The third part of this three-part article looks at the growing trend of mobile commerce.

While distributors contemplate whether to implement e-commerce into their businesses, the next frontier of B2B commerce is already here.

The rise of the smartphone has led to a boon in mobile commerce. Roughly two-thirds of Americans now own smartphones, and 42 percent own a tablet device. A majority of these adopters use their devices as a key entry point to the Internet, according to Pew Research.
 
Mobile sales already account for more than 30 percent of e-commerce transactions in the United States. In 2015, mobile commerce sales grew 38.7 percent to $104.05 billion, up from $75.03 billion in the previous year, according to data from the 2016 Mobile 500 eGuide.

Although m-commerce is most notable in the B2C world, it’s only a matter of time before m-commerce takes on a more integral role in B2B sales. Currently, B2B m-commerce only makes up between 3 and 5 percent of online sales, and about 16 percent of all mobile traffic.

That doesn’t mean that it doesn’t have value. According to information from mobile tech company Usablenet, B2B buyers are increasingly turning to their mobile devices for research, including reading reviews, gathering product information, and comparing features and prices.

As more and more people turn to their mobile devices for search, Google has started penalizing companies that can’t offer their users a mobile-friendly experience. To capture a piece of the m-commerce pie, distributors must consider mobile optimization, either by creating a mobile website, a mobile-responsive website or a mobile app, says DeStefano.

“B2B m-commerce is really essential,” he says. “If a company ignores that, they are going to be in a tough situation and become irrelevant.”

Tying e-commerce and m-commerce together takes a village. Distributors need to get everyone from their marketing, sales and executive teams involved to leverage their companies’ B2B commerce strategies.

“There is no ‘build it and they will come’ strategy that works,” says King. “You can put out the best website in the world, but if nobody knows about it, it won’t work.”

Sidebar: Stop Ignoring Software Updates

As jan/san distributors turn to e-commerce software solutions to help build their businesses, it’s important that they stay on top of software updates, especially of their ERP software. Most software updates often reflect changes in the user experience.

“It helps to stay on top of trends that are happening online,” says King. “I update my software on my site when the features of my website reflect the needs of my customers.”

In addition to conducting vendor software updates, King says distributors should routinely evaluate and update product descriptions, pricing and web content. He adds that Google uses these changes to determine search rankings. 

DeStefano recommends that distributors designate a team member or consult a web professional to maintain or perform regular updates. In this day and age, it’s also necessary to ensure cyber security.

“It’s becoming important, especially if the systems are accessible online, to make sure that you’re keeping the software updated, so you don’t compromise the security of your business,” he says.

Stephanie S. Beecher is a Milwaukee-based freelance writer. She is a former Associate Editor of Sanitary Maintenance.