By Jackie Sebesta

Over the past 15 years print and fulfillment providers have understood that providing a B2B e-commerce platform as a value-add service is essential if not mandatory for doing business. While many in the industry are offering an e-commerce channel, the “Amazon Effect” is raising the bar when it comes to customer engagement and user experience.

In many ways, Amazon has set expectations for what the online ordering experience should look like and many companies are having to adapt by hiring thought leaders that come directly from the B2C e-commerce market.

Amazon Effect impacts the B2B buying experience

Most of us have shopped on Amazon. Their platform provides an intuitive user-friendly approach to purchasing. Finding a product is easy, product details and pricing are readily available, product suggestions are personalized for each user based on past purchasing behaviour and their speed to market is undeniably the best in online commerce.

A Handshake blog written by Sarah Leung reported that B2B e-commerce analyst Andy Hoar revealed that 92% of B2B buyers actually use Amazon to research purchases for work and that 82% of buyers reported actually making work purchases on Amazon1. He noted that a majority of these purchases were for general office supplies but what is important to note is that B2B buyers are exposed to Amazon’s rich user experience and ease of ordering.

Imagine a buyer using Amazon to procure general office supplies and then accessing your marketing fulfilment e-commerce site to place a business card order. Will they become frustrated with unnecessary steps? Can they easily access their price (which is contracted and unique from other clients)? Can they see which stage their order is in and when they can expect delivery? All of these questions and many others are important to address, and Amazon can provide a benchmark to ensure you maintain a positive user experience for your clients.

The Amazon Effect also impacts the last mile of order fulfillment. From the time the order is submitted, picked, packaged and shipped it is now increasingly important that the order is in perfect condition. An emerging trend in 2018 is the quest for perfect orders and we can thank Amazon for focusing many resources towards this ideal end-state.

The complexities of last-mile delivery make the odds against fulfilling a perfect order overwhelming, but as companies are discovering, perfect orders are the ultimate measure of customer satisfaction.

Perfect orders are the percentage of orders delivered to the right place, with the right product, at the right time, in the right condition, in the right package, in the right quantity, with the right documentation, to the right customer, with the correct invoice. And in 2018, getting the orders not just right but perfect will be even more important than it is already.

How Lowe-Martin creates an Amazon-like experience

  1. Offering more than just print fulfillment

The marketing supply chain consists of many types of marketing not just print. Within the print industry offering a fulfillment solution for print alone is no longer an option. Providers must be ready to accept inventory such as promotional products, client product samples and speciality packaging. With the addition of non-print inventory comes the complexity of warehousing. Many of these products will be required to be GMP (Good Manufacturing Practices) certified which is an auditable certification under the Government of Canada.

At Lowe-Martin we fulfill many programs that include print, promotional materials and client product. Some of the product we fulfill requires a Medical Device Licence (MDEL) and Good Manufacturing Practices (GMP) certification. These certifications allow us to take on broader projects but also keeps us accountable for ensuring quality standards are met within our facilities. Our clients appreciate that they can outsource their entire marketing supply chain and contain their costs within one supplier.

  1. Fulfilling orders faster

Same-day delivery will be the norm by 2023, predicts a new study that asked retail and logistics professionals for their views. “The Future of Fulfillment Vision Study” from enterprise stock solutions business Zebra Technologies, also suggests a significant minority foresee two-hour delivery by 2028. Looking to the future, they predicted disruption as innovations including drones, autonomous vehicles and crowdsourced delivery come to the forefront

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To start preparing for shorter delivery times Lowe-Martin is taking a serious look at our current warehouse capabilities, enterprise resource planning (ERP) and warehouse management systems (WMS) integrations and courier contracts that include committed service level agreements. We have invested in warehouse technology and have scaled our operations to become more elastic in nature. Elastic logistics, another emerging supply chain trend in 2018, refers to the flexibility to expand and shrink capabilities to align with the demands within the supply chain during a given timeframe.

  1. Choosing the right e-commerce platform

The right e-commerce solution will be one that can accommodate the complexities of B2B purchasing while maintaining a simple, intuitive user experience. Finding a solution that prioritizes ease of use on mobile as well as on the web is imperative. Be sure that you’re offering a streamlined, personalized experience on the web, on mobile and in-person through your sales team. All of these channels should provide a consistent experience to the customers, and they’ll be willing to pay more for that experience.

Over the past eight years with over 80 implementations, Lowe-Martin has developed e-commerce and fulfillment solutions tailored to meet the specific needs of our served market. Our e-commerce solution is designed to facilitate the procurement process, provide brand control, minimize waste and provide reporting tools to plan and control costs on a real time basis.

In the end, customer experience will always win. In order to provide an Amazon-like experience you must continue to challenge your business to innovate, evolve with customer and market demands for better, faster service, and continue to streamline cumbersome processes by eliminating mundane tasks to create a more effective B2B offering.

Jackie Sebesta has over 13 years of experience in the e-commerce and marketing supply chain outsourcing industry with a keen focus on client engagement and retention. As director of client engagement, e-commerce and fulfillment at Lowe-Martin, Jackie is a subject matter expert who works with clients to enhance the e-commerce and fulfillment offering.

1 Leung, Sarah “The Amazon Effect on B2B eCommerce & What B2B Businesses Need to Do About It” Handshake blog January 6, 2016

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Lloydmedia, Inc is based in Markham, Ontario, Canada, and is a multi-platform media company which delivers a total audience of more than 100,000 readers across four national magazines, three industry directories, and a range of events and online marketing.