, and supports them throughout their digital commerce journey.
Amazon is a friend, foe, and sometimes both to B2B businesses
In general, mid-market distributors are concerned with how they’re going to survive Amazon. They have become a growing threat to this segment of sellers and, if they want to maintain an advantage, distributors must have an eCommerce site. Manufacturers, on the other hand, don’t really fear Amazon’s presence; in fact, they’re still trying to determine if Amazon is their ally or rival. In reality, the internet retail giant is both to manufacturers. In one respect, Amazon challenges their existing distribution model (which their distributors don’t like), but their sales channel gives them access to a different market – and in some cases a better one – than they could otherwise find.
Ultimately, distributors need to focus on channel shift if they want to survive. Their customers want to buy from them online and they want shop from a larger catalog of product offerings. Gone are the days of commoditized boutique distributors; now anyone – including Amazon – can essentially sell and deliver the same products. Catalog breadth and depth will be the main differentiator for B2B companies.
Platform options blurred for mid-market businesses
Mid-market organizations looking at former dominating players like Magento, Oracle, and NetSuite are questioning if these are the providers they want to invest in for their eCommerce platform. Oracle owns NetSuite, a bigwig in the market, but customers must have the NetSuite ERP system in order for the Oracle solution to work properly. This creates a narrow market for them, since a client must choose between NetSuite and the Oracle commerce cloud. They’re two different solutions from effectively two different companies that have merged into one company with overlapping offerings. Magento‘s open source legacy poses interesting challenges for Adobe as they try to figure out how to integrate the two platforms. Without a clear focus and well-defined strategy, these vendors may lose traction with customers.
These big names flaunt big egos, and many mid-market customers feel obligated to work with them (and pay through the nose to do so), otherwise they’ll get ignored. In the end, B2B companies just want an affordable, cloud-based solution that delivers what they need. Instead of feeling the pressure put on them by the Oracles and Magentos of the world, experts say they need to cast a larger net to find an affordable eCommerce solution by a responsive provider that doesn’t ignore them once they go live.
The cloud will eliminate need for on-premise systems
Cloud-based eCommerce systems continue to grow in popularity over on-premise systems as a more affordable, scalable, and secure solution for organizations. The idea of cloud computing scared many when it was first introduced. But as cloud systems developed, those concerns vanished once businesses saw the performance and value they provided. Today, rarely does an organization ask for an on-premise system for their digital commerce, and industry experts say legacy systems for on-premise systems will soon begin fading away.
Faster deployment, shared resources, and other efficiencies have helped bring prices down for cloud-based systems. Pricing will continue to drop as infrastructure-as-a-service vendors continue to struggle to determine the proper pricing structure for cloud computing.
This past year proved to be a roller coaster ride for eCommerce, particularly among the large vendors in the space. With all its turns, twists, and loops, it will be interesting to see how successful or disruptive these changes will be to the vendor market – and its customers.
If you’re interested in learning why Unilog is perfectly positioned to address the eCommerce needs of B2B companies in the mid-market space, please reach out to us. We’d welcome the conversation and look forward to learning about your challenges and needs.
Technology Futurist Jack Shaw wants wholesalers and distributors to pay attention: Blockchain is beginning to permeate the B2B marketplace, and if they want to reap its benefits, they need to understand how it will impact them and begin planning for it now.
Shaw is a leading expert of blockchain technology and, at Unilog’s EVOLVE 2019 user conference in April, he’ll explain why blockchain will be an industry game changer in the next few years. For more than three decades, Shaw has helped wholesalers and distributors understand the impact of emerging technologies such as artificial intelligence (AI), Internet of Things (IoT), and blockchain, and has advised them how to evolve with these trends to maintain a competitive edge. As one of EVOLVE’s keynote speakers, Shaw will share his blockchain expertise with attendees and provide pragmatic ways to incorporate all three emerging technologies into their digital strategies.
Since blockchain is likely new or unfamiliar to many people, we’ve provided some background and insight from Shaw to help conference attendees gain a better understanding before his presentation.
What is blockchain?
While blockchain technology can seem difficult to understand, the concept is simple: it is a means of providing transparency and better visibility of shared information. Information on a blockchain exists within a shared database, which allows the digital data to be distributed to members, but not deleted or even updated except by those authorized to do so. Every transaction and handling of data is documented in real-time to ensure up-to-the-minute accuracy and reliability.
