Technology is driving a lot of the trends we’re seeing in wholesale distribution markets going into the new year.
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Part of this is due to a generational shift that is taking hold in the industry. Up-and-coming leaders are increasingly driving initiatives at their companies to build out a more sophisticated online presence and integrate mobile into the workflow.
Here are the top three technology trends to keep in mind as you map out your 2013:
1. E-commerce is gaining critical mass.
Each year, we report that distributors have growing interest in building a stronger e-commerce platform for their businesses. This year was a banner year for the technology, apparent when more than 85 percent of distributors in a 2012 survey told MDM that they had plans to upgrade their website in the following 12 months. E-commerce functionality was one of the top improvements they wanted to make. The interest is widespread among both small and large distributors, and distributors that don’t finally take the trend seriously risk losing business in 2013.
2. Mobile is becoming a ‘game-changer.’
The ability to go mobile has had a dramatic impact on how distributors do business. Mobile has changed how salespeople do their jobs and how they access information. It also has changed how customers interact with distributors. Distributors are taking advantage of this trend not only to provide another channel for purchasing but also to grow mindshare with customers. Customer behavior has also been shown to be different on mobile devices than on a traditional computer. Grainger, for example, reported recently that its customers frequently reserve their orders on mobile for will call – over one-third of visitors on mobile versus just 2 percent on grainger.com.
3. Analytics is taking center stage.
Advancing technology is allow distributors to crunch data faster than ever before, resulting in the ability to track trends and be more strategic in applying sales resources. That said, there’s a reality gap in what distributors want to do and what they are doing when it comes to the Big Data trend. But the demand for better data for better decision-making is definitely out there. We’ll be watching this particular trend closely in 2013 to see how distributors big and small use data to improve their businesses.
In the latest issue of MDM Premium, our twice-monthly newsletter for distribution executives, we present 12 Trends in Distribution for 2013, an annual look at key issues and trends. In that article, you can read more on the above three technology trends and nine more trends affecting distribution in the new year.