Landscape supply has traditionally been fragmented, with huge gaps between buyers and sellers, broken supply chains, and inconsistencies in data. Technology lags — no available platforms or limited skill and funds for using available platforms — have further exacerbated the problem.
The result of a fragmented supply chain include lowered productivity, decreased income, and amplification of problems concerning labor and fulfillment on both the supplier and the buyer side.
Migrating availability, ordering, and fulfillment systems and data to online platforms and digital sales channels is the future for businesses that want to remain competitive and reach more buyers, but the path to digital fulfillment for suppliers varies.
Going Digital: Build, Buy or Join
E-commerce is the main digital channel that most green industry businesses will use and there are three main e-commerce choices for suppliers:
- Build a platform
- Buy a platform
- Join an open marketplace
Each has pros and cons. Here’s a closer look at the options.
Building Your Own Platform
Fifteen to twenty years ago, “out of the box” solutions for e-commerce and database-driven online platforms were limited. There was almost no choice but to build from scratch or substantially customize an existing software. It was costly to do and costly to maintain, but for many businesses at the time, it was the only option.
Custom building is no longer necessary or feasible for most businesses, in part because new, non-custom options exist, and in part because custom building is still incredibly expensive. It also requires outside expertise from programmers that, while they might be excellent at working with technology, have very little understanding of the way an industry operates. That translates into additional costs bringing the programmers up to speed and lost opportunities. Because of the fragmented state of the landscape industry supply chain and the many nuances of buyer/seller relationships, missed opportunities can be even greater.
Maintenance of custom sites is still expensive, and maintenance of any e-commerce platform (even plugins on self-hosted websites) still requires outside expertise, for the most part.
Finally, a custom or self-contained e-commerce platform isn’t scalable and won’t seamlessly integrate with multiple suppliers. Going it on your own limits growth, while being expensive.
Buying a Platform
Today there are many well-designed e-commerce applications available. They’ve been developed by e-commerce experts and are globally updated to keep up with current technology.
Even with out of the box platforms, there’s still necessary programming (and associated costs) to customize to your business model and time spent keeping the platform updated. As with custom-built platforms, self-hosted out-of-the-box platforms are still self-contained and not easily scalable.
Joining an Online Marketplace
Online marketplaces were not even an option for the landscape industry as few as three years ago. That has changed and there are now widely-connected marketplaces available for the green industry, such as LandscapeHub.
Development costs for building the marketplace have been absorbed by the company, and with a marketplace created by green-industry insiders and tech startup experts, members get the benefits of custom programming with multi-location and multi-supplier integration without any upfront monetary costs.
Marketplaces, online nursery and landscape supply platforms, connect landscape businesses with suppliers, considering the needs of both. The marketplaces should streamline the procurement process for the green industry the same way that online marketplaces streamline procurement in other industries.
Not all marketplaces are created equal, though.
What You Should Know about Bringing your Nursery or Landscape Business Online
If you are considering moving your business online because you want to have a more efficient, organized, and streamlined process, there are some things you should know.
We’ve created a guide to help you make informed decisions and feel empowered to modernize your processes.
Over a multi-part series of posts, we will be covering:
- Suppliers: digital sales channels defined and advantages of adoption
- Buyers: insights on who should join a platform
- Why there’s a need for a nursery and landscape supply chain online marketplace
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