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Be Wary of Multi-Tenant (aka Cloud-Based) eCommerce Platforms

Even if you’ve been in the market for eCommerce software awhile, it’s not surprising if you haven’t come across the term “multi-tenant” before. It isn’t a word many companies slap on their websites or even bring up in conversation.

But there’s good reason for you to become familiar with it. In fact, the difference between “multi-tenant” and “single-tenant” solutions could be the difference between success and failure in your eCommerce strategy.

Multi-Tenant 

Usually marketed as “cloud-based” or “fully hosted” solutions, multi-tenant eCommerce packages are attractive at first glance for their low cost of entry and simple implementation. That’s okay if your eCommerce business model is simple too, but how many wholesale distributors can make that claim?

Companies using multi-tenant platforms can customize the design of their storefronts all they want, but this one-platform-for-all approach takes functional customization off the table. 

Why? Because a multi-tenant eCommerce platform is a shared platform. A single instance of the software, plus its supporting infrastructure and database, are shared by hundreds and thousands of other customers. On the rare occasions that functional changes do get made to the platform, they become available to all users of the system.

How do you differentiate yourself in today’s competitive online marketplace on a platform like that?

Single-Tenant 

Single tenant platforms, on the other hand, serve a single instance of the software to each unique customer. No sharing required.

The eCommerce21 platform from CPC is a single-tenant platform, designed from the ground up for the demands of B2B eCommerce. eCommerce21 functionality can be customized at any point in time to create a one-of-a-kind eCommerce platform that truly fits the way you and your customers do business together. Host it yourself, in the cloud or let us deliver it as a fully hosted turn-key solution. It’s up to you.

We can share many examples of ways we’ve helped our customers achieve their eCommerce objectives—from custom ERP integrations and mobile apps to special search functions and complex supply chain approval routing.

Why Responsive Design Isn’t Always the Best Answer for Mobile Commerce

In an age in which business consumers are more likely to research products via mobile devices than desktops, having a responsive ecommerce design is often a good place to start. With little work on your part, you can improve customers’ mobile shopping experiences and likely attract new shoppers too. (Search engines, Google in particular, reward sites that display content in a mobile-friendly manner.)

Ecommerce platforms with responsive design automatically reformat all of the information on your ecommerce website so it fits on smaller screen sizes. For example, customers might see three or four columns of product content from their desktop, but they’ll see it organized in one or two columns on their tablets and smartphones.

While responsive design is the easiest method to implement (assuming your ecommerce platform supports it), it can also be slow to load and cumbersome to navigate. Why? Because it pushes every piece of the desktop website, including ads, banners and unnecessary information, to the mobile devices.

That’s why many companies, especially businesses with large and sophisticated ecommerce sites, use browser-based mobile (m.mobile) websites instead. These sites allow you to scale down the content and functionality for mobile devices, creating a more streamlined experience for smartphone and tablet users. Browser-based mobile sites deliver simpler navigation and faster load times than responsive design. A single browser-based mobile site is compatible across a variety of device operating systems, making it easy to share, update and integrate with other mobile technologies.

Native mobile apps, on the other hand, are platform-specific. They can deliver highly efficient user experiences and represent a great way to lock in repeat business by providing customers with quick-click convenience for procurement.

Despite what some vendors might tell you, responsive design is not always the best, and certainly not the only way to implement mobile commerce. It’s a nice place to start, but keep your options open. Be sure to seek out platforms that support mobile methods beyond responsive design, so you can add mobile capabilities based upon your sales growth objectives and market demands.

For help, check out Computer Pundit’s eCommerce21 storefront design and management platform. It features a responsive design system to automatically scale storefronts to fit mobile devices, plus creates synchronized browser-based mobile sites and native apps with all of the product content, functionality and backend systems integration of the desktop site. You can learn more at www.computerpundits.com or call 1-888-786-3487.

Your Internet Storefront as a Mobile App: the Next Step in B2B Ecommerce

Business consumers now spend more time researching purchases on their mobile devices than on their desktops. That’s why most companies have already implemented mobile-friendly ecommerce sites, displaying simpler content and larger links to reduce the risks of frustration and user drop-off on small screen sizes. But that’s just the first step.

The next step, and one of the fastest growing trends in B2B commerce, is the use of ecommerce native mobile apps. Most of your customers already use mobile apps to make their lives easier—for checking current traffic conditions, finding the cheapest fuel, tracking expenses, and countless other conveniences. Ecommerce native mobile apps provide that same level of quick-click convenience to procurement.

