Frost & Sullivan’s report, Future of B2B Online Retailing, indicates that B2B online sales will account for close to 27% of total manufacturing trade, which is likely to hit $25 trillion by 2020. Today’s B2B customers expect the same range of multi-channel purchasing options they experience as consumers. Your customers once pored over print catalogs or worked with sales reps to make their purchases; now, many of them start their sales journey on your website or via a search engine.
If your manufacturing or distribution business uses enterprise resource planning (ERP) software that doesn’t integrate with your eCommerce solution – or you don’t yet have an eCommerce solution tied into your systems but you’re thinking about doing so – you’ll be missing out on a potentially huge sales channel. On the flip-side, you’ll have a huge project on your hands. We know… managing website changes and ERP integrations are a big deal for any company, and building out the team to support the system can be time-consuming and costly.
Opening a digital storefront doesn’t mean you escape the responsibilities of running a brick-and-mortar store, either. You still have employees to pay, clients to find, and an inventory pipeline to manage.
This post outlines the essential roles you need to fill when building an eCommerce team. Keep in mind that these don’t have to be individual roles; there’s plenty of room for overlap. However, these departments and positions should be on the team, whether you use your employees, an outsourced service provider, or a combination of the two.
First things first. No major project like this can get off the ground without the buy-in of the CEO, CFO, CTO, and CMO. They’ll essentially be footing the bill monetarily and/or with their team members who will serve to support the site. Ensuring that they’re comfortable with this push into new territory is essential.
Members of the marketing department make up a large segment of the team that will support your eCommerce site. Marketing is also a critical component of integration with your ERP. Your system must link with your existing product images and descriptions to prevent duplicated efforts and ensure quality control across your inventory. The people typically involved on the marketing side include:
Inbound Marketer/Content Strategist: The person in charge of inbound marketing uses social media channels, blogging, SEO best practices, and email marketing to reach your target customers.
Writer/Storyteller: Once upon a time, merely having a blog was enough to set your business apart from your competition, and search engines were more lenient about keywords, so it was easier to get ranked at the top of search results. Then keyword spammers ruined it for everyone, and now your site needs genuinely valuable content. Your eCommerce department doesn’t just need a copywriter – it needs someone who can create a relatable story around your brand. Having this person on your team emphasizes the difference between a well-developed brand like W.W. Grainger and a company with no eCommerce presence.
Creative/Design: The creative team is responsible for the overall look and feel of the site. Rather than taking on the task in-house, many companies outsource this segment to a business that specializes in designing eCommerce sites.
UX/Usability: The UX (user experience) team creates the initial wireframes and prototypes of an eCommerce site. They’re also responsible for gathering customer feedback via usability testing. This group is often a subsection of the larger IT or creative teams.
- Marketing Data Analyst
When it comes to building your eCommerce team, you want to make sure you’re balancing the left brain and the right brain; you need a creative side as well as a logical one. With eCommerce, you can collect more customer data than ever before – but do you know what to do with all that information?
This is where a data analyst comes into play – they use logic-based tools to make recommendations based on hard numbers to drive web traffic. A data analyst can track your sales and discover that you’re selling more widgets to a specific region of the U.S., which will help the analyst direct the inbound marketer to work with the storyteller to create content targeted to this specific region where you could realize a potential revenue boost.
The IT organization is made up of front-end and back-end developers as well as systems architects. It’s increasingly common to see the IT and business teams merging within organizations, and you can often find front-end developers in the UX/design teams. Another branch of the IT organization is composed of release management and quality assurance teams, which direct the deployment function, streamline website releases, and help ensure that everything is running smoothly. IT also owns the critical task of guaranteeing that sales on the site flow into the ERP system and warehouse for appropriate inventory management and sales recording.
You’ll find a few different roles within the merchandising organization, including the purchasing team. If your eCommerce store has a brick-and-mortar presence, the merchandising department typically manages that channel as well. Visual merchandising or web merchandising roles work in tandem with the data analytics team and buyers to manage the products, pricing, and offers specific to each customer. The content strategists and storytellers work with the merchandising team to create compelling product descriptions to turn prospects into customers.
With eCommerce sales becoming more prevalent in the B2B world, the finance function is undergoing a particularly significant change. ECommerce enables buyers to check price and availability and immediately place an order. A solid eCommerce solution seamlessly syncs the pricing, inventory, and customer data in your ERP to your digital storefront, making it easy to monitor your supply chain.
When adding this method of sales, however, the finance department must carefully analyze company accounting processes to determine how the current ERP system will handle eCommerce revenue as well as sales commissions and territories that will likely change due to the implementation of this new sales channel.
Choosing to sell via an eCommerce site is not a simple decision – there are many factors to consider before taking the leap, as it could result in the need for a new system, which is where the C-suite buy-in we previously mentioned comes into play. Ensuring your eCommerce solution integrates with your ERP is the first step, and it will make life easier for everyone involved.
To learn more about how our manufacturing and distribution customers utilize Nomad’s eCommerce and ERP integration, visit our website.