Grainger’s strength in the U.S. can be attributed to its multichannel approach, says Court Carruthers, Grainger U.S. president.
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Speaking at the $8.1 billion distributor’s recent annual analyst meeting, available at grainger.com, Carruthers said the multichannel model lets customers be served the way they want to be served. And a multichannel approach – using a mix of sales force expansion to reach different sizes of customers, e-commerce, service centers, KeepStock inventory management services and branches – has resulted in a more powerful and stickier customer relationship, according to Grainger.
While its branch network remains a critical piece of the puzzle, e-commerce has grown in importance. In fact, Carruthers called e-commerce the “glue that holds the multichannel model together.”
“This is the one place the customer can go to get all the information related to transactions with Grainger whether or not (the transactions) are happening in e-commerce,” he said.
As another example of the value of the multichannel approach in serving customers the way they want to do business, Carruthers said that 25 percent of the transactions on the distributor’s new mobile app are reservations for will call at local branches, compared with just 2 percent of transactions on grainger.com. (Read more about Grainger's mobile moves in Grainger Goes Mobile: What It Means).
Grainger is not the only distributor taking a multichannel approach to business. Over the past couple of years, MDM has published several articles on the benefits of taking a multichannel approach to your market. Publisher Tom Gale wrote that multichannel marketing capabilities need to be part of a broader integrated marketing plan, one with a clear strategy to use the best tools you can to support business development goals.
MDM has worked closely with Jonathan Bein of Real Results Marketing to conduct surveys of our readers gauging interest and progress in using different channels to reach customers. In The Distributor Marketing Imperative, Bein wrote that most distributors have solid capabilities with outside sales and inbound telephone sales. But capabilities for in-store marketing, outbound telephone sales and e-commerce vary widely. He says that distributors of all sizes need to create and continually refine their multichannel capabilities.