How a paper distributor grows e-commerce
Bill Briggs | Jan 22, 2018
Longtime paper products distributor Paper Enterprises wanted its website to emulate retail websites, and an e-commerce platform that integrates with its ERP system.
Three years ago Paper Enterprises USA launched an e-commerce site to bring a new purchasing channel to customers of the 100-year-old company.
The paper supplier explored technology companies that offer business-to-business e-commerce platforms, but found them lacking characteristics found on B2C websites, which president Jordan Sedler believed were critical. “We wanted the website to be warmer, with a conversational style,” he says.
In our industry, the best-kept secret is what’s in your warehouse.
In addition to offering its customers, mostly small independent businesses, a B2C-like website experience, Paper Enterprises had other goals in mind. The company needed a B2B e-commerce platform that would integrate with its legacy homegrown enterprise resource planning system, built on the IBM AS/400 platform for managing such things as customer and financial records, and technology that would provide customer access to everything Paper Enterprises carries in its warehouse, Sedler says.
“In our industry, the best-kept secret is what’s in your warehouse,” Sedler says. “Nobody knows what they carry. We wanted to make it easy to promote the breadth of our product line by making it accessible and searchable, so a customer with specific interests could access products with those attributes.”
Paper Enterprises products include shopping bags, disposable wipes and towels, and foodservice caps. Other products include packaging supplies, party supplies and cleaning products.
PaperEnterprisesusa.com went live three years ago, running on an e-commerce platform from WebJaguar that includes marketing tools. The distributor is using WebJaguar features including product price quote, “punchout” integration with a customer’s procurement software, a special quick-order form, shipping blackout dates by customer, sales rep management tools and a PDF catalog builder.
Since rollout, Paper Enterprises has gone from zero e-commerce sales to the present 6% of total sales. Paper Enterprises’ total sales for 2017 were “north of $60 million,” Sedler says. Sales through the company website last year were more than $2 million and online sales through other sources, including a distribution co-op, were about $4 million, he says.
Sedler notes that about 20% of sales come from retail customers, and so far only about 5% of customers use the e-commerce site. “Most of our customers are unsophisticated, small retailers and wholesalers,” he says. E-commerce supplements the many other ways the company takes customer orders, including EDI, fax, phone–any means preferred by its customers, he adds.
The website didn’t take off for about two years but incentives and promotions began driving buyers to the website, including offering customers $100 to register and buy on the site three times during the promotion period, Sedler says.
The WebJaguar system enables Paper Enterprises to better track and interact with customers, says Anthony Parenti, president of Indigo Business Solutions, a firm that provides marketing services for Paper Enterprises. “The software helps us keep track of customers and contact them how we want to, via email,” he says. “We now have more customer knowledge and that helps us customize shopping lists.”
The catalog builder enables sales reps to create custom catalogs ranging from 10 items to hundreds for individual customers, which they can print and carry into a sales call, or email to a customer.
Paper Enterprises has a wholesale business called Consolidated Paper that began in 1918 and buyers can access via the Paper Enterprises website. And while its dedicated website is relatively new, Paper Enterprises has offered products online for 20 years through a national co-op called Network Services Co. on its website NetworkDistribution.com. The co-op comprises distributors of janitorial supplies, food service disposables, healthcare supplies and industrial packaging.
WebJaguar provides its technology under a software-as-a-service, or SaaS, model, under which clients access its software through a web browser without having to deploy it on their own network servers. Its B2B e-commerce platform pricing ranges from $799 per month for up to 10,000 SKUs and one sales rep user, to $1,499 per month for up to 100,000 SKUs and 10 sales rep users. It also offers an Enterprise Edition for an unlimited number of SKUs and 20 sales rep users, which is custom-priced.