The B2B online retail market is expected to double the size of the B2C online market by 2020. Caught in a digital tsunami with the Fourth Industrial Revolution? Here are five ways industrial manufacturers and distributors can ride the wave, according to Frank Sportolari, Managing Director of UPS Germany.
The landscape of industrial manufacturing retail is changing. New market forces are at play, nudging buyers to move away from traditional, channel-centered sales and venture into a world where multiple complementary sales channels operate in tandem – the omni-channel arena.
So what’s going on?
The rise of online sales has fostered an ever more exacting customer base.
Today’s digitally savvy customers have constant access to price and availability information and can easily compare and contrast offers across sellers and among their peers.
In a world of constant connectivity, ignoring evolving customer expectations spells disaster.
Industrial manufacturers and distributors are no exception. Commercial buyers want the same agility available to online retail consumers.
In fact, Frost & Sullivan expects the B2B online retail market to double the size of the B2C online market, generating revenues of $6.7 trillion by 2020.
Here are five recommendations on how industrial manufacturers and distributors should respond in the face of this digital tsunami:
1. Perfect your website
According to the UPS Industrial Buying Dynamics study, 75 percent of respondents indicated they would switch to a supplier with a more user-friendly website.
Both manufacturers selling through their own online platforms and distributors trying to fend off the threat of “direct from manufacturer” purchasing must adopt an e-commerce strategy. Their websites should be center stage to facilitate the transaction of goods and services from anywhere in the world.
2. Remember after-sales support
Online buying has also exposed limitations in after-sales services. Both manufacturers and distributors have traditionally relegated after-sales customer care to a secondary role.
Yet neither can afford to ignore its potential. According to the UPS survey, 78 percent of buyers in Europe expect after-sales onsite support, and this is a much neglected opportunity for both manufacturers and distributors to differentiate themselves from competitors and make a name for themselves as omni-channel pioneers.
3. Don’t lose sight of quality
There’s no denying that in an online world prices are transparent and competition is rife.
This is not distracting buyers from product quality, however. On the contrary, while price, service, delivery speed and post-sales support are important, product quality drives the buying decision.
4. Go omni-channel
Online growth has proven that traditional selling conduits are not enough. Single or even multiple customer touch points are not enough.
Customers must have the same brand experience across all platforms and across all stages of the buying process: from store, phone, distributor or website to sourcing, purchasing, returning or after-sales.
Manufacturers and distributors who resist this trend, and continue to think of themselves as discrete business units, are likely to flounder.
5. Branch out
Expanding across selling channels is one thing, expanding geographically is another. Increasingly more industrial customers are sourcing internationally.
This creates a wide range of revenue opportunities for those that have an international presence (online or otherwise) and can provide the right logistics solutions.
(Top photo: Courtesy Getty Images.)
This piece first appeared in UPS' Longitudes blog.
Frank Sportolari is Managing Director of UPS Germany.
All views expressed are those of the author.