Turn Lookers into Buyers

Ecommerce native mobile apps present new opportunities for engaging with customers and locking in repeat business. For one thing, there’s no URL to type. Once they have your app on their device, customers just click and they’re in. Rather than downloading the full-blown website, native apps download only the content the user wants to see, creating a much more streamlined experience. This is critical for mobile commerce success. The easier it is for customers to navigate to the products and pricing they need, the more likely they are to follow through with their purchases.

Stay on Top of Ecommerce Trends Regardless of Your Company Size

Written in the same code as the device they’re used on, native mobile apps provide quick response times and predictable performance. While relatively new to the wholesale distribution industry, some of the big-name companies are already using native mobile apps to support their customer base. Lucky for them, they have the big budgets to go along with their big names. Programming mobile apps for smartphone operating systems can cost hundreds of thousands of dollars per platform.

This is why, today, we are excited to announce an affordable, ready-to-go solution. eCommerce21 now generates native mobile apps for Windows, Android, and Apple IOS. No programming required. Not only does our platform eliminate the development costs that typically goes into mobile apps, it speeds time to market by pulling your product data, images, pricing, and availability directly from the eCommerce21 Product Information Management (PIM) database. This should be welcome news for current users of the eComerce21 platform. eCommerce21 native mobile capabilities can be integrated with PIMs from other ecommerce or ERP systems as well.

Lock In Customer Loyalty

eCommerce21 native mobile apps streamline ordering from smart phones and tablets. Product information, pricing, availability, order history, and special promotions are right at your customers’ fingertips. The convenience factor of ecommerce native mobile apps keeps them coming back. After all, would someone go to the trouble of typing another distributor’s URL first or simply click on your app?

At Computer Pundits, we have a reputation for developing affordable, yet full-featured, ecommerce solutions for distributors of all sizes. This ready-to-go solution for native mobile apps is just another example of that commitment. You can learn more about our industrial-strength PIM, seamless ERP integration, and mobile-friendly ecommerce on our website at computerpundits.com.

Infor Distribution A+ Customers Get Cutting-edge Storefront Integration

It just got easier for Infor Distribution A+ users to implement sophisticated ecommerce storefronts. Our eCommerce21 design and management suite is now tightly integrated with Distribution A+, so Infor users can create modern, full-featured B2B and B2C ecommerce sites that fully leverage their robust backend systems. This is good news for users of the popular ERP system who’ve quickly realized the ecommerce application that comes with it is lacking many of the modern features they need to create a competitive storefront.

This isn’t an uncommon phenomenon. Those storefront add-ons are a nice idea, but ERP companies simply can’t keep pace with the rapid evolution of ecommerce and customer demands for online accessibility. The ERP companies focus their energies elsewhere (and rightly so).

On the other hand, our focus is always on ecommerce and developing features to benefit the unique needs of the wholesale distribution industry. By providing a variety of user-friendly ways to research and order products, our eCommerce21 suite helps Distribution A+ users achieve new levels of operational efficiency and customer convenience. Some of the more essential features include:

  • eProcurement Punch Outs
  • Distributor Control
  • Product Information Management (PIM)
  • Customer and/or Contract-specific Pricing
  • Order History and Open Orders
  • Cross Selling, Credit Cart Validation, and Order Tracking
  • Multi-Company, Multi-Warehouse, and Restricted Items support
  • Mobile Interface
  • Job and Re-Order Lists

Most importantly, the parts data, pricing, and availability customers see online will always be current and comprehensive because of the real-time interchange of information between the eCommerce21 storefront and the Infor Distribution A+ ERP system. eCommerce21 is also integrated with Infor SX.enterprise, Infor FACTS, Infor SHIMS, Infor Lawson, Epicor Prophet 21, Epicor Eclipse, Agility ERP, Microsoft Dynamics, and Sage ERP. Learn more on our website at www.computerpundits.com.

Distributors: The Time to Invest In Modern eCommerce is Now

Some distributors still rely heavily on direct relationships with customers and promote almost exclusively through inside and outside sales forces. Others have taken steps to post basic product listings and pricing online, but even that won’t sustain a distributorship for much longer in an age where online shopping and cheap shipping are the norm rather than the exception.

Without a doubt, wholesale distributors who are committed to evolving along with the industry must make wise investments now to modernize ecommerce and avoid falling too far behind the major forces rapidly reshaping the wholesale distribution industry.

New purchasing requirements - Purchasing departments are modernizing, and more often than not, require support for e-procurement from their suppliers. They also expect instant access to product availability and pricing based upon their specific discount levels.

