Are there benefits for distributors in offering an online sales channel?

Robert Taylor, Butler Fuels
“Yes, an online service can offer benefits in that customers can place orders and email us with any queries, whenever it suits them.
However, we do believe that even though many customers may choose to order online, there’ll always be a large number who’ll continue to prefer to use the phone.”
Helen Needham, Hingley & Callow
“Huge benefits I would say – given the amount of abuse we’re currently taking from those customers foolish enough not to have remembered to check their fuel tank. Oh to be at the end of a computer rather than a phone line!
“On a serious note, while an online sales channel would undoubtedly have cost saving benefits, we would be concerned that we’d lose the personal touch we’re able to offer as a family business. We like to nurture the customer relationship and hope that some customers still appreciate the banter!”
Chris Bingham, Craggs Energy
“It’s a small number of people buying online presently but – it’s growing significantly. We’ve a band of customers who only buy online. If you don’t have the facility, you can’t blame customers for buying online somewhere else.
“I understand the rationale behind wanting to protect prices from competitors, but customers want to buy online which is leading to the growing presence of third party sites.
These sites are not owned by oil companies, they’ve no interest in the industry, no investments made and no personal risk. If we’re not careful, in the medium term – between one and 5 years – current distributors will be excluded from this sales channel, becoming simply hauliers in a world that’s all about who can ship fuel for the lowest price.”
Richard Burton, Barton Petroleum
“There are definitely benefits for those distributors choosing to offer an online sales channel. It’s my view that you can’t afford not to have an online route to market. Increasingly there are customers who will only transact online, and this group of customers will inevitably grow.”
Grant Lockie, Johnston Oils
“Whilst a high percentage of our orders are through traditional channels such as the phone or our sales team, we offer online ordering as well to facilitate an increasing demand.”
Jo Ritzema, WCF Fuels
“An online sales channel offers additional choice for consumers in how they buy their oil, in particular for those who wish to make their purchase outside of normal working hours.”