Online profitability

Strive to meet the challenge to be productive in an increasingly competitive business climate where meeting customer expectations requires agility and flawless execution to maximize margins.

With technology constantly changing the ways we buy and sell, it’s no wonder those in the wholesaler industry are looking for a competitive edge.   It’s a challenge keeping up with the pace and still finding ways to be efficient and profitable.   But Epicor has created a solution that makes this process a little simpler, and more manageable.  

The software company has introduced Epicor Commerece Connect (ECC), an eCommerece solution that is an entirely new way to sell, to anyone, anywhere.  

“The Wholesaler” spoke to Doug Smith, director of product marketing, retail and distribution for Epicor.   Smith gave us an inside look into the company’s online platform, as well two products for wholesale distributors, Prophet 21 and Eclipse.

In the last two years, online sales have grown 40 percent from $559 billion to $780 billion.   Now is a good time to take a look at how you can get onboard to grow your business:

SR: How did the idea to develop an eCommerce platform come to be and how long did the process to create it take? Can it be customized? 

DS:  The ECC platform has been available for years, and the idea to offer a version of it with Prophet 21 came after much demand and the understanding that eCommerce is strategically important to a distributors’ growth strategy.   An online storefront cannot offer maximum value to an organization unless it is fully integrated to its enterprise resource planning (ERP), and operating these systems independently should not even be an option in today’s fast-paced business climate.   The platform is customizable and allows businesses to pick and choose which applications and features they need.   Combining Prophet 21 with ECC also reduces the implementation time for a customized, attractive and simple-to-use website.   An example of tight integration is access to real-time stock levels within the Prophet 21 system.   The ECC solution provides multiple stock level indicators to select from, ranging from a simple traffic light scheme to the actual current stock quantity.   We have already experienced some early success with ECC for Prophet 21 since its launch in Summer 2016, and are currently evaluating the possibility of introducing ECC for Eclipse.

SR: How does Epicor stand out in the ERP market? 

DS:  Epicor stands out from the crowd because we’re not just selling you software; we’re using our expertise to build solutions that you will value because they help you grow.   Our customers don’t want the process, they want the outcome.   With a deep understanding of your industry, Epicor solutions promote growth while managing complexity and increasing efficiency.   The result is powerful solutions that free your resources so you can grow your business.

SR: How are you reaching new markets and expanding product lines?

DS:  As more businesses began to rely on Epicor to shape their growth, our company grows right along with them.   One of the best ways that we make sure our customers operate at their peak is by delivering a great solution to them.  We are focused on building better, higher quality solutions.  A great example of this is Epicor Eclipse, a distribution ERP software solution that offers powerful capabilities for wholesalers in the plumbing, HVAC, electrical and PVF industries.

SR: Talk about the customer experience with Epicor.  

DS:  We provide an exceptional experience to our customers, one that reliably delivers our brand promise of growth.  We offer distributors a full range of order management, supply chain and warehousing capabilities, built within a single business platform, based on industry-leading web services execution.

SR: What does your new tagline of “Grow Business Not Software” mean to you?

DS:  Thousands of companies sell software.  And while we sell software too, we recognize that software isn’t the outcome customers are looking for when they invest in Epicor.  Our software and services are simply tools that they use to help profitably grow their business.  As their business partner, we help them increase revenue and market-share, expand product lines, improve service offerings, extend channels-to-market, increase efficiency, add locations and overcome challenges to realize their strategic goals.  To us and to them, software isn’t the outcome — growth is the outcome, software is the means we use to get them there. 

SR: Describe your typical Plumbing/PVF/HVAC market customer.  

DS:  Our customers in the Plumbing/PVF/HVAC market vary in size, ranging from emerging distributors, mid-sized companies, and subsidiaries of large multinationals.  All of them are ultimately looking to grow their business and differentiate themselves from their competitors, and Epicor’s software and services, both Eclipse and Prophet 21, help them achieve that growth.  Our distribution products are built upon the premise that it needs to work the way distributors work (not the other way around), while also delivering best practices for distribution operations that help drive costs out of the supply chain, increase sales and margins, and improve customer service.

SR: How does ECC change things for the distributors’ customers?

DS:  The increasing proliferation of eCommerce means that more and more customers are looking online to solve their business problems.  ECC provides an experience that not only solves their problems, but also inspires them to keep coming back.  It has been designed to help distributors provide all visitors to their site with the same high levels of user experience they have come to expect in today’s online environment.  Browsing tools such as configurable search, suggested items and automatically updated listings of popular products on the site help customers very quickly get to the items they wish to purchase, while at the same time ensuring that they are exposed to as much of the product range as possible — all in ways that are relevant and tailored to their interests.

SR: What do you want both wholesalers and end users of the eCommerce platform to know?

DS:  Constant innovation and your customers’ ever-evolving expectations mean that the challenge of providing relevant, fresh online experiences is non-stop.  Your eCommerce website can be a key delivery vehicle for your brand, the virtual face of your organization and a powerful transaction engine that drives revenue.  The ECC solution helps you build and manage custom websites that fit your business needs today, with an eye on tomorrow.  It is built on the power of the Magento eCommerce Platform, which means you get the advantage of an open system with many specialized extensions in the Magento Connect marketplace, along with their large application developer and support network.  

For end users, the solution allows customers to make better purchasing decisions.  For example, letting customers see related products, compare different products or simply view the product up close using the product image zoom-in capability.  Tools such as these lead to much higher levels of customer satisfaction and a lower rate of product returns.  

Sharon J. Rehana is a writer and digital media strategist with more than 10 years of experience working on trade publications. She was previously an editor/digital community manager for Hanley Wood’s Concrete Construction and The Concrete Producer magazines. She received her B.A. in magazine journalism from Columbia College Chicago in 2003 and earned a 2nd B.A. in social justice studies from Northeastern Illinois University after returning from teaching English in South Korea in 2010. She joined TMB Publishing in 2016 as Editorial Director of PHC News and Plumbing Engineer magazines

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