In the research we performed with over 3500 customers of distributors, it turns out that shopping (finding, researching and selecting but not buying a product) on a distributor website was the 3rd out of 10 most frequently used shopping methods. This means that going to a distributor website to find what to buy is more popular than talking to a sales rep, customer service rep, or looking at print material. In fact, shopping at a distributor website is significantly more popular than these other approaches. OK, that’s the good news.
However, using a search engine (38%) or going to a manufacturer website (31%) to shop are more frequently the first choice than going to a distributor website (30%). The problem for distributors is that there is no guarantee a potential customer will come to the distributor after visiting a manufacturer website or using a search engine. Our research was corroborated in a study by NAED that found the exact same preferences in how shopping is performed: search, manufacturer site, distributor site. Right now, the manufacturer has the customer’s attention. Unless your e-commerce site is rich with content, good search, prices, and easy to use, you may not get the business. If you are a distributor, that’s the bad news.
The trend over the next couple of years looks more favorable for distributor websites than manufacturer websites with 45% percent of respondents indicating somewhat or much more frequent use of distributor website for shopping versus 38% for manufacturer website. It is understandable given the proliferation and improvement of distributor e-commerce sites over the last few years. Three or four years ago, it was sufficient for a distributor to have an e-commerce site. Today, your customers’ expectations are informed by their experience on consumer sites as well as improved distributor sites.
Even more respondents (48%) indicated that they would make somewhat or much more frequent use of search engines for shopping over the next couple of years. The imperatives for distributors are clear:
- Your e-commerce site needs to be a destination that helps shoppers efficiently and effectively find and evaluate what they want to purchase, otherwise shoppers won’t return for a next visit.
- Your search marketing needs to put you at the top of the search results, otherwise you will be passed-by.
To learn more about the full research, see What Customers Want: A Distributor’s Guide to Customer Buying & Shopping Preferences.
Jonathan Bein, Ph.D. is Managing Partner at Distribution Strategy Group. He’s
developed customer-facing analytics approaches for customer segmentation,
customer lifecycle management, positioning and messaging, pricing and channel strategy for distributors that want to align their sales and marketing resources with how their customers want to shop and buy. If you’re ready to drive real ROI, reach out to Jonathan today at