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More distributors interested in expanding e-commerce

When customers can’t find what they want on a company’s website, they quickly move on to a competitor, according to The Outlook for Wholesale Distribution in 2015 study. So building a user-friendly site is a must, the study said.

The increased focus on technology should level the playing field for many small and mid-sized distributors looking to gain better visibility through e-commerce.

But budgeting for technology improvements is a major sore point with many manufacturers, and falling behind in technology is seen as creating a severe business disadvantage.

More than two-thirds of wholesale distributors are currently or have plans to upgrade technology, according to earlier studies, with many of them seeing cloud computing and customer relationship management (CRM) software as a fit for their businesses. The 2015 study by Netsuite in partnership with Modern Distribution Management found that more than 41 percent of respondents plan to explore CRM software, 40 percent e-commerce and 35 percent mobile devices for sales.

Benefits the wholesale distributors see for cloud computing include reliable backup, flexibility and accessibility. More than 40 percent of respondents saw cloud computing as a possible fit for their businesses, compared to less than 30 percent in previous surveys.

Cloud computing is an approach to information technology that allows companies to access part or all of their servers, networks and software applications via an Internet-based service rather than buying and hosting them themselves. Manufacturers see access to information, low cost to deploy, long-term lower capital gains costs and lower data management concerns as key reasons to use cloud computing.

A problem the 2015 study found was that so many technology options are available today that it is becoming increasingly complicated for manufacturers to determine which software solution would be best for their business. The study of nearly 200 wholesale distributors and manufacturers also found another challenge was the need to have systems that communicate with each other.

The most-used business devices by today’s manufacturers are laptops (95 percent), smartphones (94 percent), desktop computers (86 percent), iPads (58 percent) and other tablets (33 percent).

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