E-commerce was a key focus at the Gases and Welding Distributors Association (GAWDA) Spring Management Conference (SMC) this morning in Indianapolis, Indiana. In an expert panel discussion, formed of ESTech, the IWDC, Indiana Oxygen and Computers Unlimited, delegates were made aware of the critical need for e-commerce in the modern world.

As highlighted by Dave Bent, President of ESTech Group, the utilisation of e-commerce and digital platforms continues to have great growth. Highlighting the e-commerce average growth as a percentage of total revenue, Brent highlighted a 28% uptake increase from 2021 to 2022 and a 44% increase from 2020 to 2022.

“Electronics has high adoption and high maturity of e-commerce, and the hard goods sector is also maturing quickly,” Bent explained. “Different types of products have different speeds of adoption.”

Although the industrial gases market specifically wasn’t highlighted, figures from the sessions emphasised how many markets are now using digital platforms to enhance both sales and company growth. “Different types of products have different speeds of adoption,” Bent told delegates.

The great uptake of e-commerce platforms was arguably boosted by the coronavirus pandemic, which led to the majority of individuals, families and companies having to make purchases online due to lockdowns seeing the closure of many stores and facilities.

As David Schaer, President of Computers Unlimited, explained, “E-commerce is all about providing a bridge between traditions and modern customer service.” Right now, many distributors, big and small, are now building such bridge and are really beginning to feel the benefits of going digital.

Frank Kasnick, CEO of the IWDC, was also on the panel and explained the four key components of e-commerce: commerce, content, connectivity and communications. These four Cs are a key focal point for the IWDC and its Product Information Management (PIM) programme. “The IWDC focuses on supporting customers with product content that is creditable,” Kasnick told attendees.

The story of PIM started with discussions in 2018 and the platform was then launched in February 2021 to house, collect and distribute customer data. “We currently work with 54,000 products across 55 vendors and 320 categories. It’s a journey. The IWDC is more orientated around quality versus quantity.”

Looking at further development of the PIM platform, Kasnick explained that the next phase for the IWDC is to involve those who aren’t already involved in the PIM through a monthly fee.

Throughout the course of the first morning session at the GAWDA SMC, it soon became clear that the industrial gases industry is heavily focused on modernising its online assets and offering a seamless online shopping/browsing experience.

“The foundation to everything is a good commerce programme,” was re-enthused throughout the session.

Art Waskey, Principal of Impact Speaking Dynamics, headed the panel and also put forward the importance of personalisation of e-commerce and tailoring an experience. “A distributor needs to learn about their customers and bring added value,” Waskey told delegates.

The 2022 GAWDA SMC is believed to have attracted over 700 attendees. Sessions will continue throughout the rest of the day.