Seemingly countless solutions help companies reach more buyers, craft more personalized messaging and improve their customers’ shopping experience. Unfortunately, many of these applications cater to B2C businesses, not B2B.
But B2B is a far more complex market. Some companies are rising to the challenge and are developing solutions designed for industrial distributors and contractors to help them save time, boost productivity and cut expenses.
We recently spoke with two companies that designed solutions to aid in deliveries, improve technician education and connect contractors with local brick-and-mortar suppliers. Their app solutions are solving previously overlooked industry needs.
Educating and Connecting Technicians
Bluon is a platform built to support HVAC professionals. The app houses a database of 300,000 unique models of HVAC equipment with original manuals and part lists. The app also connects its members to live support – provided by Bluon’s veteran technicians – to assist with diagnosing and repairing problems. Soon this will connect them directly to their local supply houses. Chairman and CEO Peter Capuciati says the Bluon app has more than 100,000 active users, and has grown mainly by word of mouth among technicians.
Capuciati says there is currently a 100,000-technician shortage in HVAC. Bluon helps alleviate the burden by helping technicians be more productive, saving on average two hours a day. This extra time means they can perform more jobs, help more customers and buy more parts and equipment. Capuciati says this is a win-win for everyone – technicians, contractors, distributors and manufacturers.
While Bluon focuses on supporting HVAC service technicians, they are developing a new way for contractors to connect with local distributors. Starting in June 2022, techs will be able to find and purchase parts from their preferred local suppliers directly through the app. In addition, the platform will soon give recommendations as they shop to ensure techs have all the parts needed to complete the job.
Capuciati says part suggestions are curated by Bluon’s in-house technician team, who are all industry experts. He believes this feature will help technicians avoid last-minute supply runs while also facilitating upsell and cross-sell opportunities for local distributors. They are focusing exclusively on local, brick-and-mortar distributors to preserve and enhance the relationships between technicians and their local suppliers.
Distributors can access Bluon’s extensive database through the BluonLive Web App. With access to the company’s informational and cross-reference database and curated product pairings, distributor sales reps will have the tools to be more consultative and make more informed sales. Capuciati says the mobile app will also be the perfect platform for manufacturers and suppliers to showcase new products. Because so many HVAC technicians already use the mobile app on a regular basis, local distributors will have direct access to their target demographic when it matters most.
Enabling Last-Mile Delivery
Curri offers logistics and delivery support for industrial distributors and contractors.
Their mobile app allows users to easily request one-time last-minute deliveries or schedule recurring shipments with the vehicle of their choice. For example, if a contractor realizes they don’t have a necessary component for their project, they can place an order through their distributor and receive the shipment the same day, CEO Matthew Lafferty says. Because of the elasticity of Curri’s fleet, distributors can quickly send loads of any size to their customers.
Lafferty says the platform enables distributors to provide a better experience to their customers. Customers know they can rely on distributors to deliver what they need when they need it, even on short notice – which is often impossible for distributors with static fleets. As a bonus, distributors can take advantage of Curri’s fast shipments and flexible load options to compete against online marketplaces like Amazon.
With Curri, distributors don’t have to worry about buying trucks, hiring drivers or paying for insurance.
Although their customer base consists primarily of distributors (90%), Lafferty says Curri is also helping contractors cut costs and improve operations. He says that owner-operators can lose up to a month of revenue on yearly supply runs. With Curri, contractors can save time and labor by outsourcing pickups and deliveries. Curri aims to pass along these savings, so contractors can better utilize their time and take care of their families.
The Role of Apps in Supporting the Customer Journey
Apps like Bluon and Curri help distributors deliver a better customer experience. Technologies like item recognition, 3D printing, artificial intelligence (AI), drones, voice ordering, collaborative robots and blockchain payments enable distributors to serve their customers more effectively, ensuring their customers have the support they need.
Learn more about new technology and how distributors can differentiate their value proposition in the State of Distributor Technology: A Guide for Growth.
Dean Mueller is Independent Consultant at Distribution Strategy Group. He has more than 30 years of experience in sales and marketing and helps distributors build holistic digital strategies that drive a significant shift to online sales, improve profitability and grow customer satisfaction. Take your digital strategy to the next level. Contact Dean at firstname.lastname@example.org.