The idea for blockchain technology was first developed in 2008 for the digital cryptocurrency Bitcoin as a way to execute transactions more efficiently within a secure ecosystem of network members. Instead of having a series of separate, siloed databases managed by each network member, blockchain allows organizations to work, in essence, in a single, shared database. A set of controls for each participant or member manages what they can see or do with the data. Unlike a traditional database, the blockchain ecosystem is hosted simultaneously by hundreds to thousands of computers, making it nearly impossible for hackers to corrupt or alter the database.
Offering better visibility, efficiency, and security, this innovative method of transacting eventually gained the attention of the tech industry, which began finding ways to utilize the technology to benefit other business models – including wholesaling and distribution.
Blockchain’s benefits for B2B
With blockchain, every time a product changes hands it is documented, creating a permanent, trackable history from the day it was manufactured to when it was sold. This gold mine of information gives businesses enhanced visibility at every touchpoint, so they can better monitor their products, identify and rectify issues more quickly, and run a more streamlined business.
Walmart recently announced it is integrating blockchain into its food distribution channel and is requiring everyone down the supply chain to participate. The technology will allow them to capture bar code scans so they can monitor important data such as temperatures of perishable products moving through the supply chain. This information is then visible to the exporter, import distributor, the Walmart distribution center, and the retail store so they can track and monitor a product’s freshness. If they detect an issue, they will be able to determine the source of the problem within seconds, not weeks. Blockchain will give them the ability to keep the public safe, while keeping their costs to do so to a minimum.
While the retail sector is beginning to reap the benefits of blockchain, Shaw says the B2B marketplace will experience big wins from it, too. “Blockchain allows a business to see information immediately so they can act immediately, which will eliminate errors, as well as reduce costs and inefficiencies. It also offers a secure and trusted way to share data, so organizations can feel confident the information is accurate and up-to-date as it moves through the supply chain.”
Shaw asserts blockchain is going to make a huge difference for day-to-day operations managers who have to make decisions about how much inventory to keep on hand. “With more product information visibility from blockchain,” explains Shaw, “they can find the right balance to keep customers happy, without having too much inventory in their warehouse.”
Major eCommerce players in the B2B marketplace have already begun to take advantage of blockchain to advance their competitive position. Shaw anticipates retail giants like Alibaba and Amazon Business will create a more competitive threat to distributors and wholesalers when they add blockchain to their digital technology arsenal – which is why he advises B2B companies to pay attention to the marketplace and begin looking now for ways to incorporate blockchain into their digital commerce offerings.
While blockchain is relatively new in the B2B marketplace, Shaw predicts there will be significant penetration in the market by 2020. “The timing to begin incorporating blockchain technology is very good right now,” says Shaw. “You’re not behind the 8 ball, but you shouldn’t wait any longer to start researching and learning how blockchain can benefit your business.”
Don’t miss Shaw’s information-packed presentation at EVOLVE April 9-12, 2019 in New Orleans. He’s guaranteed to offer new perspectives and new possibilities for your organization. Register now for the fifth annual Unilog customer conference to take advantage of early bird rates.
As the year draws to an end, and a new year brings more opportunities for sales and growth, it’s the ideal time to schedule an audit of your B2B eCommerce site to make sure it’s functioning properly, driving traffic, and meeting buyer needs. The different aspects of your site – from its technical performance and design interface, to its site content and shopping cart features – affect not only the user experience but also the channel’s overall efficacy.
Carve out some time in the coming months to review three areas of your site to find opportunities to improve, remove, or expand its offerings for buyers.
Audit #1: Site usability
It’s important to regularly check the usability of your website to ensure your site’s performance isn’t detracting visitors and prohibiting potential sales. A site with slow page-load times, broken links, or poor navigation can be a huge deterrent for buyers. Perform these critical audit checks across your site:
Click through pages to find missing links and images, poor quality images, and wrong images
Make sure the left-navigation filters work and that attribute filters are relevant and useful for finding specific products
Test the onsite search capabilities so that products and content can be found using a variety of search terms and values
Check that breadcrumbs and backlinks work properly
Confirm appropriate title tags and descriptions are used, including ALT tags for images
Use Google Analytics to report on 404 “page note found” error messages and correct any broken links
Don’t let bad links, poor search functionality, or slow page loads be the cause a frustrating user experience. Many of the above elements also affect SEO, so when they aren’t in tip-top shape, they will directly impact your search engine ranking and, as a result, your exposure to buyers.
