Bullseye Series Part 3: Partners Pave the Way

Earlier this summer we announced Bullseye, a quick and easy assessment tool we designed to help B2C and B2B companies select the right partners and services to take your ecommerce business to the next level. This three-part blog post series looks at Bullseye from different angles:

  • In Part 1 we discussed how we use Bullseye to measure the maturity of a business (it has nothing to do with revenue or business acumen and has everything to do with the size and skillset of your ecommerce team).
  • In Part 2 we talked about how to right-size the tactics and strategies you deploy to grow your business; how to define and measure success; and how we use Bullseye to determine both.

 

In this blog we focus on how we use Bullseye to right-size your partnerships. This is critical, because through years of experience we’ve learned that ecommerce businesses can succeed or fail based on the tools and the partnerships they form to engage their customers.

Right-Sizing Your eCommerce Platform

When some ecommerce managers set out to build their infrastructure, their first impulse is to opt for the platform with the most bells and whistles. This approach, their thinking goes, allows for maximum flexibility in the future. They may not need all the features and functionality now, but who knows what will happen five years from now?

In reality, it may be like buying a Ferrari 458 just to go down the driveway to get the mail. It’s way more power than you will ever need for the task at hand and a huge waste of money.

Though it may sound counterintuitive, features and functionality don’t necessarily equate to business success. Just because you can do something it doesn’t mean you ever will or even should. This is why Bullseye and right-sizing is so important. You can choose (and pay for) an ecommerce platform based on its impressive list of capabilities, just take care not overestimate the ability of those features to drive value for the company. Case in point: among Magento’s hundreds of features, is a wedding registry, but how many companies will actually use it? Certainly no B2B company will ever need such a feature, and gift registries don’t make sense for many B2C companies.

We at Something Digital are huge fans of Magento’s ecommerce platform. We’ve been an enterprise-level partner for 10 years, and have built hundreds of sites on it. Personally, I’ve worked with Magento since 2007. Twelve years ago the company offered features and functionality for the B2C market that are on par with what competitive platforms of today. The company was ahead of its time.

While we’re fans of Magento, we don’t recommend it for high-growth but smaller staffed B2C merchants. Magento requires more internal staff, along with an understanding of generally accepted accounting principles, order management, order lifecycle and so on. Nor does it come with a preconceived notion of how your business should manage orders. If your ecommerce team is small, and doesn’t have the skillset to map out an order management system, we’d recommend Shopify over Magento.

The same is true for any software used to support your ecommerce business. Does it make sense to spend $3,000 a month for an email platform if all your team has time to do is send out newsletters? You don’t need the Ferraris of software if you don’t have the capacity to utilize all of its capabilities. You’re better off spending your money elsewhere in the business.

When evaluating any software choice — whether that’s an ecommerce platform, email service provider, CRM or ERP system — you need to ask:

  • Does this software meet my needs today?
  • Does my company have sufficient maturity to utilize the totality of this software
  • Do we have the vision to utilize this software to grow the business within a reasonable time frame?

 

These questions can be difficult to answer, which is where Bullseye comes in. We’ll assess the maturity level of your business and recommend partners who will be a good fit for your company.

Role of Bullseye in Recommending Software

There are a lot of things to consider when assessing the maturity level of an ecommerce business, but that assessment is absolutely essential in order for Something Digital to recommend the right partners to engage. We can’t say this enough: ecommerce maturity isn’t about gross revenue, it’s about resource levels and skill sets of team members who will be tasked with growing the business. Choose the wrong partners and your business can suffer; select ones that compliment your team and infrastructure and your business can prosper.

Interested in obtaining a free Bullseye assessment? Contact us now.

Written by: Phillip Jackson, Ecommerce Evangelist

Bullseye Series Part 2: Growth, Goals and KPIs

In a previous post we told you about, Bullseye, our new tool to measure your business’s maturity so that Something Digital can help you select the right partners and services to grow your business. But that’s just the start. An important goal of Bullseye is to identify the best areas to target for growth, and to put a rational strategy in place to succeed.

