4 Tips for Distributors to Compete in Today’s Digital Economy - Modern Distribution Management

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4 Tips for Distributors to Compete in Today’s Digital Economy

Amid more challenges than ever, distributors can increase sales and drive business growth by considering the following four tips across different key areas.
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The pandemic, economic downturns and supply chain disruptions have thrown many industries for a loop, forcing them to rethink how they operate and grow. The distribution industry is no exception.

As more manufacturers sell directly to customers, distributors face the threat of removal from the sales process, prompting them to identify other ways to compete in today’s market. However, this evolving business landscape presents a unique opportunity for distributors to refine their processes to enable long-term growth in the new digital economy.

Distributors can increase sales and drive business growth by considering the following four tips that cover key areas: adopting omnichannel sales options, fostering customer-driven strategies, maximizing the impact of distributor data and using the right technology to operate the business.

Tip 1: Expansion Fueled by Omnichannel Sales

Putting all their eggs in direct, in-house and in-person sales baskets can hinder distributors’ business growth. Modern distributors can optimize sales strategies by leveraging omnichannel sales to diversify their operations. Distributors can widen their reach and engage vaster audiences by supplementing existing processes with webpages, digital marketplaces and self-service applications.

By diversifying the sales experience, distributors can experience:

  • Enhanced Efficiency: When customers can access brick-and-mortar and digital stores, they can find what they’re looking for on their own terms. Customers can also place orders without time-consuming paperwork or lengthy communications with sales and customer service representatives, streamlining the process for both parties.
  • Increased Revenue: Customers want easy ways to make purchases on their own time. With more options at their disposal, customers are more willing to buy directly from a distributor. The happier they are with their experience and final product, the more often they return, increasing revenue and building a foundation of loyal customers.
  • Elevated Customer Experience: In omnichannel sales, customers can access information about a company’s products and services in many ways, whether in person, via a mobile app, or through a website. This access enhances customers’ trust in the distributor, improving the buyer’s experience and fostering a solid relationship between the buyer and seller.

Tip 2: Develop a Customer-Centric Approach

Today’s business-to-business and business-to-consumer buyers share similar expectations. They seek quick, hassle-free ways to shop, robust support before and after the sale and a customer journey unique to their specific needs.

Customers don’t want to be “sold” on a product or service. They prefer a quick, efficient experience, but they’re not looking to simply buy the product and service and end the relationship there. They’d rather partner with a knowledgeable, trustworthy distributor who offers personalized, consultative service both before and after the sale.

To satisfy these needs and foster relationships with current and potential customers, distributors should meet buyers where they are in their journey and work to identify their pain points to provide customized solutions to address their unique challenges.

Tip 3: Make Your Data Work for You

Distributors produce data at every customer touchpoint, including calls, sales, prospect engagements and more. These interactions create data that tracks the business’s financial performance, supports seamless omnichannel sales and enables a customer-driven focus. However, that data loses value if distributors don’t properly collect, preserve and evaluate it.

To harness the full potential of their data, distributors should implement robust data management processes, such as data cleansing and integration, that efficiently collect and manage the data and ensure that it’s accurate and accessible. Distributors can then leverage the data to gain insights into customer behavior, market trends and operational performance, enabling data-driven decisions that enhance business strategies.

Additionally, leveraging predictive data analytics allows distributors to analyze historical data to anticipate future trends and customer needs, proactively address potential challenges and capitalize on new opportunities. Integrating data across departments, from sales and marketing to inventory and customer service, ensures a more coordinated and efficient operation, improving overall business performance.

Tip 4: Invest in the Right Technology

To thrive in the digital economy, distributors need technology that provides instant, on-the-go access to inventory information, including stock levels, product specifications and pricing. This technology informs sales representatives of the available products and where to find them, simplifying the order fulfillment process.

Distributors must also have a customer relationship management (CRM) solution to store data from all customer touchpoints, including contact information, order history, billing data and more. Meanwhile, technology provides service, support and sales automation, and customer self-service features that streamline the customer experience and shorten sales cycles.

Additionally, integrating business-to-business storefronts and marketplace platforms enables distributors to create seamless, efficient omnichannel sales experiences. A system that monitors key performance indicators (KPIs), customer interactions, purchasing history and ever-changing market dynamics also helps distributors make informed decisions and refine their services to address the needs of their target audience.

For the distribution industry, technology presents both challenges and opportunities. By adopting measures in the four key areas — omnichannel sales strategies, customer-centric practices, effectively using data and optimizing their tech stack — distributors can compete and grow in today’s digital economy.

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