The mass-market ecommerce platforms cover some of what you need, but they’re too busy trying to be everything to everyone. They’re vanilla. They don’t understand the intricacies of our promotional products industry, and frankly can’t handle them.
It’s critical for promotional products companies to have an ecommerce platform that understands the industry, because promotional products ecommerce is just different than regular ecommerce.
The promotional products industry is like no other. It’s unique – just like the products we sell and how we sell them. In fact, it’s unique because of the products we sell and how we sell them. (Okay, it’s also unique because of all the people, but there isn’t any software for all those personalities!)
Promotional products ecommerce software understands and embraces the fact that the promotional products industry is different. The mass-market guys? They just don’t.
Here are some of the parts of promotional products ecommerce that no one truly understands but us:
What color? What size? Where and how can it be decorated? How many variations? A lot of mass-market ecommerce platforms wouldn’t even think to ask.
This is the No. 1 place where the mass-market platforms go wrong. Too much of the ecommerce software world just presumes you have a bunch of widgets in stock and that when someone places an order you put it in a box and ship it off. Wrong!
Making all those custom products means adding a whole host of added considerations, starting with product configuration. What color? What size? Where and how can it be decorated? How many variations? A lot of mass-market ecommerce platforms wouldn’t even think to ask these questions let alone get the answers automatically applied to the order.
Do you really want 1,953 SKUs for that pencil?
If it’s a shirt, it’s a shirt, right? Of course not. Ordering 500 T-shirts for a charity event doesn’t mean they’re all the same. Each order can have various sizes, colors, logos – it’s amazing how many ways a single product can differ. Essent has a user who offers 1,953 variations of a single pencil – before decoration. Do you really want 1,953 SKUs for that pencil? You can’t count on vanilla ecommerce to handle the deep variation in our industry.
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The mass-market ecommerce platform built to assume only one shipment per order isn’t going to cut it.
Just grab the product out of stock and ship it? Doesn’t happen too often. It’s often not even as straightforward as a dropship, either. The product might need to go from (multiple) vendor(s) to (multiple) decorator(s) to (multiple) customer location(s). Two or more shipments per order is not uncommon, and the mass-market ecommerce platform built to assume only one shipment per order isn’t going to cut it.
You can’t guarantee an in-hands date if you can’t automatically calculate the lead time.
Lead time is easy to figure out when you’re grabbing an item off of a shelf and shipping it. In the promotional products industry its commonplace for undecorated shirts to ship from an apparel supplier, to an embroidery decorator, and then dropship to the end customer. In our industry products may need to travel hundreds of miles across multiple shipping segments while meeting the production schedules of many parties. On top of that you need to factor in production time. You can’t guarantee an in-hands date if you can’t automatically calculate the lead time. Lead time on every order is different workflow, resulting in thousands of variables. Just like apparel one size doesn’t really fit all, ecommerce can’t have one-size-fits-all lead time and workflow.
We can’t simply include some customer history and call it a day.
Customers expect a comprehensive purchasing experience that includes a sophisticated, yet easy-to-use self-service portal presented in an ecommerce context. Today we can’t simply offer ecommerce and we can’t simply include some customer history and call it a day. Today we need ecommerce built together with ERP on a common platform so we can cost-effectively deliver a successful and seamless experience from our suppliers to our customers.
We can quickly go out of business if we don’t have cost control.
Thinking of ecommerce the old-school way, all we really want is a pretty website with an intuitive shopping cart. Promotional product buyers expect to purchase a promotional product like it’s any other stock product. From our perspective, we know that it’s far from the same because the sale is far more complicated. In the promotional product industry every purchase is unique and as a result costing is unique for every sale. We can quickly go out of business if we don’t have cost control. For true self-service, the customer needs to configure their own items and the system needs to calculate costs and arrive at a final price or else we risk being underpriced to be competitive, losing money, or overpriced to be safe, losing business to competitors. Automated job costing eliminates these problems and ecommerce for our industry, which demands it.
Modern ecommerce can’t exist independently of the business management system.
Promotional product transactions are sophisticated and need to be managed to assure the customer gets what they ask for when they ask for it. The transaction starts all the way at marketing and extends past invoicing to reordering and customer self-service. Modern ecommerce can’t exist independently of the business management system, they need to be one.
Promotional products ecommerce is different and complex — we need a platform that manages it.
Enterprise Resource Planning, commonly called ERP, is the pinnacle of business management because it tracks all of the complexities of business, allowing us as businesses to meet the ever-increasing expectations of consumers and deliver a B2C-like experience to our B2B customers.
It’s complicated math but a simple equation. The promotional products industry is like no other. Aside from all the people we meet, what we sell and how we sell it makes the industry unique. It also adds extreme complexity that mass-market ecommerce simply isn’t built to handle.
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Essent is the leading provider of fully-integrated business management software solutions and services for process-intensive industries and the largest trading network for the promotional products industry. The Essent family of fully-integrated products and services combines best practices, business processes, software automation, and network communications to deliver unparalleled, unified business management solutions. Since 1980, Essent has offered the systems, service, software, and support critical to success in today's highly-competitive marketplace.