The industrial market’s rapid transformation, which I wrote about last year, continues unabated. The sector is drawing increased attention as the old-fashioned supply chain is reinvigorated and reinvented as e-commerce continues to alter the business landscape.
Here’s what we’re talking about right now:
- Millennials: You’ve heard it before, but it bears repeating. Millions of Boomers will retire this year, leaving B2B purchasing decisions in the hands of more tech-savvy Gen Xers and millennials, a group used to transacting online and not averse to buying from a marketplace. Therefore, sites optimized for mobile will be at the top of shopper’s wish lists in the coming year. Look for more online commerce presence from distributors of all shapes and sizes.
- Social media: The crowd that shops online hasn’t reduced its passion for researching online. As a result, social media remains an increasingly important channel for attracting and retaining customers. Expect more distributors to keep social media channels up-to-date with the latest products and offerings this year, a huge change from the old days when mailing a thick paper catalog was enough to attract business.
- Convenience: Meanwhile, you’ll be hearing about smart bins even more this year. Smart bins and vending machines continue to help maintain minimum inventory levels and ensure that orders are quickly and accurately processed and fulfilled. This helps customers reduce waste and more accurately forecast their product needs based on real-time demand. New technologies like this are revolutionizing how product is delivered.
- Innovation: Watch the mergers and acquisitions space.Traditionally, acquisitions have been made to either expand geographic coverage or product offerings. In 2018, more acquisitions will be made to gain skills and expertise. Keep an eye out for organizations that are using M&A to acquire new talent and know-how.
- Options: The number of options will continue to rise, given industrial buyers are like any other consumer that wants to be able to buy where they want and when they want it. Distributors need to consider non-traditional competitors such as marketplaces even manufacturers as buyers purchase directly from manufacturers, or DFM. Industrial marketplaces will continue – and increasingly – giving web- and social-savvy customers the power to compare prices and easily determine what product fits their needs.
To remain relevant, distributors must deliver a new level of customer experience not only to defend themselves from new threats, but also to win market share. They need to provide a digital customer experience that cuts across mobile and social lines, and they need to keep learning and adapting to customer needs through technology, talent, and innovation.