Buyer behavior is changing. Customers expect convenience and it is a differentiator for those who can deliver it. Convenience is the new definition of service. It started in the consumer world and is quickly transitioning to B2B buyer expectations. This evolution has significant marketing and service implications for manufacturers and distributors.
Consider the consumer perspective:
- Dry cleaners offer pick-up services, drive-thru drop off and next-day delivery.
- Department stores and home improvement stores offers pickup of online orders with curbside service or parking spots in front of their stores.
- Hamburger shops have call-in ordering, free delivery, as well as services such as DoorDash, Uber Eats and Grubhub.
Consider what this means from a service delivery viewpoint. Companies are prioritizing customers based upon how they order and potentially when they order, not if they are in line.
The Impact on Marketing Elements
Marketers need to diversify from promoting products to promoting their brand’s service differentiation. Why should someone buy from you, especially when X number of your competitors are offering the same products (sometimes brands) to your customers?
The need for e-marketing is elevated. Capturing contact information, aggregating purchasing and other data and then direct and e-market to the buyer’s mailbox is a necessity. Multiple impressions and a variety of media are needed to break through clutter. People learn and remember differently, so repetition is necessary as well.
For your website, you need to envision the experience you want your customer to have while replicating the current customer journey. While not every company can, or should, offer the ability to consummate transactions online, due to ERP integration challenges, every company can have an online catalog to facilitate customers searching for information. This is the No. 1 reason contractors visit websites.
Distributors should think of how they can re-imagine counter service. Perhaps there is a separate window for online order pickups, or “quick-pick lists” on websites that are automatically routed to the counter. Or, with counter traffic declining nationally, could this service/space be developed further to be more effective from a customer perspective?
Customers expect a quality experience that involves the ability to determine if they want to pick up their product, receive same or next-day delivery or have order-tracking. All of these capabilities are becoming website requirements for distributors.
The days of waiting a year for new services to launch are not acceptable. Customers expect a phased approach and that you are always launching new services. This infers you are understanding and anticipating their needs.
Your marketing staff needs to focus on your brand as well as integrated digital marketing. Your sales organization needs to be a supporter. If they are not, they will never know the business that is lost to other companies that are offering your customers’ desired online experience.
Buying experiences change. Keep your ear close to the ground. Observing B2C buyer dynamics is a precursor to what comes in the B2B space as buyer expectations are set by consumer experiences. It’s also important to seek input from a wide array of customers as well as conduct ongoing competitive intelligence. Business is moving faster than ever. Multiple dynamics change simultaneously. How you react, and eventually become proactive, is the difference between surviving and thriving.
Staying close to customers to understand their needs and meet their expectations is critical to staying ahead, innovating and driving sales. Gathering insights, interpreting the feedback and suggesting opportunities can help drive strategy, sales and profitability through new services, enhanced ease of doing business and, in general, knowing the customer.
David Gordon is the president of Channel Marketing Group and has worked with companies in multiple industries on marketing strategy and execution, organizational and culture development, internal communications, employee motivation and change management. A version of this blog ran on electricaltrends.com. Email him at [email protected].