The line ‘build it and they will come’ has caused plenty of businesses a headache as they try to get the most out of their investments. The idea and implementation may be sound, but that doesn’t guarantee custom.
It’s a challenge many wholesalers have faced when they set up their online-ordering platform, as they try to convert bricks-and-mortar success into the digital world. Build it and they will come? Not necessarily.
That potential pitfall was one KCS co-founder Chander Singh was aware of when he launched his business’s new e-commerce platform with b2b.store last year.
It promised a digital future for the wholesaler, but without a dedicated focus on getting customers to buy in to online ordering, the platform could become a white elephant.
Inspired by that prospect, Chander sprung into action. “Within four months of launching our e-commerce platform, online represented about 15% of our overall turnover and we’d got 38% customer adoption,” Chander explains.
“We are still evolving and want to get in touch with more and more new customers to show them ‘this is how it works’. We’ve created a video that I send to customers that shows an idea of how efficient and how quickly you can place an order, and we include the link to our store in our email signatures.”
The hard work started as soon as the platform launched. It seems simple to point out, but awareness was key to getting customers online – after all, if they didn’t know KCS offered e-commerce, they wouldn’t be able to use it. Chander realised this wouldn’t just be a single hit followed by a host of customer registrations, the communication needed to act as a regular reminder, just as an effective advertising campaign would do.
As part of the message, Chander didn’t just want to tell customers that online ordering existed, but how it works and why they should be using it. He also devised a series of online-exclusive incentives to convert awareness into registrations.
“We use WhatsApp to share weekly offers with our customers and it gets good traffic – when customers see the offers, they register for the portal,” says Chander. “You can see 60% of our online customers are there by recommendation, which we’ve achieved by asking our customers to suggest the links to any service or promotion we’re offering to people in their networks and asking them to place an order with us.”
Despite achieving some impressive numbers in the early months since adoption, the quest for online sign-ups is always ongoing.
Driving customers to an online store is one thing, but making sure they return is a different ball game entirely. The b2b.store platform is said to provide the tools and functionality to run a revenue-driving e-commerce channel, but a wholesaler has to take a certain level of responsibility to make the most of some of the add-ons and get best results.
Chander and his business partner Kiran’s previous experience of running a company in a different sector meant they were familiar with operating a successful online business, so they applied some of those learnings to KCS, too.
“The success we’ve had comes down to how we’ve done the graphics and executed categories on our b2b.store, as well as the overall app format,” Chander explains. “From our previous experience, we knew it was important for graphics to be clear and attractive, with each listing having a product image as part of the description. We also have more than 50 categories, making it easier for customers to find what they want.
“We’ve taken inspiration from a few other wholesale e-commerce websites, with Bestway standing out. We noted how others did their CV (computer vision) classification, tried to implement ideas we had into KCS, mapped out all our products and laid down all the categories and sub-categories. We built it to the requirements we needed.” Ideas for development don’t just come internally, though, with customer feedback forming a key part of KCS’s online strategy. There’s no time to switch off, and constantly checking – and asking – for improvements is helping the Hayes-based wholesaler continually move forward.
“We’re constantly testing the app extensively, so if I put something in a category, I’ll constantly be checking it, even late at night. If I see something and say, ‘OK, this product shouldn’t be there,’ in the morning I’ll change it,” Chander continues.
“We work really hard on our e-commerce to check where things belong and take some feedback from our top five customers to help support us. We get some ideas from them and implement them on the b2b.store. As an example, we made all out-of-stock items invisible based on customer feedback and saw a 5-8% increase in order values as a result.
“The next part of our development will be to launch a website with good SEO that will link directly to our e-commerce. I’ve seen big brands such as Hollister, Asos and Asda do this pretty much day in, day out, so I’ll take some ideas from them and try to implement that into what we’re doing at KCS.”