Technology continued to drive changes in the distribution industry in 2013, with interest in online marketing, e-commerce and vending being strong. The Top 10 most popular blogs from 2013 focused on how distributors can improve in these areas and highlighted the actions of industry leaders like Fastenal, Amazon and Grainger.
Here are the Top 10 Most-Read Blogs of 2013:
1. 7 Online Marketing Ideas for 2013
Online marketing strategist Bob DeStefano shows distributors how best to take advantage of the digitization of the business world. He explains why distributors should avoid "megaphone marketing" tactics and explains how "magnet marketing" can help companies get found by customers when and where they need its products and services.
2. Fastenal Outlines Aggressive Vending Goals for 2013
Fastenal tripled its vending goals from 2012 to 2013 after passing its 2012 goal within the first seven months of that year. The company set the ambitious goal of having 30,000 new vending machines under contract by the end of 2013. In this blog, I quantify the past success of Fastenal's vending program and examine Fastenal's strategies for continued vending program growth.
3. The 'Amazonization' of Customer Expectations
The impact of AmazonSupply.com may be mixed when it comes to distributor sales, but the online seller has had a much broader impact on the expectations customers have for how business is done. Julia Klein, CEO of C.H. Briggs, aptly called the shift in customer expectations an “Amazonization” of interactions. This blog includes perspectives from Klein, Brent Grover and Jonathan Bein on Amazon's expected impact.
4. Fastenal Backs Off on Aggressive Vending Goal
This piece, a follow-up to the No. 2-ranked blog above, looks back at Fastenal's original vending goal for 2013 and offers an update on its vending program progress and setbacks. CEO Will Oberton comments on "what went wrong" with the "overzealous" goal, such as an under-appreciation of the time and work it takes to get a vending program up to maximum efficiency.
5. Where AmazonSupply and Google Win
MDM Editor Lindsay Konzak explores the edge AmazonSupply and Google Shopping for Supplier have against distributors. The trust both companies already have from potential customers in the consumer space will likely translate into the B-to-B market, Konzak says. As the generational shift continues, that edge will only become more pronounced.
6. How Many Salespeople Does a Distributor Need?
According to Brent Grover, the sales model in distribution has undergone a major shift. That change, he says, is due in part to the continuing shift in customer needs. In this blog, which contains quotes from Grover's appearance in MDM's Executive Briefing, Grover explains why distributors need to re-evaluate how their sales territories are structured.
7. Grainger’s Take on Amazon & the Latest on the Distributor’s Growth Drivers
Grainger Senior Vice President and CFO Ron Jadin shares which of Grainger's customers he thinks are most threatened by Amazon and why, and what the key drivers are behind the distributor's current growth.
8. Grainger, MSC & Fastenal’s Take on Softness in the Economy
Executives from Grainger, MSC and Fastenal describe the impact softness in the economy has had on their businesses, citing uncertainty due to sequestration, customers' cautious approach to spending and a drop in customer confidence. They also discuss the challenges – and the opportunities – times of slow growth can introduce.
9. Fastenal’s Gross Margin Disappoints Again in Third Quarter
Several factors, including competitive pricing pressure, drove a decline in Fastenal's gross margin during the third quarter. Oberton said during the company's third-quarter call that he was "very disappointed" with its 51.7 percent gross margin, which declined from the second quarter to the third. In this blog, Oberton explains how buyer behavior and product mix issues affected margins.
10. The Differences between Thriving and Declining Distributors
In the 2013 NAW-McGladrey Distribution Monitor from the National Association of Wholesaler-Distributors, about 32 percent of distributors said they were “thriving” in 2013, and 7 percent reported they were “declining.” In this blog, Editor Lindsay Konzak highlights the differences between distributors that reported they are thriving, holding steady and declining in 2013, including their perspectives on the impact of economic conditions.