Eco Distributing, LLC is a National Wholesale Distributor of solar and renewable energy products. They provide full-service support and procurement for residential, commercial, and utility-scale renewable energy projects. ECO also provides warehousing, logistics, and fulfillment for manufacturers in the renewable energy industry.
But while their array of services come from a headquarters in Scottsdale, Arizona, they've also been pushing the boundaries of traditional solar energy service by moving many parts of their operations online. Automation and eCommerce have revolutionized the way that they serve clients. Keep reading to learn how ECO Distributing got their start, and what they can teach you about B2B.
What made you decide to create Eco Distributing?
It was all about timing. The timing was perfect because the economy was experiencing a slow down in 2008. A group of us with backgrounds in construction, distribution, and electronics banded together and decided it was time to make a change. We saw enormous potential in the growing industry that was creating cost-effective clean energy. Solar made sense and still does.
Did you have a background in the field of eCommerce? What did you learn in the process of developing your online operations?
We had no background in eCommerce when we started. The website began as a way to promote our business and attract customers, but it quickly evolved into more.
We learned that there’s more to eCommerce than just having an online store. it’s also the tools behind the scenes that help get the job done. Payment, inventory management, order processing, and shipping documents have all become web-based applications that help us efficiently complete a transaction. It’s continually evolving, and more and more processes and B2B transactions are becoming electronic.
What bottlenecks or tasks did you find that took an enormous amount of resources? Have you found ways to streamline/automate these?
Time to sale. Most people don’t realize how much time and effort goes into designing and installing a solar system. It can be a two to six-month process or even longer. There’s engineering, design, scheduling, logistics, finance, and procurement. No matter its size, it’s still a construction project and takes an enormous amount of resources to get to the finish line.
From a distributor’s point of view, it’s not as simple as having a customer call to place an order. We spend a lot of time helping with design, product recommendations, product availability, scheduling, and doing site plan take-offs. This is all done before we can even quote and sell the product.
To streamline this process, we partnered with a manufacturer and a finance provider to offer a residential kit solution. This bundled solution enables us to standardize the systems and create an ordering process that streamlines the product selection. This also allows us to create standardized pricing.
What are the greatest challenges you found when selling to businesses? What are your main takeaways?
One challenge we faced was pricing. Everyone is continually trying to find ways to lower the overall cost of solar power. From a distribution standpoint, this comes down to individual product pricing. Competitive pricing is important, but it’s also important to not get stuck in a race to the bottom.
We offer services that help our customers reduce their soft costs. We are continually working to create efficient solutions that help our customers and reduce their total installed costs.
Another challenge we've had is dealing with terms.
Early on when we offered a customer payment terms it meant sleepless nights. Will they pay on time? Will they pay at all? It made cash flow a nightmare. Paying in 30 days is standard in our industry and is something we had to offer. The majority of businesses we sell to need payment terms to float them through the installation of products. To continue growing this way would be too difficult and risky. Apruve has filled this gap and has enabled us to offer payment terms to our clients while ensuring payment and outsourcing all of the A/R headaches.
What makes you different from the competition?
Eco is a distributor and a 3PL (Third Party Logistics Warehouse). We provide services throughout the sales channel that are not typical of an average distributor. We offer third party logistics for manufacturers, including warehousing, packaging, logistics, and fulfillment. At the same time, we are able to distribute these products through our channels to our clients. This enables us to service our clients better and reduce the overall soft costs that occur with typical third party logistics providers.
What do attribute to your success?
There are a lot of factors that contribute to a company’s success. Obviously, there’s hard work, the ability to change, not over-leveraging, having loyal customers, building a trustworthy network, and a little luck. But above all, it’s about working with an amazing team of professionals both in the workplace and throughout the industry.
What advice would you pass on to others?
Embrace change, know your customers and their needs, and continue improving.
ECO Distributing is proof that automation and other online operations can streamline processes for businesses in any industry. They're leading the way in using these systems to pass on savings to consumers, which in turn boosts sales.
ECO Distributing LLC is a National Wholesale Distributor of Solar and Renewable Energy products located in Scottsdale, AZ. We provide full service support and procurement for Residential, Commercial, and Utility Scale Renewable Energy projects. ECO also provides warehousing, logistics, and fulfillment for manufacturers in the Renewable Energy Industry.
Topics: Disrupting B2B