To many distributors, e-commerce and e-business sound interchangeable. Yet, there are important differences in the definitions.

What is E-Commerce?

E-commerce pertains to customers shopping for and buying goods online rather than from a sales rep or via phone with a print catalog. E-commerce is “website ordering.” Research shows that 70 percent of distributors’ customers frequently or very frequently shop electronically. People are shopping for and buying goods online more than ever in B2B markets, and that trend is expected to grow.

What is E-Business?

E-business goes beyond shopping-cart revenue to encompass a broader business strategy of exchanging information online. This might involve website ordering, email automation, electronic data interchange (EDI), enterprise resource planning (ERP) and more.

An e-business strategy’s primary role is to maximize efficiency through technology. Digital tools can support and automate everything including communication, customer service and sales. Matched with a motivated and aligned team, e-business strategy can create great value for shareholders through efficiencies and productivity while driving increased revenue.

Maximize Returns from E-Business

To create real value and build a barrier between themselves and the competition, distributors should aim for at least 50 percent of revenue coming through e-business. When distributors reach this threshold, they create enormous value due to the efficiencies created.

To win with e-business:

  • Streamline your website. Make your website a straightforward and solutions-oriented destination for your customers. Be sure that your on-page SEO aligns with your product offerings to increase your odds of landing in the first page of organic search results.
  • Provide resources to customers. Add resources such as videos or buying guides to help customers shop. When customers can gain insight and build trust from your website, they’ll come to depend on you for that expertise, and everyone wins.
  • Automate email ordering. Email order automation takes orders placed by email and converts them into a sales order in your ERP system. Email order automation streamlines ordering, reducing errors and removing unnecessary steps from the process – thus improving order productivity.
  • Deploy your field salespeople to more value-added activities. E-business initiatives can automate and improve efficiencies for the mundane tasks that many field sales reps take on now. Release them from those tasks and redeploy field sales to target customers that match your value proposition.
  • Use your CRM. Make use of customer relationship management tools to improve communication between departments, which helps to acknowledge and reinforce customers’ buying habits or needs.
  • Don’t neglect the human element. Align this effort with your team’s talents to make the most of your team and tools. Your sales team and customer service reps are essential to the success of e-business initiatives.

Distributors today must develop and execute an omnichannel strategy to let their customers shop for and purchase goods both in person and online, when and how they want. An e-business strategy is a critical piece of that.


Read about the real bottom-line benefits of e-business at scale in our Value Creation Series.