Next Level E-Commerce for Safety Suppliers

This report highlights how 50 safety products distributors scored when assessed for website usability, content, customer service, and more. It also suggests some critical first steps for moving an e-commerce platform towards offering long-term, sustainable business benefits.

1Next Level E-Commerce for Safety Suppliers Next Level E-Commerce for Safety Suppliers Executive Summary When it comes to the sale of industrial products, e-commerce has become a requirement rather than an option. For many suppliers in this marketplace, it is mandatory to be able to offer an online means for customers to purchase products of all kinds – at any time of the day or night, with a few easy clicks. Despite being top of mind for most business executives, not all market sectors have an equal awareness of the power of digital commerce. In a recent hybris-led audit of industrial distributor websites, suppliers of safety products exhibited some specific problem areas related to their websites, and how accessible their product lines were to their unique customer bases. This report highlights how 50 safety products distributors scored when assessed for website usability, content, customer service, and more. It also suggests some critical first steps for moving an e-com- merce platform towards offering long-term, sustainable business benefits. Contents Executive Summary 1 The Critical Issues 2 > Product Differentiation > Compliance/Standards > Competition Safety Suppliers: Understanding the Customer 2 > Industrial Maintenance, Repair & Overhaul (MRO) Buyer > Health, Safety & Environment (HSE) Manager > Corporate Purchasing How Safety Products Distributors Use Their Websites to Sell 3 > E-Commerce Functionality > Search & Navigation > Product Information > Checkout > Shipping Options > Customer Service Areas Where Safety Products Distributors Should Target E-Commerce Efforts 5 > Empower the customer to make an informed decision > Search and discovery > Transparent and seamless commerce and supply chain relationship Gaps Discovered in E-Commerce Functionality, Content Quality, and the Customer Experience 5 An Industry Sector in Flux, and Learning Fast 6 The Latest hybris Audit Shows the Industrial Safety Sector Needs Guidance to Improve 2Next Level E-Commerce for Safety Suppliers ProDUCT DIFFErEnTIATIon This is especially crucial in an online environment, where customers may require in-depth specifications and high resolution photographs of individual items to separate one product from another. The difference between buying safety products versus more direct materials (those used in the manufacture of finished goods, for example) means the customer may be less knowledgeable and more concerned with elements like price or delivery. ComPLIAnCE/STAnDArDS Organizations like OSHA, ANSI, and UL have regulations and guidelines that vary in scope and timeline. Many suppliers of safety products must take responsibility for understanding which products address the requirements laid out by regulatory agencies, and relay those to the customer. ComPETITIon Many distributors have long sought strategies to provide a greater breadth of product and service to their customers, resulting in previously specialized distributors adding product lines – like safety or janitorial/sanitation – that appeal to a broader variety of customers. The result is that niche safety distributors are increasingly competing with a widening pool of general line industrial suppliers. It seems logical that these issues would be the driving factors for a safety products distributor’s e-commerce functional requirements. Yet, the audit reveals that many fall short in offering the in-depth product information and ease-of-use required by customers in this competitive, information- driven market. The Critical Issues For many distributors of safety products, the number of individual products and manufacturer-suppliers represented is vast and varied. many items – like person protective equipment (PPE) – are sold at high volume and low cost, but the burden is on the distributor to inform the customer that not all gloves or safety glasses are the same. Suppliers are often tasked with managing complex customer issues relating to: Safety Suppliers: Understanding the Customer Just as their SKUs can be diverse, for many suppliers of safety products, the end customer is varied as well. Purchasers of industrial safety products typically fall into one of the following categories. InDUSTrIAL mro BUYEr (The Maintenance Shop/Plant Engineer) – These individual purchasers often have a fairly specific and immediate need and represent a multiple-shift work environment with facilities running day and night. They judge safety supplies for their ease of use or “wearability” of PPE, and expect their suppliers to: • Offer products and resources 24-7, with ease of use and speedy delivery topping their list. • Enable their ability to access product information on-the go, including via tablet or mobile device. • Allow for search based on application, rather than just product names or SKUs. • Deliver in-depth product content with images to facilitate specific product replacement. HSE mAnAGEr This individual manages the health, safety, and environmental issues within a manufacturing plant, institution, or commercial facility, and is commonly tasked with determining which safety and PPE products are required, and when they are needed. The HSE manager might be responsible for understanding the prop- er handling and storage of something like hazardous chemicals, or for tracking the MSDS for the facility. These individuals: • Look to suppliers to offer detailed product descriptions, in- cluding application and regulatory requirements. Technical