Digital Behavior: Let’s Talk Turkey - Modern Distribution Management

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Digital Behavior: Let’s Talk Turkey

Many distributors are starting to feel skewered by the challenges posed by online competitors.

Customers can be so fickle, right? You give them the best products, service and personal attention for years, even decades. You may even wine-and-dine them, but if they find a slightly better price online, they grill you for discounts. Wait, you thought I was talking about your customers? Maybe not yet, pilgrim, but there’s a reason why your digital “service center” is an important competitive asset to evaluate for 2019.

I’m digesting the findings of a new study by Deloitte on the five-day Thanksgiving shopaganza that includes both Black Friday and Cyber Monday. I don’t want to know what’s next but if I were in charge, it would be something catchy like “Credit-Card-on-the-Chopping Block Tuesday.” (There’s a reason I’ve stayed with the distribution industry for 30+ years.)

Though the survey is about B2C and consumer purchasing behavior, there’s enough heartburn in the results to go round for B2B as well. Because as we have all seen, witnessed and heard ad nauseum, Amazon and others have changed the expectations of consumers – our expectations! – for pricing transparency and ease of shopping experience. There’s a reason why Amazon Business is carving out a bigger slice of the market. 

If there is a better weekend to train people to shop for price, I don’t know of one. I think the new term for this is “gamifying the experience”. Once upon a time, long, long ago, stores began opening on Thanksgiving Day. The axe has fallen on that trend, and now more sales are going online. Black Friday is still a big deal, but Cyber Monday is now when consumers gobble up the most bargains.

There are a few takeaways for distributors from this survey. Here’s the first:

  • Over Thanksgiving weekend, 89 percent of shoppers plan to shop in stores while 91 percent plan to shop online; 63 percent say they plan to take advantage of early Black Friday deals online.
  • Overall, 81 percent of weekend shoppers plan to head online or to stores on Black Friday, but Cyber Monday is gearing up to take the largest slice of the pie at an average of $170 per person, higher than all other shopping days.

Just as many people plan to shop online as go to a store over the weekend, and websites are harvesting a greater share of wallet than ever. We’ve seen that consistently in reports from Grainger and others for years; this is a trend that keeps tilting digital. 

  • Shoppers have already baked in their mobile and online backup options to manage the holiday rush: More than half (51 percent) say they’ll go to another retailer if a site has technical issues or is otherwise ham-handed; 41 percent indicate they would buy something online while in-store if they get better pricing; and 27 percent would check out while using their mobile device in the store to avoid long lines at the register.

I have viewed the opening of Amazon self-serve stores with the same skepticism as the notion that drones will take over for delivery trucks. I know there’s more than a kernel of truth that digital checkout and self-serve stores are coming – great for a few small niches like dense urban areas with millennials who tend to buy more prepared foods, just not full force in 2018. But I know it will arrive at my Safeway sooner than I think. 

What got my attention above is how it is now second nature for so many of us to roll on to a new retailer if we run into a service roadblock. My argument is not that distribution customers have crossed completely into another world, but when it comes to service expectations in their personal vs. business buying, the difference in expectations is potato vs. poh-tah-to. B2C and B2B are mashing together. No bones about it.

So if you are looking for your family at some point this weekend and they are nowhere to be found, don’t assume they are in line down at Best Buy. There’s an equal chance they’re at your kitchen table with a laptop and credit card, or simply one-click purchasing their way through the holiday and avoiding the parking lots. Unless they’re watching their favorite YouTuber, that is. 

I wish you the best for the Thanksgiving holiday. As always, I welcome your comments, either in the comments area below, or email me at

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