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Editor’s Note: IMARK hosted a webinar on November 11 called “How to Get Your Customers to Use Your E-Commerce Site” presented by Mike Mayer of Main Event Digital, an IMARK member service provider. This article features many of the key points of that webinar. To view the webinar in its entirety, log on at and visit the “General Info, IMARK Resources” section of the website.

Distributors spend too much money developing e-commerce websites for customers not to use them.

If you invested in an e-commerce website, then you’re expecting it to enhance your company’s sales and market share.

If you’re not seeing the return on investment that you expected, don’t worry. There’s a lot you can do to better engage your employees and customers with your e-commerce site to increase your ROI.

Get Your Team’s Buy-In

Your company’s e-commerce site provides a competitive advantage and is an efficient business tool for your customers. Your employees should recognize it as such.

But with any change, there could be confusion, concern and resistance. Some employees may even see the site as a threat to their livelihood. So, it is vital to reassure them and stress that your website is a key element of your company’s value proposition.

If your team isn’t comfortable pitching the use of your e-commerce website to customers, the site could end up being a bad investment.

So, what is the best way to get your employees’ buy-in? Incentivize them!

Create a new incentive program that rewards your sales team for driving customers to use your e-commerce website. When a salesperson’s customer places an order through the website, give that salesperson a commission or bonus.

When you have customers who aren’t assigned to a sales rep, offer a reward to the group of customer-facing staff most closely related to that customer. For example, award the branch team that typically helps a new e-commerce site customer with a branch upgrade, like a commercial popcorn machine.


Employees need to understand why your e-commerce site is important to their longterm success and that of your company.


Train Your Team

Employees need to understand why your e-commerce site is important to their long-term success and that of your company.

Your sales and customer service teams need to know how to use all of the features of your e-commerce website so they can explain them to customers. While there are several ways to provide lessons, internal webinars, computer-based training courses and answers to FAQs work well. You should also consider regularly sending your employees emails with short videos that explain various features of the site.

Promote and Reward Customer Site Usage

Changing behaviors is never easy, so customers will have to learn how your e-commerce site can be a vital business resource for them.

Your customers are used to calling you, texting you, emailing you and visiting you. That won’t change but a well-designed e-commerce site will make them more self-sufficient, which translates into reduced service costs for your company.

Many of the communication and training tools developed for your staff can be deployed to customers. Emails to your customers can have embedded content, such as short videos that explain how to use the features of your website.

Webinars can also be used to teach customers how to use the website. Alternatively, you can start an outbound calling initiative asking customers if they’ve used your website. If the answer is no, give them a quick tutorial on how to use the site right then and there. Customers will value this personal one-on-one attention.

Place signs about your e-commerce website around your facility. Customers will see the signs and the signs will remind employees about the site too. Remember to include the specific benefits and helpful features of your site on your signage.

Tried-and-true methods of cultivating repeat customers include discounts, rebates and loyalty programs. You may want to incentivize customers to place their first sales order online with a sales promotion. For instance, send a Yeti® product to reward their first-time successful use of the site.

In any case, the issue of incentives that may be necessary to build site usage—and customer loyalty—is a discussion worth having.

Give Your Customers What They Want—No More, No Less

Your e-commerce website can have all sorts of bells and whistles that create a dazzling shopping experience. But before you add on every feature under the sun, ask your customers what they actually need.

Here are some features you may be asked to consider:

  • Displaying inventory position and delivery ETAs by product
  • Providing a bulk order pad and bulk order upload
  • Making the site mobile responsive with product bar code scanning
  • Building out product assortment lists (lists of common products that customers typically order for a specific job)
  • Supplying custom catalogs by customer of everything they’ve ever bought (both online and offline), everything they’ve added to shopping lists and product recommendations based on those items
  • Providing a quote feature that enables customers to build a quote cart, enables your sales team to adjust pricing and send out a quote and gives your customer the ability to convert the quote into an order

Your site should also provide customers with the opportunity to share their likes/dislikes and wants/needs regarding e-commerce. You can also call your top 25 customers and ask them what they like about your current website and your competitors’ sites.

Measuring the Impact of Your Investment—Data is King

After paying the expense and applying the effort, how will you know if your e-commerce site is working?

Common Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) that you should track for your e-commerce website are:

  • Online revenue
  • Offline revenue that was sourced online
  • Conversion rate
  • Bounce rate

KPIs can also be used to guide informed changes to your e-commerce website.

If your e-commerce website isn’t resonating with your employees and customers, chances are you’re becoming frustrated that your investment isn’t paying off. However, there is no shortage of ways to improve your e-commerce website’s performance; now is the time to act.