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Convenience stores provide a fast shopping experience for on-the-go customers, who can easily find what they’re looking for, discover a new product or two along the way, and quickly checkout to get back to the rest of their day. A c-store retailer’s own buying experience, however, is often quite different.
For most convenience store operators, ordering is a time-consuming, error-prone process with limited information. After taking time to walk the store to determine what products need to be ordered, staff then spends long periods on the phone dictating orders or submitting handwritten order forms via fax and email.
These methods require that their distributors’ customer service teams then accurately enter the information into their systems. Even when a distributor’s sales representative visits every one to three weeks, retailers may learn about new products and promotions, but the order is often written using cumbersome, outdated technology.
Given the fast-moving, high-volume nature of the c-store business, distributors have realized they, too, can differentiate by transforming the ordering experience. To provide better support and service, distributors have begun to implement business-to-business (B2B) commerce software that puts the latest technology in the hands of retailers and their sales reps to increase reorder speed and ensure the timely delivery of information.
CONVENIENT & FAST
B2B commerce software solutions let convenience distributors deploy ecommerce websites that can be accessed from a computer or native mobile applications running on consumer devices like the iPad or iPhone. These software solutions are designed to handle the c-store buying process while delivering a modern and simple user experience on par with the most popular ecommerce sites.
For c-stores and their employees, this means they can receive an online shopping experience similar to the likes of which they enjoy in their personal lives.
Retailers are no longer at the mercy of their distributors’ hours of operation to place phone calls or make sure a fax was received. Operators can build a new order on an iPad from the store aisle and immediately submit it to their distributor for processing, 24/7.
B2B commerce solutions also make the order-writing process faster. These mobile and web solutions have intuitive user interfaces, barcode scanning features, search tools, and high-definition image product catalogs that are more common in B2B ecommerce, so products are easily searched or scanned and added to the order.
In addition, retailers can quickly start a new order based on their order history or create a reusable template with frequently purchased items and quantities. Distributors providing web and mobile ecommerce solutions have enabled their customers to reduce the amount of time it takes them to complete an order from 45 minutes to 15 minutes, and the orders arrive error-free close to 100 percent of the time.
With convenient, fast ordering, operators can devote more time to serving customers and keeping their stores clean and organized.
There are many opportunities for error in today’s convenience store ordering process, resulting in extra costs and wasted time.
During the order-creation process with web and mobile ecommerce solutions, on the other hand, c-stores can easily track the products and quantities they are buying by checking the cart and running order totals. This helps reduce over-ordering and improve cash flow management. As operators add items, they can use the high-definition images and product descriptions in the catalog to visually confirm what they are ordering is the same as what’s on their shelves.
Retailers will also receive an email confirmation with product images to ensure the order was submitted accurately and to confirm all items were received upon delivery. Most importantly, upon submission, the order flows directly into the distributor’s back-office systems, eliminating the errors associated with manual data entry.
To help stores make smarter decisions, distributors will use B2B commerce solutions to provide more than just product descriptions and other catalog information. B2B commerce software is integrated with distributor’s back-office systems, giving retailers access to SKU-level inventory with out-of-stock or discontinuation notifications. Having inventory information on-hand when buying helps reduce backorders and gives retailers the opportunity to replace the item on the order.
Operators also can see current and upcoming promotions and new products, allowing them to take advantage of any potential cost savings, or immediately add a unique product to their assortment before their competitors do. All without having to take the time to contact a sales rep or call customer service. Self-service access to the latest information from distributors helps c-stores save time and money, while providing a differentiated product assortment that keeps customers coming back.
MORE STRATEGIC CONVERSATIONS
As part of a B2B commerce implementation, distributors will provide their sales reps with their own mobile order-writing and management app that has more insights and information about each customer — all accessible from a mobile device. Sales reps will be able to see customer order history and analyze what a store is buying in order to improve that store’s assortment and increase turnover.
They can then access regional sales data, lists of top-selling items, and other reports to educate operators about key insights like consumer purchase behavior and product rankings. With recommended planograms and other merchandising information on-hand, sales reps can help improve sell-through.
By streamlining the ordering process and providing value-added information during the buying process, B2B commerce technology can help convenience store retailers increase efficiency and stay focused on getting their customers back on-the-go.
Editor’s note: The opinions expressed in this article are the author's and do not necessarily reflect the views of Convenience Store News.