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A multi-channel sales strategy is key for competitive industries to stay ahead
writes Nick Davies, head of software development, OGL Computer
“Many cleaning and janitorial product suppliers will have seen a surge in online orders during the pandemic as demand rose, especially from new customers.
During the pandemic, selling cleaning and janitorial products via more than one sales channel became key to continuing operations in this competitive industry.
Indeed, suppliers have turned to e-commerce sales channels at an unprecedented rate. At OGL Computer, our e-commerce team supports distributors and wholesalers and has never been busier - whether that's because suppliers want updated websites to help them attract new business, or they want to integrate other online sales channels such as Amazon and eBay.
While many cleaning and janitorial suppliers will already be selling via a combination of traditional (sales reps and trade counter) and online sources, a recent survey by OGL Computer found that interest in e-commerce is growing significantly, and this has now been accelerated by Covid-19. Some 82% of SMEs surveyed, revealed that selling products online easily was very important to them, but multi-channel selling is a more complex proposition than it might first appear.
Here are two key considerations for success:
Maintain consistency by centralising and automating…
After the implementation of multiple sales channels, the single biggest operational challenge is maintaining consistency across them. From avoiding input errors to ensuring orders are processed and deliveries are made on time, consistency in pricing, stock control and managing customer service levels is essential throughout the entire sales process.
The use of an ERP (enterprise resource planning) system here is the most simple - yet effective, method of collating and handling all the necessary functions involved, including integrated CRM (customer relationship management), and a central database of business information.
An ERP solution removes the burden of manually keeping on top of customer data, stock control and order processing and streamlines the entire process for optimum efficiency. By automating business processes, an ERP solution enables teams to focus on other key business objectives.
Cleaning and janitorial supplies provider Avanti Hygiene uses OGL Software's ERP solution to fully integrate with its eCommerce website, CRM and stock management processes. By integrating information from disparate systems, Avanti has streamlined its business. Team members can now see a snapshot of order history, so are able to analyse buyer behaviour, identify opportunities to up-sell and cross-sell and offer special pricing for loyal customers.
This centralised management using ERP not only saves hours of admin time, which would normally be spent logging into different systems to check stock levels, but it also minimises the risk of any human error when moving data between systems. Orders placed on the website pull straight through to OGL's Software, to avoid any need to re-key orders.
OGL Computer's research found that 57% of the SMEs surveyed, revealed that reducing administration time was their main reason for turning to a single ERP system. Next was improved accuracy of information (40%) and then improving efficiencies by removing duplication of work across different departments (37%).
82% of SMEs interviewed, stated that ERP systems gave them greater control of stock and many of those (76%) were already experiencing the benefits of having integrated disparate systems into an ERP solution.
OGL Software helps Avanti Hygiene record customer orders, manage stock levels and analyse seasonal trends and sales forecasts to compile purchase orders. It also breaks down the ordered quantities into numbers for stock, customer orders or back orders, for efficient handling when the order is delivered - reducing any risk of misallocated stock.
An ERP system can also seamlessly enable - and more importantly manage, the later adoption of additional digital channels, like eBay and/or Amazon, relatively easily, and without any significant overhead.
Ensuring that your pricing is the same across every channel (online, telephone and via a trade counter) is also essential to avoid upsetting and losing loyal trade customers. Customers don't want to be frustrated by a different shopping experience whether they are in-store or ordering online. An ERP solution can help with this by managing customer-specific, retail and trade pricing automatically on an entire catalogue of products - across every channel.
Increase sales by targeting and profiling long term…
The lines between B2B and B2C buying behaviours are blurring and business purchases are becoming more considered and are often researched before a commitment is made. This means there is less loyalty over brands and customers are happy to purchase from a variety of suppliers that meet their needs.
By profiling customers on their buying habits and capturing data about their business, suppliers can use that information to target specific customer groups and segment the data for more efficient marketing. Creating focused target audiences improves the impact of marketing because suppliers can be targeted in their messaging, focusing on key pain points or paying particular attention to specific buying habits of customers in order to increase the chance of a sale.
A CRM can be used for target market analysis as it enables businesses to improve their marketing campaigns' effectiveness, through profiling and segmenting customers according to their specific behaviours and needs. So, this is essential to ensure the ongoing success of any business's multi-channel strategy, as ensuring that the customer data already collected can be used effectively, should always be a long-term focus.
Businesses can go a step beyond this by using an ERP system with an integrated CRM module, for access to the data and tools, and the ability to extract, report and analyse the customer information. This enhances the effectiveness of a campaign, but it also means future campaigns can be prepared for maximum success from day one.
A good example is System Hygiene, an award-winning supplier of next-day cleaning, hygiene and safety products to schools and businesses, which implemented a CRM system from OGL Computer that centralised all customer information. This allowed for full visibility of all customer information, from sales to accounts and marketing, in one place. By keeping track of all communications from direct mail to email and phone calls, to better understand the marketing efforts and response to trends, better communication was afforded, making System Hygiene even more responsive.
The same CRM module also allowed for better marketing as it had a built-in email function that allowed System Hygiene to segment and send regular e-shots to over 160,000 named contacts about everything from safety news to product launches and promotions. This helped to maximise customer spend.
Businesses will have different priorities when considering multi-channel sales strategies, but centralisation of data and extending data analytics, and automation, are the most commonplace for every organisation. For the cleaning and janitorial supplies sector, selling online is a cost-effective way to sell low profit margin items, providing an easy way to showcase thousands of product lines and help improve customer service with online customer portals for easy reordering. Essentially, an integrated ecommerce site reduces order processing time for quicker delivery times.”
3rd September 2020