About the client
Sooner Distributors is one of the largest distributors of tobacco and related products in the US. Located in Tulsa, Oklahoma, they supply products to convenience stores within Oklahoma and outside. Their product range includes Cigarettes, Cigars, Drinks, Energy shots, Batteries, etc.
The wholesale distribution industry is now facing a major disruption. The accelerating digitization, expanding competition, increasing adoption of eCommerce by customers and continuing disintermediation are a few of the major challenges being faced by the wholesale industry.
Sooner Distributors have been facing stiff competition from the online players and have been witnessing a gradual drop in in-store traffic especially due to the pandemic. These market changes prompted Sooner Distributors to chart a new course for their business. They decided to look at new business models enabled by the digital revolution. The new eCommerce store is part of their new strategy to expand from the traditional B2B wholesale model and explore the D2C model.
Exploiting eCommerce market
eCommerce sales have steadily grown in the past few months and today accounts for over 16% of the total retail sales in the US. In the Tobacco and related segment online retailing is emerging as a strong distribution channel and is expected to grow further in the future.
Sooner Distributors approached 24SevenCommerce seeking help in creating a roadmap for their online business. The objective was to have an eCommerce store that will popularize their brand amongst the online shoppers and also pitch themselves as a one window solution for everything in tobacco to the new convenience stores coming up. The idea was to use the eCommerce store to drive traffic to their physical store eventually.
The other objective was to improve the buying experience of their regular B2B customer base. The convenience stores can now go through the product listings, place bulk orders easily and have them shipped without much hassle.
“We are a multi-brand distributor and stock and have a compressive range to offer. People outside of Tulsa are not aware of our shop. We understand the potential of eCommerce business. We are looking to expand our market beyond Tulsa and Oklahoma and cater to a larger population who buy these products online. As a first step we want to popularize the variety of products we stock, increase brand awareness and eventually get them to visit our store” says Rohail, Sooner Distributors
The scope of work included building the eCommerce site from scratch. After much deliberation, we decided to go with the WooCommerce platform. The greatest strength of WooCommerce platform is that it is developer-friendly, it is highly extensible and can be integrated with any third party service. Once an appropriate theme was shortlisted the first challenge we faced was to organize the various product categories, SKUs and related content effectively so as to provide a smart navigation experience.
The client also wanted to integrate the eCommerce store with his physical store. The objective was to achieve better inventory management. 24SevenCommerce is a POS eCommerce integration expert who enables multi-channel retailers to effectively manage their business – both online and in-store with their proprietary cloud-based integration platform, Octopus. It allows businesses to maintain a single inventory master file for all channels and automatically synchronizes inventory data between systems 24/7/365 without human intervention. This means that merchants have access to real-time data of both inventory and sales. Octopus also syncs online and offline sales every few minutes. This prevents out of stock situations, improves operational efficiency, customer satisfaction, and reduces labor costs.
“Managing inventory has been the biggest challenge in our business. Octopus has made it very easy to manage the inventory in both our physical store and our online platform. With Octopus, inventory gets updated automatically reducing errors and freeing up resources. So whether your online presence is restricted to just your eCommerce store or you are present in multiple platforms Octopus is the best integration solution available in the market today.” – Mohammad Sohail, President, Sooner Distributors.
The Process and Methodology
Since the customer did not have a well experienced IT team 24SevenCommerce team decided to drive the project. A project manager and set of developers were assigned to the project. After analyzing the client requirements we decided to come up with a detailed execution plan with timelines so that the client could assess the progress, see results, and recommend changes if any at any stage of the project.
The two teams collaborated closely to ensure that the project was completed on schedule as planned. Daily meetings, regular progress reports ensured that both teams were on the same page throughout the project implementation period.
Now that the eCommerce site is live the next step is to effectively market it. “We are looking to launch a communication campaign to increase visibility and drive traffic to the site. We hope to engage with the 24SevenCommerce team and take their expertise in identifying and driving new and qualified leads to the site.” – Rohail, Sooner Distributors.