What Works On the Web
Expanded manufacturer sites add convenience and resources
By Janet R. Gross
Manufacturer Web sites have offered distributors product information, e-mail communications, even marketing support for several years now. Some forms producers, though, have begun expanding their sites, promising added convenience and resources for distributors.
For instance, a few manufacturers allow end-users to enter reorders through their Web sites and credit the distributors with the sales. Roger Buck, national sales manager and vice president at Ward/Kraft, Fort Scott, Kansas, said he expects this capability to be added to the company's site by the first quarter of next year.
"It's a development issue," he said. "We have to make changes so the end-user doesn't see too much information."
Steve Osterloh, director of marketing for Ennis Business Forms', DeSoto, Texas, said distributors have been asking for the service but questions whether it would generate sufficient orders.
"It is not an inexpensive feature to set up," Osterloh said, "but we don't believe that other manufacturers who are doing this are getting the number of end-user orders they need to warrant the cost." In addition, any order system directed at end-users has to be extremely easy to use and leave no detail to chance, with plenty of prompts for necessary information, he said. Despite these hurdles, Ennis is undergoing beta testing of such order systems and putting more resources into its new live e-commerce capabilities. In addition to online catalogs, Ennis plans to add software-compatible forms in the fourth quarter. Additional products lines will follow, said Osterloh.
Although outside consultant Higganbotham.com, a Tulsa, Oklahoma-based Internet services company, has been handling Ennis' Web design, site updates and technical support since the beginning of the year, Ennis is still heavily involved.
In addition to Osterloh, who oversees the effort, company executives, the MIS department, accounting personnel and marketing department helped develop and test the e-commerce portion of the site.