Driving business - B2B ecommerce for the automotive industry

It’s a common scenario: A mechanic is working on a vehicle when they realise that a part is required to complete the repair. The vehicle is raised on a car lift and there is a backlog at the workshop, so the part is needed fast. They phone their supplier. When they get through, they are put on hold. After 5min of elevator music, they speak to a salesperson who looks up the part number, only to be told that it’s out of stock. The process is time-consuming, frustrating and unnecessary.

Wholesalers in the automotive industry are especially primed to benefit from selling online, particularly if stock availability is accurate and delivery is fast. The constant demand for parts and accessories, as well as frequent pricing changes due to exchange rate fluctuations, makes systems integration a necessity when considering ecommerce.

If a company’s customer and product data is managed properly and made available to the right stakeholders (resellers), they have the building blocks for a successful enterprise.

Data management - enterprise resource planning

Most wholesalers will use an ERP (Enterprise Resource Planning) system to manage their customer accounts and product inventory. When used properly, an ERP is invaluable in the following ways:

  • Inventory Management: tracks and manages stock to get better visibility into inventory levels, locations, and transfers.
  • Supply Chain Management: manages relationships with suppliers, tracks purchase orders, monitors deliveries, and maintains optimal inventory levels for the prevention of stock-outs or overstocking.
  • Integrated Financial Management: integrates financial management functionalities, such as accounting, billing, and invoicing, into a unified platform.
  • Enhanced Customer Relationship Management: stores comprehensive customer data, including contact information, purchase history, and preferences, in a centralised database.
  • Improved Analytics and Reporting: offers valuable insights into sales data, inventory turnover, customer behaviour, and financial performance, among other aspects of the business.
  • Scalability and Flexibility: As automotive wholesalers grow their operations, an ERP system accommodates expanding needs. By allowing companies to add new users, locations, and functionalities as required.

The ERP is the brain of the company, and should be the “source of truth” for all business information.

Data distribution - integrated ecommerce

With inventory and customer data centralised on an ERP, the next challenge lies in making it available to resellers. For example, the mechanic mentioned earlier in this article should be able to go online to view their account balance, see stock availability and pricing, and they should be able to place an order. It should be fast and easy, but most importantly, the data must be accurate.

The auto parts company supplying our mechanic is processing dozens of orders a day, some over the phone and some instore, so how do they ensure that their online customers see up-to-date inventory and price? The only way to achieve this is by integrating their ERP with their ecommerce platform.

What to look for in a B2B ecommerce platform

First and foremost, ERP integration is paramount in order to accommodate the relationships that exist with each customer, because these variables are (or at least should be) managed in the ERP. For example, Customer A may be a longstanding reseller with a good track record, so they get preferential pricing and payment terms of 60 days. However, Customer B has no track record, and therefore gets a smaller discount and only 15 days payment terms.

In short, your B2B ecommerce platform should be able to show each customer the correct information when they log in. Examples of customer-specific data includes:

  • Products: you may wish to make certain product segments visible to specific customers.
  • Pricing: you may have tiered pricing (e.g. Gold, Silver and Bronze) or more granular discount structures (in the form of contract pricing) that apply to certain resellers.
  • Stock availability: you may segment inventory by warehouse and want to limit the stock that a particular customer sees to a specific location.

User experience is another important consideration when choosing an ecommerce platform, especially in the automotive industry where customers often have to sift through thousands of items to find what they are looking for. It’s therefore helpful if your online B2B Trade Store has the following tools:

  • Elastic search: this will find the desired item even if the customer has typed in a search term that is slightly incorrect.
  • Year/Make/Model filter: customers are asked to select the year, make and model of the vehicle they are working on, with each selection filtering out items that are not applicable.
  • Reorder functionality: customers can find a past order and re-add the same items to their checkout cart with the click of a button.

In an industry that values face-to-face interaction, it’s worth finding an online B2B platform that can be used as an ordering tool for sales reps. Stock2Shop’s Trade Store allows reps to log in and place orders on behalf of their customers, and the company can also limit which customers each rep sees.

The benefits of selling B2B online are well documented. Ecommerce is reshaping the way business is conducted, and it has become a game-changer for wholesalers who have leveraged it. In an industry that is driven by changing consumer preferences and technological advancements, companies need to consider joining the digital revolution or risk falling behind the competition.

Setting up an online B2B Trade Store that is integrated with your ERP and purpose-built for wholesale is easier than you think. Don’t make your customers listen to elevator music. Speak to us to find out how you can make it easier for them to buy from you.

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