Audit #2: Site content
The content you display on your site is just as important as its technical features and user functionality. Content is meant to attract, engage, and inform site visitors, and if there’s nothing there to keep them interested, they will go elsewhere. Audit your website content to ensure you’re using clear messaging and providing a wealth of information:
Evaluate and update SEO keywords to ensure they are still applicable within your content and URL structures, and that they include commonly searched terms
Make sure you are using terms and language that are relevant and understandable to those outside your organization
Check how often you’re creating content such as blog posts or white papers; if it’s a span of more than a couple of months , you may lose visitor interest
Make it easy to download resources and fill out forms; long form submissions and the request for too much contact information to access resources is a turn off for many
Review your Home Page, About Us, and Services pages to ensure they communicate clearly what you offer and how you add value to a customer
Confirm the calls to action and contact information are clearly visible and available on every page on the site
Clear and compelling messaging encourages engagement and builds strong impressions about your brand – and it’s one of the easiest ways to increase your site’s awareness.
Audit #3: Online products
Once you review your technical and content components, the next step is to perform a deep dive into your online product offerings. Product sales can show how well they’re performing online, but can also bring light to other factors that may be keeping your so-so sellers from becoming best sellers.
Review your overall product content to ensure the product data is accurate and up-to-date
Look for missing product images, specifications, and descriptions – essential content elements that help a buyer make an informed purchasing decision
Make sure pricing is displayed correctly for products
Research the products you sold most and compare them to your best sellers from the year before
While you entire product catalog should include enriched product information and digital assets, focus on your best sellers and quick-turn items to ensure they have great content that will attract the most attention. Noticeable items are those with unique product descriptions, additional images, videos, and supporting documents like manuals and spec sheets – the types of content that Google and other search engines love, and potential buyers can use.
Keep a finger on the pulse of your website be performing an annual audit. Your site’s health determines how effective your digital commerce business is to your overall company success. If you’d like an eCommerce expert to review your site’s effectiveness, contact Unilog for a free analysis of your site’s performance and product content. Schedule your check-up with us now and we’ll show you opportunities to improve your e-business.
B2B Industry Leader Charged with Overseeing eCommerce Solutions Provider’s Future Growth
WAYNE, Pa. — December 19, 2018 — Unilog, which offers powerful, affordable eCommerce solutions to midmarket B2B companies, announced today that it has appointed Aung Latt as president of the company.
In this role, Latt will oversee all North American operations and work closely with the teams responsible for development, operations, professional services, and content services in Unilog’s India-based offices. He will report to the office of the CEO.
Latt first joined Unilog in May 2015 and most recently served as Senior Vice President of Sales. Under his leadership, the company grew monthly recurring revenue by more than 75% in the past year.
“Aung has a unique capacity to combine deep business skills with an ability to connect with people in a truly empathetic way,” said Suchit Bachalli, CEO of Unilog. “He lives our core values and I am excited for what the company can achieve under his leadership.”
With Latt assuming his new responsibility, Brian McCarthy will lead both the eCommerce and Content sales teams as VP of Sales.
“This change is the first step in our plan to better align our organization for future success,” said Bachalli. “Aung will drive the upcoming launch of Unilog’s next-generation digital commerce platform while also ensuring Unilog remains unrivaled in our ability to deliver rapid time to value for our customers.”
”Unilog has grown significantly since I joined the company over three years ago,” said Latt. “We recently moved our U.S. headquarters into a larger facility in Wayne, Pennsylvania to accommodate our current and future expansion. My goal is to make sure our customers realize similar growth by helping them succeed with their digital commerce initiatives.”
Latt has more than 20 years of experience in enterprise business software, including sales operations and management, product management and business development, consulting, system implementation and customer support. Prior to joining Unilog, he served as the Vice President, Corporate Strategy for DDI System, a leading software company providing fully integrated ERP solutions for wholesale distributors. Before that, he spent six years with Epicor Software as its Director of Sales Operations, where he oversaw multiple facets of its sales organization to support the delivery of a $40 million sales quota.
Unilog is a global technology company that delivers powerful, affordable eCommerce solutions for the B2B marketplace. Our cloud-based eCommerce platform and product data enrichment services help distributors, manufacturers, and wholesalers increase online sales, reduce cost to serve, and enhance their digital channel. For more information, visit www.unilogcorp.com.