It’s tough for distributors to differentiate with digital capabilities because the entire industry has been adopting new technologies at a rapid pace. But customers’ expectations – formed not just by B2B experiences but B2C, as well – continue to increase.
We’ll focus on how to ensure your capabilities are competitive by focusing on these 10 areas:
1. Customer needs: Too many distributors simply copy competitors’ capabilities, or they let their IT partners drive the requirements. But your customers have unique expectations and you need to meet them – so don’t take this step lightly.
- What process do you use to make sure you are accurately documenting and updating changing customer needs and expectations?
2. Inventory: Increasingly, customers expect accurate, real-time on-hand inventory when they use your website – whether or not they intend to purchase through your shopping cart.
- How do you ensure your inventory records and stockkeeping are up to date so that when customers shop online, they can be confident your on-hand inventory is accurate?
3. Digital Customer Experience (CX): With so many distributors selling similar products, offering a superior customer experience is one sure way to differentiate. Areas you need to design well online include navigation, product data, easy-to-use checkout process, clear shipping and return polices, and much more.
- How do you ensure your website design, user interface (UI), performance and user experience make it easy for customers to find what they need and achieve their goals when they’re on your website?
4. Billing: Customers now expect easy purchasing and fast checkout. For distributors, this is a little more complicated than simply taking credit cards.
- Do you offer flexible, easy-to-use purchasing or billing and/or connect your site to your AR system? Do you have an online credit app with fast approval?
5. Marketing: Often, distributor customers aren’t aware of the company’s digital capabilities. This can result in missing your digital objectives even if you built the right capabilities.
- What is your strategy for bringing awareness to your site and for driving digital engagement to improve the ROI on your technology investments?
6. Delivery: Competitors like Amazon have fundamentally changed expectations about delivery time, reliability, and information. Distributors need to understand these requirements and meet them.
- Whether you use your own vehicles, third-party carriers or a hybrid, how do you provide a competitive level of delivery service? Can customers track their shipments from the time of order until delivery?
7. Analytics: Websites and other digital tools offer an enormous advantage over other channels because just about everything customers do can be tracked.
- What analytics tools do you use to measure website engagement, customer behavior, sales performance, conversion rates, etc.?
8. Trust: Customers often build long-term relationships with distributors because they learn to trust the people. It’s essential that they develop the same level of trust with your digital tools.
- What steps have you taken so that customers trust that ordering through your website is just as or even more reliable than calling a CSR or sales rep? Do you offer the same experience online as well as offline?
9. Mobile: Customers increasingly access distributor websites on mobile devices, particularly individuals in non-purchasing roles.
- Is your website fully responsive or do you have a mobile app (or neither)? What’s the ideal approach for your company?
10. Innovation: If you have good answers to all the questions so far, you’re ahead of the curve. If not, you’ve got work to do. In either case, getting ahead and staying there is a perpetual challenge as expectations and technologies change.
- Do you experiment with new ecommerce technologies? If so, how do you choose what to test and what data do you need in order to either adopt a new technology or reject it?
We addressed these questions and more in our May 30 discussion. Our panelists have 92 years’ distribution experience between them, so they’ve seen it all. No matter what problem you’re tackling, this group has probably wrestled with it and can help you solve it.
- Stu Tisdale, SVP and Chief Experience Officer for ADI Global, a leading wholesale distributor of low-voltage security products, as well as value-added services.
- Matthew James, President and CEO of Purity Life Health Products. Purity Life is Canada’s leading distributor of health products.
- Sheila Hernandez, Vice President of Marketing and Supplier Relations for Summit Electric Supply, a large and fast-growing regional electrical distributor
- Ashley Rickman, Senior Director, Sales and Marketing Technologies, RelaDyne, Inc. RelaDyne is the established leader in lubricant sales, distribution, equipment reliability services, and value-added services.
This was a terrific panel discussion and you won’t want to miss it. Sign up here for on-demand access.
Ian Heller is the Founder and Chief Strategist for Distribution Strategy Group. He has more than 30 years of experience executing marketing and e-business strategy in the wholesale distribution industry, starting as a truck unloader at a Grainger branch while in college. He’s since held executive roles at GE Capital, Corporate Express, Newark Electronics and HD Supply. Ian has written and spoken extensively on the impact of digital disruption on distributors, and would love to start that conversation with you, your team or group. Reach out today at email@example.com.