Emerging competition and marketplace disruptors are forcing distributors to integrate new strategies to help defend their turf and remain relevant. As a result, we see three trends gaining momentum in the wholesale distribution industry this year. Our initial blog post explored the first trend: faster eCommerce implementations to improve time to market. Sellers who lack a digital branch, or have an outdated web platform with inadequate site tools, are losing out on a huge opportunity to expand their reach and provide additional revenue stream. A rapid eCommerce implementation can be a game-changer for businesses.
Today, let’s review the second trend that’s helping distributors build their business; one that requires a central business shift.
Trend #2: Greater customer centricity with a focus on Millennial buyers
In an age where buyers are asked to “do more with less,” B2B organizations can help lighten their load by providing more customer conveniences. From efficient online shopping tools and personalized experiences to value-added services they can’t get from third-party marketplaces, distributors can earn loyalty and trust with customer-centric offerings. A recent Vantage Partners/SAMA survey of 180 B2B organizations found companies that employed sophisticated customer-centric practices realized 2.5 times revenue growth compared to those without considerable customer centricity measures in place.
Before businesses can integrate a customer-centric strategy, they must first know who their customers are and what engages them. There has been a seismic shift in the makeup of the typical B2B buyer. Millennials have exploded into the workforce, moving their way up the ladder to become the largest generation of B2B decision makers. According to 2021 data from TrustRadius, only 8% of Baby Boomers are key decision makers, followed by 40% of Gen Xers.
Millennials – born between 1981 and 1996 – constitute 60% of all buyers in wholesale distribution and greatly contrast from the industry’s conventional customer base. Their different buying behaviors and expectations helped predicate the need for a customer-centric model. As the most tech-savvy segment in the workforce today, they are also the most independent, and prefer to do research and find solutions on their own. TrustRadius reports that 87% of Millennial buyers want self-service options for part, if not all, of their buying journey. Moreover, 57% say they already make purchase decisions without ever talking with a sales representative.
There are a number of ways distributors can attract and retain customers – whether they are tech-savvy or traditional “offline” buyers:
- Integrate self-service features into eCommerce site
- Use content as a selling tool to attract, engage, and inform buyers
- Segment customers to provide more relevant, personalized content and solution-based selling
- Understand customer buying behaviors by analyzing their site visits, purchases, onsite searches, and other key metrics
- Build up customer service efforts and incorporate multiple ways to connect with customers
- Grow brand presence on social media platforms like LinkedIn and Facebook
- Offer value-added services to meet B2B-specific needs
The days of the conventional B2B buyer are gone. Businesses must understand their customer base and employ tactics that support them at every stage of their buying journey. Unilog’s eCommerce solution helps distributors create a hybrid buying experience that gives customers convenient tools and self-service options while still providing personalized service. Our digital commerce platform is packed with customer-centric features like a quick order pad, RFQ forms, and a dashboard where they can access their account history, track orders, and pay invoices. Customers can see their contracted pricing along with inventory availability, assign their own unique part numbers to items for easier findability, and create a favorite items list for easy reordering. Our platform can also integrate with web chat applications so customers can get instant answers to questions 24 hours a day. Unilog’s all-in-one solution is a valuable resource with the ultimate in B2B customer convenience.
Don’t take your customers for granted. As your buyer demographic changes, so must your business. Learn from them to understand how you can improve their customer experience and, at the same time, build a lasting relationship. Be on the lookout for our next blog, where we reveal the third trend that’s helping businesses create a unified front and boost performance.