Changing buyer habits – Whether at home, at work, or on the road, the way people research and purchase products is quickly evolving. Millennials in particular are more likely to shop online than dial a phone. That’s just one of many reasons eCommerce sales are expected to climb from $780 billion in 2015 to over 1.3 trillion by 2020.

Big competition – Amazon has recently aimed its massive eCommerce arsenal at the business, industrial, and scientific industries. This eCommerce giant is effectively shattering traditional regional distributorship boundaries.

In spite of the changes and challenges, even the smallest distributors can thrive. They just need to be nimble. Modern business-to-business eCommerce helps make that possible with customized storefronts, co-branding, and automated cross-selling. Plus, distributors can stand out from the crowd even more by providing e-procurement support, customer-specific pricing, smartphone optimization, and in-depth product information (for more about the significance of detailed product content, read our blog Meet Your Best Salesperson).

The overriding objective should be to create an eCommerce site that is an invaluable resource to both customers and salespeople. Think of the storefront as a relationship building tool. It actually enhances interactions between customers and salespeople because both groups have instant access to dependable product information and pricing whenever and wherever they need it.

The eCommerce21 platform from CPC is one of the few platforms developed specifically for the wholesale distribution industry. It provides the familiar retail eCommerce experience everyone is used to, but with the specialized B2B features required by distributors and their buyers. Be wary of the vast majority of off-the-shelf eCommerce products. Most were developed for retail eCommerce and don’t have the integrated B2B features that are required to be effective. It’s best to avoid the eCommerce applications provided by ERP systems as well. These obsolete systems don’t keep pace with the ever-evolving digital commerce world. Few platforms do, and of those that do, even fewer are affordable to small and mid-size distributors.

CPC isn’t just an eCommerce platform developer, we’re a one stop shop that has the expertise to provide detailed product content, sophisticated storefront interfaces, B2B expertise, ERP systems integration, and a roll out plan for smooth implementation. Learn more on our website at www.computerpundits.com.

3 Reasons You Need Mobile-Friendly eCommerce NOW

In our last blog, Meet Your Best Salesperson, we defined “detailed product content” and the critical role it plays in search engine rankings and eCommerce success. Now that you’ve gone to the trouble of beefing up your content, you’ll want to make sure your customers can actually get to it from all the devices they use. More and more often today, those devices will be mobile. Is your eCommerce site optimized for smart phone and tablet users?

Here are three urgent reasons to commit to mobile-friendly eCommerce:

Google Penalizes Sites That Don’t Play Nice on Smart Devices – Google recently updated their algorithms to include mobile-friendliness as a factor in their ranking system. Nearly 70% of users either shop or research their purchases via mobile devices, so it makes sense that Google would reward sites that display content in a mobile-friendly manner. If you’ve noticed a decline in new visitors lately, this might be why. Check out Google’s Webmaster Blog for a link to their free “Mobile-Friendly Test”.

Your Sales Force and Customers are Mobile, Your Storefront Should be Too –Your sales reps and customers expect quick and easy access to the product information they need regardless of the device they’re using. Obviously, your sales force will work around inconveniences, but customers won’t. You can expect almost half of them to jump ship if they find better mobile experiences elsewhere.

You Want a Piece of the Billion Dollar Mobile Commerce Pie – Mobile usage is quickly overtaking desktop usage, so going mobile will be necessary for any company hoping to succeed online in the future. The good news is there will be plenty of online dollars to go around: eCommerce sales are expected to climb from $780 billion in 2015 to over 1.3 trillion by 2020.

So what does it take to be mobile-friendly? Your site simply needs to be useable on small screens: text big enough to read without zooming, links far enough apart to make them easy to tap with a finger, and pages that fit without scrolling side to side.

For help, check out Computer Pundit’s eCommerce21 Mobile app. It automatically scales storefronts to fit mobile devices, giving users larger navigation buttons and simplified content with all the functionality of the full-scale site, including ERP integration and full shopping cart functionality. You can learn more at www.computerpundits.com.

Meet Your Best Salesperson

Exceptional product content is the key to online sales success. After all, the first “salesperson” new customers turn to for help making their purchase decisions isn’t a person at all, it’s your eCommerce website. Make sure it’s up to the task.

Too often, businesses simply pull part and product data from their ERP systems or manufacturer price books and think they’re done. Sure, these sources will get you the part number and short descriptions, but what about the benefits and defining attributes? You wouldn’t sit with a customer and just recite technical details, and neither should your website.