One of the things we say a lot these days is that the outcome of any strategy should be set of specific tactics that work towards the goals set. It’s why Something Digital is hyper focused on tactics. At the same time, we need to measure success. There’s no point in putting a strategy for growth in place without a means of measuring whether or not it’s effective.

This is why Bullseye is so strategic: it helps to ensure that Something Digital recommends tactics that will advance your growth strategy, and are appropriate to your company’s infrastructure, available resources and skillset.

Let’s say your top goal is to increase your conversion rate. A worthy goal, to be sure, but one that for more mature companies must be broken down into separate KPIs. Here’s why: every website has new, intermittent and loyal customers, all of whom convert at different rates and timeframes. Focusing on a single metric — your overall conversion rate presented in Google Analytics — won’t allow you to put tactics into place that are geared towards each user type. To really grow your revenue, your strategy should include granular tactics.

Our approach is persona based. We look at your site metrics to identify personas of customers for every stage of your sales funnel (that makes sense for your level of maturity), and then create specific, measurable tactics for each. Such an approach requires multiple tactics and KPIs. In fact the more mature the company, the more narrow the KPIs to measure. Growth will come from understanding the entirety of the customer journey, as well as tracking and optimizing all of the touchpoints prospects engage with prior to making a purchasing decision.

Take first-time visitors. A KPI we might want to track is the length of time it takes for these visitors to purchase; a goal may be to narrow that window; and a tactic can be to prompt a smaller conversion, such as encouraging the visitor to opt in to the site’s newsletter. Another KPI we may want to track is increasing the rate of return visits by new leads; a goal may be to spend remarketing budgets as efficiently as possible; and a tactic can be a lead-back campaign that’s executed across social media.

On the opposite end, a level-one Bullseye company will require a different set of KPIs, goals and tactics. For instance, level-one companies may not have enabled Google Analytics advanced ecommerce metrics. If that’s the case, our first priority is to ensure they have the means to define and measure success. An ecommerce team can work hard to increase conversions across the site, but if they can’t measure it, they can’t claim it.

Next, we’ll need to identify where and how the company can drive the best returns on the investments they make. Often, the best ROI stems from focusing on visitors with the lowest conversion rates. Let’s say that mobile visitors convert far less frequently than desktop visitors, we would focus on optimizing the mobile experience to get more conversions right away.

Some tactics can apply to all levels of maturity, although with different implementations. For instance, if the goal is to increase conversions, a tactic we may suggest is adoption of a conversion rate optimization tool, such as HiConversion (an important partner of Something Digital, and a participant in the Mobile Optimization Initiative). HiConversion offers a powerful A/B testing tool that benefits businesses of all maturity levels, but how it’s used will vary.

At the end of the day, Bullseye is designed to help Something Digital:

  • Identify, track and optimize appropriate KPIs
  • Right size tactics to deliver on the strategy
  • Ensure the strategy takes your business to the next level

 

Next up: How Bullseye Paves the Way for Partners.

Written by: Phillip Jackson, Ecommerce Evangelist

 

Bullseye Series Part 1: Measure Your Maturity

Something Digital has a new tool that’s super helpful to ecommerce businesses who are outgrowing their websites, considering building a wholly new one, or who generally want a health check to ensure they’re sites are working optimally. That tool is called Bullseye.

Bullseye is a quick and easy assessment tool we designed to help B2C and B2B companies select the right partners and services to grow your ecommerce business to the next level.

We created Bullseye because a great many ecommerce businesses come to us for help in making their sites work for their organizations. They’ve hired agencies to build sites for them, but the end products are beyond their grasp in some ways, or not otherwise geared for the people and processes that exist within their organizations. Why have a sophisticated marketing plug-in if you don’t have a marketing department? Why select the most advanced technology available if you don’t have the necessary skills in house to run it?

