Wholesale distributors are facing a steady wave of digital disruption that is at once unsettling and exciting. Customers are well-versed in the latest tools employed in the B2C world, and their expectations carry over to their B2B interactions. Without adapting to current customer expectations, distributors risk turning them away. By acting strategically to develop and employ the right tools, distributors can improve the customer experience AND improve profitability at the same time.
On the customer side, touchpoints along the customer journey have changed dramatically in the past decade, and they continue to evolve. Customers have grown accustomed to faster, easier, reliable, self-serve, electronic options over traditional phone calls and in-person meetings. Successful distributors should first optimize internal processes (Best Practices) then deploy the tools needed to deliver a Customer Experience aligned with expectations - now and in the future.
Qubidex is focused on driving continuous improvement related to the B2B customer journey in a digital context (e.g., e-commerce, AI, etc.). We drive this improvement by developing and deploying digital tools to increase customer satisfaction and to reduce operating costs for the distributor. We call this Realizing the Adjacent Possible. Simply stated, we identify and act on innovations that are realistic in the short-term and put them into action to move toward a long term vision.
Your business is unique. You may be at the leading edge of your industry and ready to embrace the latest developments, or you may be conservative with respect to making changes. Qubidex is unique, too. Our company thrives on the leading edge when business factors support taking the "next step" to forge ahead in your own world. Qubidex is focused on developing enhanced e-commerce tools such as Application Based Buying & Selling (ABBS) to enable self-service in ways not offered by others.
The wholesale distribution industry is clearly facing a period of intense digital disruption. While many of the concepts related to the "digital age" have been decades in the making, it is widely acknowledged that the wholesale distribution industry has been slower than others to adapt during this period. Large distributors have invested heavily in digitization, and they are winning. Smaller distributors must have a relevant strategy for digital transformation to control their own destiny.
B2B commerce is facing new challenges and new opportunities associated with increasingly intense digital disruption. It is difficult, if not impossible, to overlook or overstate. The wholesale distribution industry has historically been slower than others to adapt. This is risky.
Based on the speed with which this is happening, it is more important now than ever before for wholesale distributors to understand the changes that are happening and to act in a manner that leverages the possibilities of innovation and mitigates the risk of decline.
How individual businesses act is likely to lead to a broadening gap between "leaders" and "laggards". Leaders will likely forge ahead whereas laggards may very well risk failure and/or obsolescence.
As reported by Distribution Strategy Group (Dean Mueller and Jonathan Bein - January 26, 2021 in the ninth annual State of eCommerce in Distribution survey conducted from October-December 2020), the percentage of distribution companies offering eCommerce was as follows: "About 25% of companies under $50 million now offer eCommerce while 47% of companies larger than $1 billion do." Adoption accelerated dramatically, yet nearly 75% of these companies have yet to offer eCommerce!
Where will your company be? Does your company have a transformative plan?
At a macro level, Business-to-business (B2B) relationships moved from a heavy Transactional focus in the 80's, to a Relationship focus in the 90's, to a Loyalty focus in the early 2000's. More recently, the focus has been squarely on Customer Experience (CEX). Loyalty is often only as good as the last buying experience. To make things even more interesting, CEX is now influenced by e-commerce and easy/accurate self-service as much, if not more, than being driven by distributor sales and customer service agents. CEX is driven by company touch points in situations that may literally include no personal interaction. So, how important does that make technology now? Does your company offer e-commerce? Does the offering generate positive CEX? Are you investing in ongoing enhancements to the technology? Is your e-commerce platform fully integrated with overall company operations/systems?
The Age of Digital Disruption is impacting the wholesale distribution industry in major ways already, and the transformation will continue to accelerate in the years ahead.
Most people who shop online are familiar with Virtual Agents and/or ChatBots. Most of these are scripted to handle, or direct, simple transactions, similar to auto-attendants and phone prompts - if x, then y. For anything beyond the routine, users are typically quick to seek the help of a live agent or to abandon the online shopping and pick up a phone.
Qubidex is defining a new frontier. Namely, filling the space between scripted Agent/ChatBot dialogue and Live Agent support. The result is a highly-personalized online search experience for the User emulating the assistance of a veteran sales and/or customer service person. The benefits to the company offering this online option are unlimited: advantages over hiring/training, 24/7 support, multiple languages, etc.
The sophistication behind the scenes translates to a simple, professional, and warm interface for guided search and application-based buying & selling.
From Mark Cuban, "Artificial Intelligence is already beginning to take over the business world. Soon, it'll become as essential to businesses as personal laptops and smartphones."
This is where it all starts. As stated on the previous page, Customer Experience (CEX) counts for more today than ever before. Relationships and loyalty are as strong as the last transaction/experience. There are simply too many choices for customers if your company doesn't perform at a high level. Customers want easy shopping, easy ordering, self-service, and a high level of communication. Customers also expect seamless transition from one service channel to another (e.g. e-commerce, live chat, email, phone, etc.) When customers realize that YOUR company excels in providing positive CEX, that is when they will return for more. Now start thinking about Customer Lifetime Value (CLV).
For distributors, the benefits are summed up in a word......profit. Most distributors share the experience that the most profitable business they have is from repeat customers. The cost of acquiring new customers is high. And the opportunity cost of losing a profitable customer is also high. In short, distributors can generally categorize customers into one of four strategy buckets - Retention, Growth, Maintenance, and Inconsequential. Those in the Retention category are the bread and butter. They should be held in very high regard and given no reason to leave the relationship. The customers/prospects in the growth category represent high potential and low penetration. They should be the recipients of a distributors attention to earn their business - with CEX at the forefront of the discussion.
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