2020 wholesale distribution trends

2020 Wholesale distribution trends: How to win critical buying moments

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Harmony is key for success in today’s wholesale distribution industry.

A symphony is a great example of the power of harmony. When an orchestra’s percussion, woodwind, string, and brass sections merge seamlessly around a sheet of music, they deliver an experience that can win over the harshest music critic.

When it comes to 2020 wholesale distribution trends, this same idea of harmony is critical.

Wholesale distributors need total connectivity between front-office systems. This connectivity enables a consolidated view of customer data to carry across channels and departments. Through this harmonious customer view, a wholesaler’s marketing, sales, commerce, IT, and service teams can truly work together to drive profits and grow the business.

As proof, let’s look at the industry, its buyers, and four key moments where front-office connectivity delivers winning customer experiences.

2020 Wholesale distribution trends: Challenges in a tough venue

Two trends are raising alarms for wholesalers.

First, the direct-to-consumer (D2C) trend is opening a new level of competition as it gains traction in the retail and consumer products industries. Look no further than Nike; under its new D2C strategy, the retail giant could trim down its number of distribution partners from 30,000 to focus on 40.

Second, economic indicators for wholesale distribution aren’t as bullish as they used to be. According to the National Association of Wholesale Distributors, the current 12-month growth rate is 7.5%, but the quarterly growth rate is a smaller 4.7%. This change suggests that the industry is on the back side of the business cycle.

Added together, it’s not surprising that wholesale distributors are looking for every edge they can get. Yet growth opportunities are hard to find; they’ve already squeezed every drip of efficiency from warehousing, distribution, and transportation logistics.

This puts enormous value into the area offering the most growth potential: the customer experience. But who is the modern wholesale distribution customer, and do 2020 wholesale distribution trends consider them?

A tougher audience: Wholesale buyers

Modern wholesale buyers have high expectations. They’re unimpressed by experiences that aren’t personalized in at least near-real time. They’ve no patience for referrals or handoffs to other business functions – and they’re typically just a click away from choosing a competitor. Additionally, when the quality of the customer experience varies across channels, they lose interest – fast.

And just like a sold-out opening night in a new concert hall, there are many evaluators in the crowd. The typical buying group for a complex B2B solution can involve six to 10 decision makers.

So how can you deliver a winning experience to this formidable audience?

Sweet music: The connected wholesale buying experience

Just like a successful concert is made up of amazing musical moments, a successful wholesale customer experience is made of moments when customer engagement teams – and the systems they rely on – work together in harmony.

Following are four key moments in a wholesale buying journey where the connected approach delivers winning moments.

1. The “we’re interested” moment

Offering irrelevant experiences to prospects as they research your business will lead to dried-up pipelines and fewer deals. Instead, buyers want the right level of information to make an informed decision without being hassled by aggressive or intrusive marketing tactics.

Information availability is crucial in this moment. If the prospect can’t find what he or she is looking for, they’ll move on and the opportunity will disappear.

This is when channels and teams need to be in lockstep. Marketing and commerce teams need to capture the digital identities of the visitors accessing product and solution content, and communicate this information to sales teams quickly.

Sales teams need accurate, up-to-date customer data so they can personalize offers and communications. They also need consent and communication preference data to inform when or if the prospect wants to be contacted. In addition, customer service can also play an important role, since pre-sales questions often come in through contact centers.

By connecting all of these systems to a unified view of customer data, wholesalers can offer the relevant, timely content necessary to build stronger relationships with prospects and make more sales.

2. The recovery moment

Sometimes, opportunities stall. Other times, the customer may make a verbal notice of a competitive selection, or they could even give a negative decision. In the past, the sales lead dominated this moment, and would launch an all-out effort to motivate buyers to reconsider the decision. Sometimes it would work; most of the time the customer was lost.

With a connected front-office strategy, however, the sales lead can receive much needed help. For instance, the account executive could partner with marketing to conduct an account-based recovery campaign. This campaign would target highly personalized messages to overcome the objections customers may have cited as the reasons for deciding not to proceed.

3. The “I’m onboard” moment

Customers know when they’re dealing with a broken experience, and “easy to do business with” shows up on the top of surveys around what’s important in the B2B procurement space.

Yet too often, on-boarding a new business customer ­– or even a new employee at an established customer – is a source of inefficiency. The process is too complex and slow. Layers of approvals are needed. And many times, the customer’s users cannot initially access the information and functionality they need to do their job.

To win this moment, sales and IT teams need a connected strategy for seamless onboarding of business customers as well as their users. Security is paramount; intellectual property and confidential information need to be protected to the highest standard. Yet wholesalers need to achieve a balance between security and usability.

With seamless connectivity between marketing, sales, and IT teams, accurate customer and product data can better inform the onboarding process and help speed it up. In addition, sales and marketing teams can gain better visibility into onboarded customers, leading to more personalized offers and marketing campaigns that speed time-to-value.

4. The “advocacy” moment

A customer service team can become an integral part of the company’s ability to win new customers.

While most customer service engagements are focused on resolving issues and addressing problems, there are also positive engagements where the customer expresses satisfaction with the product or service. By flagging these instances and communicating them with the organization’s marketing team, customer service can help start the process of turning customers into advocates.

In addition, these teams can work together to monitor social channels for brand or product mentions, encouraging further posting of positive comments or quickly addressing challenges mentioned in negative comments.

Applause for a unified customer view

An orchestra can earn a standing ovation when its systems work as one to deliver an unforgettable performance.

When a wholesaler’s marketing, commerce, sales, service, and IT teams connect to a unified view of the customer, the organization will win key moments along the buyer journey. And the rave reviews will manifest as higher profits, more new customers, and lower churn.

Exceptional CX drives revenue and enhances brand reputation.
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Sonny Dasgupta
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Sonny Dasgupta

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