It’s All About Right-Sizing

The goal of Bullseye is to assess the operational maturity of your business, which in turn dictates the complexity of solutions required to support sustained growth.

Maturity has nothing to do with your business, ecommerce or merchandising acumen. You can have that in spades and still be “immature” when it comes to selecting or optimizing your tech stack. Maturity has to do with your organization’s availability of time and resources to dedicate to an implementation, along with all existing systems touch your project.

A Quick & Easy Quiz

Bullseye is a quick and easy quiz that asks you some questions about your staff levels and skills, along with existing infrastructure components. This allows Something Digital to assess the products and partners that will work seamlessly with your people, processes and tech, and most importantly, will allow you to scale up in order to support your growth goals.

How are we able to distill such critical insight into a quick and easy quiz? We launched Something Digital twenty years ago, and through those decades we’ve assessed the maturity levels of B2B and B2C companies in every sector and size. We’ve worked with companies that have a few dozen employees as well as Fortune 500 retailers. Assessing client maturity is part and parcel to what we do, and we know what to look for.

And while we know, internally, the importance of assessing a client’s maturity level, we wanted Bullseye to help clients understand that importance as well. We believe it will enable all parties to understand why we recommend specific vendors, solutions and approaches.

A Roadmap for Strategy

We at Something Digital passionately believe that the outcome of your business strategy is a series of tactics that are designed to promote a defined end goal, whether that’s attracting more visitors to your website, generating more revenue, lowering the cost of customer acquisition, or boosting average order value. Because tactics enable strategy, it’s important that all ecommerce business managers have strategies, services and partners that match their level of maturity and help them grow.

Growth tactics differ between B2B and B2C, which is why we have a Bullseye for each. Interested in taking the test? Contact us.

Written by: Phillip Jackson, Ecommerce Evangelist

Something Digital - magento

MySQL Best Practices for Upgrading to Magento 2.3

If you’re a member of the Magento community, you’ve probably heard that Magento has declared end of life for 2.1.x support to be June 2019 (that’s now!). As Magento 2.1 approaches end of life, we at SD have started the processing of upgrading a number of our clients from 2.1 to 2.3, the latest major version of Magento 2.

Because of the number of core data changes that come along with the upgrade from 2.1 to 2.2 alone (i.e. the move from serialized strings to JSON), we ran into a few issues during the initial process of deploying a 2.3 instance to a staging environment. The most challenging issue came in the form of a MySQL error during the setup:upgrade process. If you’re unfamiliar with this particular Magento command, it’s used to perform changes to the database that the application code will require. Essentially, modules can be created to make changes to preexisting database tables, or even create new ones for their own use. Because of the conversion of serialized data to JSON in many of Magento’s core tables, including customer and sales data, this process can take a very, very long time to execute depending on the amount of data in your database.

Just to take a step back for a second, I was recently fortunate enough to have the opportunity to attend on online Oracle course for MySQL Performance Tuning. At the very core of understanding how to tune your MySQL instance’s performance lies the requirement that you must establish a consistent baseline of which to work off of. Along with setting this baseline, comes the responsibility of making sure that test environments have a similar amount of data and load on them to accurately test any updates. Clearly for us, it is of the utmost importance to have near identical replication of production data in a staging environment for us to test (and benchmark) the process of converting these loads of data for these upgrades. For a number of our clients, this means making sure that we have enough anonymized customer and sales data to give us an accurate representation of how long these deployments will take, or if we’ll run into issues in a production environment.

And run into issues we did! Aside from the usual errors one would expect to run into caused by corrupted serialized data, or incompatible 3rd party modules, we ran into a rather bizarre (see: misleading) MySQL error during that setup:upgrade process on one of our Community Edition clients with a large amount of sales data. See the error below:

Warning: Error while sending QUERY packet. PID=14322 in /vendor/magento/zendframework1/library/Zend/Db/Statement/Pdo.php on line 228

And that’s all folks! No other exceptions, errors, warnings, clues. Nada. Digging into the code a little further, Magento was attempting to query the database, but when the MySQL instance unexpectedly threw an error during execution of the query, the application code wasn’t handling it. So, all we were left with was this somewhat vague error message from MySQL.

