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Recommended Reading: Disrupters Prove Need to Engage Customers

Uber, Amazon just two examples of how companies can change the rules.

Successful businesses – including distributors – today are ones that can anticipate customer needs, and two examples from outside distribution – Uber and Amazon – epitomize this shift, according to Sanjay Agarwal and Guy Blissett in Wholesale Distribution Disrupted, Part 2: Engage to Combat Disruption.

Uber challenged the orthodoxies of the taxi trip by more accurately matching capacity with customer demand while also providing more a convenient method of payment transaction. And Amazon has disrupted numerous industries and interactions, one example being its Dash button, which makes the process of reordering home products more convenient.

Wholesale distributors can take a page from these companies' playbooks to fend off the disruptions that are sure to come from players developing technologically innovative ways to anticipate and shape customer interactions.

"The distribution industry’s customer-centricity and the premium placed on face-to-face interactions will need to transform to better align insights, interactions and channels with shifting expectations," Agarwal and Blissett say. "Face-to-face interactions will likely become fewer in number but more relevant in terms of content. Instead of reactively meeting customer needs, leading distributors will proactively engage the customer. They will sense and shape demand, deliver a superior experience, capture and leverage insights, and realize incremental value.

According to a recent Forrester Research study, B2B buyers would rather self-educate about products and services than talk to sales representatives by a 3-to-1 margin, while 75 percent of B2B buyers prefer to buy online instead of through a sales rep.

Distributors must adapt to this new reality, according to Agarwal and Blissett. "With the emergence of such an informed, empowered and independent B2B customer, the onus is shifting to engaging the customer in new ways, at numerous different touchpoints and at a whole new level," they say.

Read more about shifting your company's model to better engage customers in Wholesale Distribution Disrupted, Part 2: Engage to Combat Disruption.

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