Members Can’t Beat Amazon; Groups Can (Part 3 of 3)
Recreating Amazon’s marketplace is a sure route to failure. There are elements worth adopting – powerful search, user reviews, simple check out procedures, etc. – but rather than emulating Amazon, focus on your member-distributor’s strengths and Amazon’s weaknesses.
Amazon thrives in two areas – product information and data collection. While Amazon knows their customers, they do not know their customer’s business. Amazon doesn’t have the same level of expertise as your members do. Amazon doesn’t have your reputation and relationships within the marketplace.
A group-driven marketplace should include the following features:
B2C User Experience
Millennials will make up the majority of marketplace users, and they want their experience to be identical to their B2C shopping experience. An intuitive and user-friendly experience is a must. Personalization and predictive ordering are a must.
Helpful Product Content
The best way to attract more web traffic is to add more content and more helpful guidance to every product on your site. Create a blog where you discuss business topics of real concern to the people who use your products.
Offer Unique Products
Offer products that Amazon does not. This could be as simple as bundling a number of related products into a kit with a lower total price, or it could mean creating private label versions of existing high margin products.
Strong Customer Service
Customer service in the B2B world means solving problems. Dedicate knowledgeable sales reps who know their buyers and products to your site. Provide human touch points. Provide multi-location logistics. Strong customer service should not be anything new for your members – figure out how you can apply what your members already do to the web. Amazon cannot compete with a human experience.
Build A Hybrid Marketplace
B2B customers will always require an experience that includes both full service and online capabilities. Build a bridge between the online and offline worlds.
Maximize Your Data
Route your eCommerce data into a good business intelligence tool that will help you understand what is working and what does not.
Think About the Full Customer Experience
B2B eCommerce is not all about ordering products. How do your customers create claims? How do they deal with payment issues? Where do they discuss terms? Are they eligible for rebates? Where can they receive training? Are there product shows that they can attend? Make sure your marketplace makes the full customer experience a rich one.
The key to competing against Amazon is to bring the natural strengths of your member-distributors to the online world. A central group, owned by the members, can provide the leadership, guidance, and operational staff to creating a marketplace where members can compete on a level playing field.
Written by Steve Seguin
LBMX offers a business-to-business marketplace platform, helping independent businesses, their buying groups, and suppliers buy better and sell more. Its Private Group Marketplace for Groups has transformed billing and ordering, rebate management, real-time analytics, e-commerce and product information management across the building materials, HVAC, plumbing, sporting goods, industrial supply, manufacturing, and agricultural industries. Its LBMX Supply Cloud platform allows suppliers to look at their industrial distribution customers through one lens, offering full EDI, PIM, Analytics and Payments.