E-commerce: We all use it.
There isn''t a person connected to the Internet who hasn''t entered their credit card information for the latest best seller or that ill-thought-out impulse purchase.
It''s easier; no lines; no sales pitches; no hassle.
But, outside the realm of our personal uses, e-commerce has an even greater appeal to businesses — and for those same reasons.
So, what is e-commerce?
An Electronic Business Solution
At its most basic level, e-commerce is the buying and selling of products and services over electronic systems. Sounds simple enough.
But, when a quick search of the keyword "e-commerce" pulls up millions of hits, it can be a bit daunting.
The sites are there and the resources are available.
But, with the sheer volume of information out there, it must be understood that all e-commerce platforms are not created equally.
Some sites are just a dumping ground for products.
"As I researched, I found that while there are a number of sites offering products online, many of them were just that; sites offering products on a drop ship basis with little or no actual field support," said Ken Galo, owner of ICA Supply Central, an e-commerce site servicing members of the Global Cleaners Association.
When sifting through the piles of information that are bound to fall into your lap, the e-commerce site of your choosing should have a combination of product selection, availability and customer support.
A superior e-commerce site isn''t just a sales point but becomes an invaluable resource for its diverse customer population.
Big Resources, Small Feel
Through its heavily-visited site, xpedx was the first national JanSan distributor to give facility maintenance and cleaning professionals 24/7 access to e-procurement, a deep online catalog, inventory stock checks and customized reports on all aspects of their JanSan spending and usage.
While xpedx is a very large company, they don''t lose sight of what is most important: Their customers.
They are also aware that a product, no matter its merits, is only worth what the consumer knows about it.
In that respect, their site isn''t just a resource for tactile materials but for fundamental training in an ever changing JanSan world: They have sales professionals who can offer guidance on product selection and standardization, facilitate on-site training and provide green cleaning expertise.
Not A Passing Fad
E-commerce is a steadily growing sales platform.
The proof is in the numbers.
xpedx alone generated more than $1.5 billion in e-commerce sales in 2009, processing more than 6 million orders online.
"E-procurement increases productivity and improves efficiency across all cleaning staff and management levels, freeing up time to focus on other more important aspects of their jobs," said Dave Wallace, director of e-business and customer service for xpedx.
"For example, product usage tracking helps managers promote and ensure standardization and usage consistency across hundreds of buildings at a few regional locations or even a single site," Wallace added.
The Internet has completely changed the way business is done.
The ease and availability of products and services on the Internet gives e-commerce a hefty advantage over the traditional brick and mortar distributorship.
There are key points to think about when considering e-commerce as a product source:
Does their product line fit your needs?
Do they offer any form of support beyond the directions printed on the product label?
Is their shipping method reasonable and quick?
Because the main lifeline of the supply chain would be conducted via the Internet, the product source that is ultimately chosen should fit all of the above criteria.
Otherwise, you''re taking a risk on products that don''t quite fit your needs.
The only thing worse would be to have products that don''t fit your needs and you have no idea what to do with them.
Freedom From Hassle
"Customers are clear: Managing and buying cleaning supplies online saves money, time and hassle," Wallace explained.
"They really like the freedom from having to place every order by phone or fax, personally managing all follow-ups, manually tracking supplies and shipments and dealing with unnecessary paperwork."
Ordering online also reduces the need for businesses to carry large local inventory, speeds up product replenishment, frees up working capital and helps accommodate today''s tightened budgets.
Strong adoption of online ordering and supplies management is expected to continue because of the many business advantages it delivers: Simplicity, ease and time savings for those with purchasing authority and front line workers.
When looking to take a business towards utilizing an e-commerce platform, it is important that the site you chose is the right one for your business.
Just as you would take the time to properly research a traditional supplier, so, too, must you research an e-commerce option.
Take your time and try different suppliers on for size. What sounds good in theory may not be good for you.
Remember, you''re looking for the best business solution to fit all of your company''s needs.