If you’re unfamiliar with this error, a quick Google search will point you in the direction of increasing the max_allowed_packets variable on your MySQL instance. Which is what we did… again and again until we maxed out the variable at 1G. So, what gives?

As it turns out, this particular staging instance’s MySQL instance had been greatly modified. Many variables were not only changed from the default, but drastically different than what was configured on production. Which might make sense right? Production experiences heavier loads than staging, duh. But if we go back to proper performance tuning and the goals we mentioned above, we should have remembered to not just replicate the data in staging, but the MySQL instance itself.

One system variable in particular had been significantly decreased in staging, and that was the wait_timeout variable. As defined in the official MySQL Documentation this variable defines “the number of seconds the server waits for activity on a non-interactive connection before closing it.”. We increased this variable as necessary, re-ran the deployment, and now everything worked– the deployment, specifically setup:upgrade, was successful. So again, what gives?

We came to understand that one of the queries – the query referenced in the error above – was actually timing out because it was waiting on another very large query to finish. We were able to replicate this behavior in a local environment when reducing this wait_timeout variable, running two competing queries at the same time, and constructing one of these to be very large and time consuming.

There is no way that we would have run into this issue prior to a production deployment had we not made an attempt at replicating the live MySQL instance and its data in a test environment. Overall, I think our team learned a valuable lesson about both the size of upgrading from 2.1 to 2.3, and the importance of data replication in a test environment.

Written by: Jeremy Dennen, Back End Developer

Google Shopping

Google Shopping Tips & Tricks Part 2: Campaign Configuration

Now that we’ve covered feed management, let’s discuss campaign configurations. When formulating a strategy, it’s important to consider how much time you have to devote to the initial configuration and ongoing optimizations. While agencies might love to organize campaigns as specifically as possible, in-house marketers with smaller teams may prefer simplicity and automation. What works for someone else may not work for you, so always consider the level of effort required before making any big decisions.

Smart Shopping

Google’s Smart Shopping campaigns are for anyone who is in a bit of a time crunch, prefers to automate the heavy lifting, and wants visibility across all shopping placements (search, YouTube, display, and Gmail).

After creating a new campaign, select “sales” as your goal and make sure that your feed (which should be linked from Merchant Center) and country of origin are set. At the bottom of the screen, you will see two subtypes in the AdWords platform:

After you choose “Smart Shopping,” the remaining options are fairly minimal. All campaigns use a “maximize conversion value” bidding strategy, so it is important to set your budget realistically. If you’ve run standard shopping or display campaigns in the past, I suggest using those budgets as a guideline for Smart Shopping. When in doubt, start low and increase over time. Another available option in the “bid settings” section is to “set a target return on ad spend.” Enabling this option right away can stunt your campaign and prevent Google from spending your entire daily budget. I recommend leaving this option unchecked and revisiting it after your campaign has run for at least one month.

After you’ve completed these steps, that’s it! You could technically call it a day, start collecting data, and closely monitoring ROAS.

Product Groups

One other area where you can make optimizations for Smart Shopping is under the “product groups” tab. By default, you’ll notice an enabled group called “All products” that contains everything you’ve included in your approved product feed. If you need to exclude certain products, simply edit the group.

This is where feed custom labels become very useful. Setting these columns to title, category, and/or sku makes it easy to find and isolate specific products. If the products you need aren’t available, you may need to add a column to your feed.

Testing

If you’re already running a standard Shopping campaign without optimal results, consider testing Smart Shopping. Isolate a small group of products, exclude them from your traditional campaign, and include them in your Smart campaign. Monitor the results for at least one month and make a determination based on performance.

Sometimes it makes sense to include certain products in a Smart Shopping campaign while managing others via Traditional Shopping. I occasionally use Traditional Shopping for bestselling products and Smart Shopping for the rest of the catalog. Depending on a client’s needs and performance standards, it may make sense to adopt some combination of the two.

