The Results Are In: E-Commerce

GAWDA members weigh in on the necessity of e-commerce.

Does the traditional brick-and-mortar gases and welding distributor need an e-commerce site? Welding & Gases Today conducted a poll of GAWDA members to get to find some answers in the e-commerce debate. The October 2011 poll asked members whether or not they offer their customers the ability to place orders online. If so, to what gain? Or if not, then why?

The results were split, with 44% of respondents currently offering an e-commerce option. 56% do not offer e-commerce for a variety of reasons.

The Haves
Of those who offer e-commerce, 100% say they have seen an increase in sales, with half of those experiencing an increase greater than 10%. A quarter of distributors who offer e-commerce have seen an increase in excess of 20%.

One respondent indicated that his or her company has heretofore offered online ordering to a select customer segment. Due to the success of that online ordering experience, the company is in the process of rolling out an e-commerce site for all of its customers.

Increased sales is only one of the upsides of e-commerce. nexAir (Memphis, TN) eCommerce Manager Patrick Galphin discussed efficiency improvements in Accounts Receivable and route deliveries that the company experienced from its e-commerce efforts in “Making The Case For E-Commerce.”

The Have-Nots
More than half of all survey respondents do not have an e-commerce option available to customers. Some distributors feel that their customers are not primed for shopping online. Says one respondent, “Our customers are not particularly keyed in to the Internet. It’s a young person’s world, and it seems like very few of the younger people in the industry are the ones doing the actual hands-on work. Those are the people I sell to.”

Several distributors indicated that they have investigated the possibility of selling online. However, the conclusions at which they arrived are varied. “We thought about opening an online store, and I know some distributors that have,” says one distributor. “It never materializes to where you can sell a large quantity of welding and gas supplies over the Internet.”

Another distributor hopes to have an e-commerce option available soon. “We are getting price-shopped by customers comparing us to websites that sell equipment, so we know that our customers are looking online. We need to take a hard look at what kind of impact the Web can have on our sales dollars.”

What do you think? Even if you missed out on the survey, it’s not too late to weigh in. Leave a comment below to let us know your opinion on e-commerce.

Gases and Welding Distributors Association