The following is a guest post by Steel & O’Brien
While the majority of sanitary fittings are still purchased from catalogs, ordered over the phone as part of a major project, specified into systems or facilities, or perhaps ordered from a manufacturer via EDI, a new type of customer is gaining momentum. This customer is looking to find what they need quickly and make a purchase with just a few clicks or entries on their laptop, tablet, or phone. Selling online successfully though involves much more than just setting up a website and loading a catalog of products.
As a manufacturer and supplier of sanitary fittings, valves, and custom machining and fabrication for sanitary and high-purity applications, we are seeing an increase in online activity and purchases. Fueled by how people buy goods in their personal lives (a.k.a. the “Amazon effect”) and the dramatic shift to online purchases during the ongoing pandemic, more B2B buyers are going online, not just to research but to purchase sanitary fittings. What buyers of sanitary fittings are experiencing in their personal online shopping is creating a new set of expectations at work for B2B transactions.
Customers now expect to be able to shop and buy at times when it’s convenient for them. They expect to know if an item being shown is available to ship, how many are in stock, and to receive updates along the way as the order progresses. We are seeing great success with online selling partners who have invested to create a simple online buying experience. Our observations of the best-in-class online buying experience for sanitary products include:
- Focus and specialization on the sanitary category
- Being found easily by buyers searching online
- Providing informative content to help buyers research and determine the fittings they need
- Providing a wide selection of types, materials, and sizes of fittings
- Sharing available inventory quantities in real-time
- Shipping the same day the order is received
- Offering free shipping on orders over a reasonable dollar amount
- Being accessible to answer questions and provide product recommendations
Service and providing expertise to answer complicated questions will always be important for sales of sanitary fittings, however, how the service and expertise will be provided is evolving. Combining specialized expertise and the ability to help customers having complicated questions with a robust online buying experience can create a competitive advantage if well executed. One thing is for certain, the race to win the virtual shelf is on and those that make it easy to select and buy online are poised to win.
Steel & O’Brien www.steelobrien.com, an American manufacturer and supplier of highly engineered sanitary pumps, valves, fittings, and custom machining and fabrication for sanitary and high purity applications.