Traditional Shopping

Traditional shopping is more difficult to manage but gives a greater level of control over bidding and optimizations. Since it’s impossible for me to assess which strategy is best for you without reviewing historical data and revenue goals, I’m going to give a brief overview of some common configurations and when you might want to use them:

  • Single product ad groups (SPAGs) are useful for anyone who needs product-level bidding control and has serious time to devote to management. If you have thousands of skus, adopt another strategy because this one will easily suck up all of your time. Instead of separating product groups by category, price, or brand, SPAGs use product IDs. Each product ID becomes its own product group with individual bid settings.
  • Campaigns organized around shopping intent give you control over how much you bid for certain types of users. A user who is already familiar with your brand and searches for a specific product has a high intent to buy, whereas a user who searches for something generic isn’t as good of a fit. By using your campaign’s priority settings and negative keywords, you can ensure that you bid most competitively on users who are likely to purchase.
  • Setting up campaigns by price and profit margin are two other solid strategies. The higher the profit margin, the more I’m willing to spend to send potential buyers to my site. It doesn’t make sense to pay the amount per click for products with wildly different return (unless customer lifetime value proves otherwise).

 

Traditional Shopping puts you in a good position to maximize return, discover new users, and grow your business, but it only works if you have time to manage it. When in doubt, start simple, optimize over time, and if all else fails, test Smart Shopping (or give Something Digital a call 😉).

Written by: Lindsay Pugh, Senior Digital Strategist

SD Office Hours

The home of SD Office Hours! SD Office Hours is a live video stream where you can ask some of our ecommerce experts questions about your ecommerce site, Magento, or the ecommerce industry in general. You can tweet or comment to us live or ask us your question before we go live.

SD Office Hours is hosted by SD’s Tony Ciarelli and makes an appearance every two weeks. Check out below for the link to our current live stream, upcoming episodes, and past episodes.

Live Stream Link
  • Check back for our link to the live stream!

 

Upcoming Episodes
  • July 25, 2019
  • August 8, 2019
  • August 22, 2019
  • September 5, 2019
  • September 19, 2019
  • October 3, 2019
  • October 17, 2019
  • October 31, 2019
  • November 14, 2019
  • November 28, 2019
  • December 12, 2019

 

*Dates subject to change

Past Episodes
Google Shopping

Google Shopping Tips & Tricks Part 1: Feed Management

If I had a nickel for every time a client asked for Google Shopping feed advice, I could quit my job and move to the Bahamas (sorry SD). For someone not used to configuring or managing these campaigns, the process can seem daunting.

If you are a mid to large merchant (2,500+ skus) on a more complex ecommerce platform, managing your own Google shopping feeds and campaigns is probably not feasible. Instead of reading this article, you should reach out to an agency like SD for assistance. If you’re a smaller merchant who handles digital marketing initiatives in-house, read on for advice on feed generation, optimization, and troubleshooting. By the end of this article, you should have a good handle on the basics and feel ready to get started.

Feed Generation

Assuming you already have Google AdWords and Merchant Center accounts, the first thing you need to do is generate a feed. There are two ways you can handle this:

  • Find an app or extension that can generate a feed for you. There are many good options available, but here are two that I have personally used and often recommend:
  • If you have a small product catalog (under 100 skus) and don’t want to pay for an extension, create a manual feed using Google sheets.
    • If you go this route, make sure you use automatic item updates to ensure that availability, stock status, and price remain accurate over time.

 

At the very least, you should configure your feed to generate each day during a time when site traffic is low. If your product catalog is large, consider splitting the process up into multiple batches to reduce server load time.