specifications and data sheets should be available to them at all times. • Require several options for delivery and visibility of stock to circumvent potential emergency scenarios and ensure their facilities are in a constant state of compliance. • Benefit from side-by-side product comparisons. • May make decisions on critical safety equipment – such as fall protection devices or emergency eyewash stations – based on customer or expert reviews of their function and durability. CorPorATE PUrCHASInG These are professional procurement managers responsible for maintaining purchasing systems and fulfilling orders accurately 3Next Level E-Commerce for Safety Suppliers and systematically. They may work with maintenance or HSE personnel to determine which brand of PPE is used most consistently or is most durable. These people are tied to rate requirements and specific deliverables, so they must balance user needs with corporate preferences. These buyers: • Require accurate product descriptions, order consolidation for fulfillment efficiencies and achievable SLAs in fill rates and quality control, and expect computer-assisted invento- ry replenishment for recurring orders. • Have pick lists of hundreds of items, including nested or kitting requirements, and may have internal part/SKU listings that can be filled by multiple vendors that meet the component specifications. • Need high speed and simple interfaces, with spreadsheet uploads or portal interfaces – including part numbers and SKUs to accelerate ordering and fulfillment – with integra- tion into other enterprise systems. • Expect the ability to configure product attributes, retrie- ve relevant pricing, and obtain quotes when dealing with products that are more complex to order than a simple part listing. • Insist on validation and confirmation of order status throughout the buying process. Viewing this group as a whole, it is clear that safety distribu- tors must use their websites to outline application-specific product details (including product comparison features), re- gulatory issues, pricing (including special offers and volume discounts), delivery rates, and clear timelines for delivery. One issue safety distributors have to deal with that may differ from suppliers in other product categories is that safety products – like PPE – might be purchased in cycles, or more frequently than something like industrial motors. A customer in this case may be more concerned with ease of procurement – the actual simplicity of the ordering process itself – than other factors that would influence the purchase of direct materials, or an MRO product that affects potential production downtime. How Safety Products Distributors Use Their Websites to Sell How successful have safety products distributors been at delivering on the above requirements? This audit reviews 50 safety products distributors’ websites, assessing them on a range of functional areas. enabled search by product code.82% of sites allowed users to search for a product name (free text search).84% Over half permitted users to filter search results by product attributes. Fewer than one in three helped users by suggesting product names as they typed. 50% <1/3 E-CommErCE FUnCTIonALITY: Of the 50 companies reviewed, a number had no e-commerce functionality. The level of sophistication of these sites could fall into three distinct categories: • Highly functional. These sites offer comprehensive search and navigation, an ability for customers to easily track orders and generate invoices, safe and efficient checkout, and clear information resources – from customer service and shipping to product specs. • Some functionality. These sites tend to offer some level of e-commerce functionality. However, this may be limited and lacking in ease-of-use. The biggest gaps in functiona- lity for those sites offering some e-commerce were related to thoroughness of delivery options. Other limitations involved the casual user’s inability to view price informa- tion, delivery options, or other related details without first setting up a log-in account. • Low functionality. These types of sites might offer a con- tact form or phone number to facilitate orders, but offer no true e-commerce functions. A review of specific core areas yielded the following insights. SEArCH AnD nAvIGATIon: While the safety products distributors’ websites performed well in basic search functionality, there are opportunities to provide clarity to users through more robust visual and sug- gestion cues. 4Next Level E-Commerce for Safety Suppliers ProDUCT InFormATIon: The audit revealed some basic functionality gaps, along with a clear need for more in-depth information on product specifica- tions and inventory availability. CUSTomEr SErvICE: While safety products distributors scored well in the basic customer service categories (contact information and ease of ordering), they showed deficiencies in “feedback” areas: The “add to cart” button is clearly visible for two- thirds of audited websites. show whether the item is in stock. 2/3 feature technical specifications. percent featured an email/ contact form. offered a customer forum where users could solicit the opinions of others. allow users to download a PDF product sheet or manual. offer links to customer or expert reviews. of the audited sites made it clear that the checkout process was secure. had an easily visible phone number. offered a FAQ section. 78% 78% 76% 94% 12% feature a product comparison option. of sites considered “easy” to find shipping information. While most made it fairly easy for customers to determine how to create an account or place an order, information on shipping was far less visible. 