Another important reason to jazz up manufacturer product descriptions? Search rankings. If you cut and paste the same content as another eCommerce site (a competitor, for example) you could both end up penalized in search engine rankings. That’s a risk you want to avoid considering 30% of eCommerce traffic typically arrives via search engines. Manufacturer content is fine, but you have to spruce it up.

So, what makes for outstanding eCommerce content?

  • Detailed product descriptions that make sense – Think of these as your foot in the door. What would your salesperson tell the customer about this particular product? This is most likely what customers will see when your site shows up in their search ranking.
  • Attributes, attributes and more attributes – Your product content must be broken down into helpful attributes in order to help customers zero in on the products they need when they don’t know the part number. For example, an electric motor should list RPMs, frame, volts, and overload, while furnace attributes should include BTUH, vent size, CFM, filter size and so on.
  • Images – Customers want to make quick purchase decisions. Help them do it by providing them with schematics and full color images, from multiple angles if needed, so they can confirm they’re buying the right item.

The effort you put into developing eCommerce content is a lot like the training you provide your sales force. You can’t shortcut either one, but at least you can get help with the content if you need it. In fact, our team of content specialists are ready to collect, optimize, and load detailed descriptions, product attributes, features, benefits and images for you. All you need to do is provide us with the manufacturer part numbers. Visit our content development page for more details.

New Price Book App Combines ERP Data with Catalog Quality

Now there’s an easy way to generate PDF price books that blend the attractive design and rich information of a catalog with customer-specific part numbers and pricing data from an ERP system.

While most ERP systems can easily generate price books, they are typically simple spreadsheets with limited data. With the new Catalog Builder Live app, it takes just a few clicks to generate price books that include detailed information and full-color images in an eye-pleasing layout, resulting in better decision making tools for your customers and stronger sales tools for your team.

Here’s how it works:

You simply select the customer and the effective date of pricing. Catalog Builder Live pulls the customer-specific pricing directly from your ERP system and produces an attractively designed PDF with product specifications, pictures, and large descriptions from your catalog database.

Catalog Builder live integrates directly with most popular ERP and accounting systems, including Infor SX.enterprise, Infor SHIMS, Infor A+, Infor Lawson, Infor FACTS, Epicor Eclipse, Epicor Prophet, Microsoft Dynamics, Agility ERP, and Sage ERP.

With the new Catalog Builder Live app, as with all Computer Pundits products, your sales teams will spend less time seeking out sales tools and more time selling.

Visit www.computerpundits.com to learn more.

From ERP to Custom Price Books, Automation is a Beautiful Thing

Never format another price list again. Sure, you still need customer-specific price lists, but you can skip the tedious process of manually loading and formatting part numbers and pricing in spreadsheets.

Catalog Builder Live takes the work out of building custom price books and mini catalogs by automating the entire process. First, it integrates seamlessly with popular ERP systems, accessing the most current pricing and availability information. Next, it calculates the customer’s pricing based upon their unique pricing level and quantity discounts. Then it uses that information to generate attractively formatted PDF price books or sophisticated mini catalogs with detailed product descriptions, attributes, and images.

If you’re looking for a way to get product and pricing information in front of your customers faster and in a more appealing format, Catalog Builder Live could be just the thing. With this new app, your sales team will spend less time generating price lists and more time selling. And who doesn’t want that?

Call us at 1-888-786-3487 or visit www.computerpundits.com to learn more.

B2B eCommerce: 900 Distributors and the Pursuit of Market Share

IMARK Group is a US-based marketing cooperative of over 900 independently owned electrical distributors. Its mission? To help members maximize profitability and increase market share. To do that, IMARK has hand-picked a network of industry-leading manufacturers and service providers.

We’re pleased to announce that Computer Pundits Corporation was recently added to the IMARK network as a trusted provider of B2B eCommerce and catalog management solutions.

We think it’s a great match. What better way to help distributors increase market share than through the efficiencies of B2B eCommerce? Even more importantly, our modular eCommerce and catalog solutions can be sized to fit businesses of all sizes, from regional distributors to global wholesale suppliers.

Computer Pundit’s out-of-the-box solutions are specifically designed to support the unique marketing and technology needs of the wholesale distribution industry. More than 1,000 businesses, including many electrical distributors, are already long-time customers. They use Catalog Builder® to design and manage professional quality catalogs for print and online distribution, and eCommerce21® to boost online sales with powerful storefront management, built-in on-site SEO, and seamless ERP integration.

To learn about our complete line of products and how they can help increase your own market share, go to: www.computerpundits.com.  If you would like to learn more about the IMARK Group, please visit www.imarkgroup.com.