Feed Optimization

Once you have a tool to actually generate the feed, you must figure out how to configure it. This help doc gives a good overview of the information and format required by Google. These are the ‘optional’ fields I suggest including if they are applicable to your business:

  • Additional image link
  • Sale price
  • Google product category
  • Product type
  • Identifier exists
  • Product variants like material, pattern, and color

 

If you’re on Shopify, this process should be relatively straightforward. If you’re on Magento, chances are good that this is where you’ll run into the most issues. Since each site’s product catalog and infrastructure is different, it’s hard to predict exactly where you’ll run into trouble. Here are some quick tips that may help if you’re struggling:

  • Only include simple (child) products in the feed and use the item_group_id column to tie them together with the configurable (parent) id. There might be a specific instance where a retailer only wants configurable products in the feed, but this isn’t common.
  • If your products don’t have an associated gtin, mpn, or upc, you can set this column to match simple product id.
  • The attributes in Magento are the only ones available for your feed. If you’re interested in including information that isn’t available (like pattern or material), you must first add it as a Magento product attribute.
  • If you run into feed formatting issues (too many characters, letter case inconsistencies), you can probably set a rule to fix it, either via your feed extension or in Google Merchant Center.
  • If there’s information you want to include in your feed that Google’s standard columns don’t support, you can sneak it in using a custom label. I often use custom labels to differentiate bestselling products so that I can set separate bids for them.

 

If you run into any issues with feed generation (errors, lack of progress), reach out to your development team or the extension creator.

Feed Testing

Once the feed has generated, you’ll want to test it for accuracy. If you’re using Rocketweb there is a “test feed” option that allows you to input skus and quickly see whether or not they are present. This feature is good for a quick spot check, but you should also plan to save the feed as a text file, import it to excel, and do a more thorough review to ensure that all wanted products are present and information is correct.

If products that should be included are missing, take the following steps:

  • Review the product in question in your catalog. Does the information that you expect to see in the feed match up with the way you mapped your columns?
  • Check any feed rules that are currently in use. Could they be impacting this product?
  • If you’re using Rocketweb, also check the product catalog listing to make sure that it isn’t set to “skip from being submitted.”

 

Google Merchant Center

Once you’re confident that the feed is in good shape, submit it to Google Merchant Center. If there are errors, work through them, re-fetch the feed, and remember that you can always set rules to correct bulk errors. At this point, you might be thinking something like, “Wow, this is a tedious process.” If so, you are 100% correct. It can often take several rounds of testing, tweaking, and submitting before you get a feed that has all of the necessary information and adheres to the required format. Be patient, continue testing, and when in doubt, review the Google help docs or reach out to your feed provider. With a little bit of practice, you’ll be participating in Google Shopping auctions in no time.

Written by: Lindsay Pugh, Senior Digital Strategist

chicago_irce

Visit SD at IRCE 2019

[ATTEND]

Planning to attend IRCE on June 25-28 in Chicago? If you have not already registereduse code: EXIV817960 to save $200 off registration.

[JOIN]

Join Something Digital, Vertex, and Attentive for a guided architectural booze cruise on the river with cocktails, canapés and music on Tuesday, June 26th at 5:30 pm. RSVP here (note this is a merchant/retailer only event).

[VISIT]

BULLSEYE! Stop by booth #2061 to take our free Ecommerce Maturity Quiz and identify the tactics appropriate for your growth objectives.  Book some time with one of our experts now!

The Role of Marketplace in the B2B Omnichannel Strategy

Last summer the water dispenser in our refrigerator stopped working so we called a repairman to fix it. The issue was straight forward; the filter was broken and needed replacing. It didn’t matter that the refrigerator was 10 years old, the repairman told me, since any part for any appliance is readily available eBay, which is why he doesn’t bother to carry replacement filters anymore. They pop in and out, we could take it from there.

As a B2B distributor, eBay, and more generally digital marketplaces, may not seem relevant to your business, but that’s a mistake. If they’re not part of your selling strategy you’re leaving a lot of money on the table.