36% gave users the ability to set up an account online.2/3 allow users to pay by credit card. CHECKoUT: Of those with e-commerce: of the 50 audited sites made it clear they offered next day deliver. made a point to tout free shipping options, and another four made it clear they offered Saturday delivery. 8 4 SHIPPInG oPTIonS: Shipping options – including key selling points like free or next 21% 8% 12% 88% 22% 36% 5Next Level E-Commerce for Safety Suppliers EmPoWEr THE CUSTomEr To mAKE An InFormED DECISIon • Product comparison, and the ability to hide similarities. • Product reviews. • Videos, photos, and blogs embedded with the product information originating from manufacturer, distributor, or customers. • Product information, schematics, user guides, and standards certification. SEArCH AnD DISCovErY • Auto recommend search parameters. • Category and faceted search. • Personalized catalogs for industries and users. • Product and accessory recommendations based upon past buying and current browsing behavior. TrAnSPArEnT AnD SEAmLESS CommErCE AnD SUPPLY CHAIn rELATIonSHIP • Integrating inventory availability into the commerce experience to show units available, and presenting alternative products if a product is unavailable. • Present alternative delivery methods at the time of sale, like Saturday delivery or “order by 5pm for next day guaranteed delivery.” • Select shipping options by product and order, including shipping discounts for “orders over $200” or another threshold. Areas Where Safety Prod- ucts Distributors Should Target E-Commerce Efforts The process of implementing and evaluating e-commerce solutions can be daunting. The following defines a number of key components that distributors of safety products should consider when enhancing existing technology or installing a new commerce platform. Gaps Discovered in E-Commerce Functionality, Content Quality, and the Customer Experience Based on the results of this audit, it is clear that safety products distributors are, as a group, adequately serving their customers in only a few limited areas. While most of them offer indicated that the quality and sophistication of product content said they needed to focus on making our web expe- rience as easy and appeal- 53% percent of those surveyed say they have a sophisti- cated system in place but 45% 54% are open to other platforms if it makes sense, but only eleven percent of total companies surveyed say they are completely satisfied with their current e-commerce functionality. (photos, videos, product descriptions) needed improvement. ing as a consumer online shopping experience. says the product content aspect is an overwhelming prospect. reports that a lack of IT capabilities hampers them. indicates the company is troubled by a lack of clarity on the ROI of e-commerce. 1in5 1in6 1in8 some e-commerce functionality, it is evident that more robust product content and clear comparison features, related to both product features and supplier delivery rates/times, would be a good way to target customer needs specific to this industry. A recent survey of the Industrial Distribution audience asked safety distributors how they think their companies fare when it comes to e-commerce, and whether the strategies they have in place are successfully overcoming the hurdles. The following results illustrate the shortcomings related to ease- of-use, and a lack of in-depth product information. Despite exhibiting a basic understanding of the vulnerabilities of their websites, safety distributors cite varied challenges as impediments to moving forward: 6Next Level E-Commerce for Safety Suppliers An Industry Sector in Flux, and Learning Fast! As industrial safety distributors continue to broaden and enhance their product offerings through acquisition and organic additions, the marketplace will become an even more competitive landscape. The survey evidence shows that the industrial safety market is on the verge of substantial change, although many distributors seem bewildered by the operational and technical hurdles. It is clear that distributors want to improve their reach, revenues, and margins by expanding their e-commerce resources, and critically important that they move rapidly without delay. For a no-obligation website audit – or to see where your site ranks in comparison to other safety distributors, please feel free to send an email request to: [email protected] About hybris software hybris software, an SAP Company, helps businesses around the globe sell more goods, services and digital content through every touchpoint, channel and device. hybris delivers OmniCommerce™: state-of-the-art master data management for commerce and unified commerce processes that give a business a single view of its customers, products and orders, and its customers a single view of the business. hybris’ omni-channel software is built on a single platform, based on open standards, that is agile to support limitless innovation, efficient to drive the best TCO, and scalable and extensible to be the last commerce platform companies will ever need. Both principal industry analyst firms rank hybris as a “leader” and list its commerce platform among the top two or three in the market. The same software is available on-premise, on-demand and managed hosted, giving merchants of all sizes maximum flexibility. Over 500 companies have chosen hybris, including global B2B sites W.W.Grainger, Rexel, General Electric, Thomson Reuters and 3M as well as consumer brands Toys“R”Us, Metro, Bridgestone, Levi’s, Nikon, Galeries Lafayette, Migros, Nespresso and Lufthansa. hybris is the future of commerce™. | [email protected] Version: September 2014 Subject to change without prior notice © hybris hybris is a trademark of the hybris Group. Other brand names are trademarks and registered trademarks of the respective companies.