Why Distributors Should Create a Consumer-Grade Experience

It’s a good time to be a B2B customer. The era of the “take it or leave it” business model of distributors is over. Today’s B2B buyers hold all the cards. They have instant visibility into pricing and delivery windows. They have more choices in products and suppliers. And it’s now easier than ever before to switch suppliers and distributors.

A major contributor to this shift is that B2B buyers now expect the same choice, convenience, and personalization they experience as consumers.  They want suppliers and distributors to understand their purchasing history and to anticipate what they might like to order in the future. They want a wide selection of products and options, faster delivery, and seamless consistency across channels. And they don’t make distinctions between their online and person-to-person interactions with a company. Instead, they see themselves as doing business with a single organization and have little tolerance for a disjointed, siloed experience.

Adapting to the B2B client’s higher expectations

So it’s not surprising that suppliers and distributors are rethinking their approach to the customer experience—and they’re looking for ways to provide consumer-grade CX to B2B clients. One recent study found that 80% of organizations expect to compete mainly based on CX. But even though they may see CX as the next competitive battlefield, B2B businesses have a long journey in front of them. Only 30% of B2B customers believe that suppliers provide excellent customer experiences.

In distribution, customers want a more collaborative relationship with providers—one with complete solutions that address specific needs. They want distribution partners to be trusted experts that understand their business, their industry, and the challenges they face.

Making good on those expectations for richer, more personalized experiences can help distributors turn one-time buyers into long-term customers and deliver higher ROI over the life of each customer relationship. In fact, even getting the basics right can pay off.  One analysis found that customers are 2.7 times more likely to spend more when companies communicate clearly.

Translating B2C experiences into B2B engagement

The B2B engagement cycle is significantly more complex than most B2C purchases. But distributors can make it easier to do business by providing consumer-like tools to facilitate key parts of the process, while still addressing complex B2B requirements. Some of the areas that innovative distributors are targeting include:

  • Create a single view of the customer – Customers can choose to engage a distributor via almost any channel — and they can use a mix of channels to complete a single transaction. It’s critical for the distributor to have a single view of the customer that combines information from every engagement point to create a consistent experience.
  • Make it personal – It’s up to the distributor to personalize engagements using transaction and experience data to tailor marketing activities, pricing, rebate programs, and service offerings. Customers want distributors that act as strategic partners by adding value and tailoring their offerings to meet specific requirements.
  • Bundle products and services in flexible packages – Market-leading distributors make it easier for customers to do business with them by offering dynamically configured and bundled packages of products and services that address specific use cases. They don’t leave it to the customer to manage the complex process of researching the distributor’s offerings.
  • Always stay in touch – Today’s distributors are looking to boost customer satisfaction by using real-time inventory information to provide accurate order commitment dates, while continuing to protect their own margins. Tighter integration of customer engagement platforms with mission-critical enterprise systems helps ensure that the distributor can deliver on its commitments and give customers greater confidence in their own planning and timelines.

Distributors don’t have the luxury of treating the customer experience as an afterthought — something that simply requires a flashy online storefront. Providing a consumer-grade experience that combines a compelling online engagement and seamless integration with back-office and enterprise systems is now a competitive necessity in a market climate where customers can switch between suppliers with almost no disruption to their planning and processes.

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