The many shades of eBay

Let’s go back in time 20 years and trace the origins of digital marketplaces. The company that invented the whole notion of a digital marketplace is eBay, and the site lit the consumer’s hair on fire. Suddenly a whole range of stuff that had always been hard to find was available at one’s fingertips. Vintage Russel Wright dinnerware, the toy your mom threw out when you went off to college but you still miss, the perfect knobs for your new kitchen cabinets…if you wanted it you could find it.

After a decade, though, eBay lost some of its luster. Newer, shinier marketplaces, like Amazon and Alibaba, caught the consumer’s attention. But eBay is, and always has been, going strong. In 2018, the company had gross merchandise volume (GMV) of $24.6 billion. That’s a lot of sales … who’s doing all that buying?

Ebay’s main play right now —  the place where they’re still killing it in 2019 – is B2B. The site is a dominant player for every single part, bit or bob that exists in the automotive, marine, electronics, commercial laundry, and a great many other sectors. It’s the New York City of the digital universe.

Think about it: you can find a new fuel filter for your car on eBay as easily as you could once find matchbox cars.

Marketplaces like eBay are also the go-to sources for people who are looking for lots of different parts. A business that runs industrial equipment will always be in need of parts, and it’s just easier for a buyer to go to a single source for everything he or she needs in one fell swoop. It’s the same reason why consumers go to Amazon when they need new blue jeans, kitty litter, grass seed and school supplies. Nobody wants to go to 15 different stores to buy a bunch of things, which is precisely why eBay is so appealing. If you’re an auto mechanic looking for parts to restore a bunch of classic cars eBay is a godsend.

It’s kind of incredible that more people aren’t aware of just how much B2B business occurs on eBay each day, but it is. In fact, I’ve met people who are selling millions of dollars worth of parts on the site each year, some of whom don’t even carry any stock themselves. They’re getting rich by acting as the middlemen between people looking for parts and manufacturers who have them to sell.

Of course, these digital middlemen are succeeding because they bring a specific value to the equation: Data. Most manufacturers have PDF catalogs filled with hundreds of thousands of SKUs. Turning that PDF into a searchable database that’s integrated with eBay requires skill sets they don’t have, or have no desire to acquire. So they turn to the middlemen with data warehouses that will do that work for them.

The role of marketplaces in your omnichannel strategy

Okay, now that I’ve convinced you that you must sell on eBay (and other marketplaces we’ll talk about in a minute) how do you get started? What are the things you should think about?

First and foremost, leverage the hard-learned lessons of the B2C space, beginning with operating your digital commerce business as a separate channel from your brick-and-mortar and wholesale operations. Online selling, and selling via marketplaces specifically, require a specialized set of skills and rules of the road.

Which brings me to my next piece of advice: start thinking of your business as omnichannel. Parts distributors have typically sold directly to the end customer via a single channel, even if their supply chains were complex. But customers have become omnichannel, and you must too.

Once you start selling via multiple channels, and acquiring additional customers in the process, channel conflict will be inevitable unless you figure out how to manage it. Here’s a classic example of what could happen: A catalog customer you’ve been selling to for 20 years — a client with whom you have pricing agreements in place —  receives an email offering 15% off an order for new customers, and feels miffed.

One of the things I find most interesting about this topic is the way that selling via marketplaces forces B2B businesses to accept that they need to develop the capabilities to manage multiple channels.

I should emphasize that all marketplaces, not just eBay, are serving customers in search of parts that many distributors consider their domain. One can find plenty of automotive supplies on Amazon and the site even offers tools to help consumers search by their vehicle model and year.

Meanwhile, Facebook Marketplace is growing at a scary-fast clip. It may have started as a neighborhood swap shop, a Craigslist of sorts, but now all kinds of businesses are serious about the channel, and are putting their full range of products there. Everyday I see Facebook Marketplace ads from local dealerships advertising the cars sitting in their lots. People are shopping for cars on Facebook!

So if you were under the impression that marketplaces were just for B2C businesses, I hope you think differently now. All businesses, both B2C and B2B, need to do business on them in order to compete and grow your business.

Written by: Phillip Jackson, Ecommerce Evangelist