As I traveled into Las Vegas for our annual user’s conference, Sage Intacct Advantage 2019, it gave me reason to pause, to reflect on what our customers have accomplished in the past year and what lies ahead for all of us in wholesale distribution. I’m excited to see familiar faces from last year and the opportunity to welcome customers who are joining the conference for the first time. I have the privilege this year of delivering the Wholesale Distribution keynote during which I will be highlighting three of our distribution customers and recognizing one of them with the Sage Intacct Wholesale Distribution Leadership and Innovation Award!
There are several trends that we started to see a few years ago that have really taken center stage this past year. One of these is a result of pervasiveness of online ecommerce. As the purchasing of goods and services continues to be driven to the online world – what drives online buying – what drives those buyers to select your offerings over someone else? These drivers are similar in both the business-to-consumer (B2C) and business-to-business (B2B) purchasing processes so I’m going to focus on the drivers rather than the type of transaction.
What drives online buying? Based on customer feedback and recent survey data published, there are some common themes that have emerged. Product availability, range of products offered and product pricing bubble to the top in the “Goods” part of “Goods and Services” equation. On the “Services” side, ease of ordering, availability of information, speed of delivery, tracking of delivery.
The Goods: Product availability doesn’t mean you have to have it on your shelf. You simply need to be able to fulfill the request from within your network. Having the network of supply surfaced as “available” is paramount. Along those same lines, understand your customer base, what they buy with what, ensure you represent these items extending your range of products available. Finally: pricing. You don’t necessarily need to be the cheapest initially, however, systems need to support pricing that considers the customer, volume (spot and over time), product line activities, current market conditions and the intersection of all of these, in real-time, online.
The Services: Everything from how easy it is to order from your site to the information you make available to your customers plays into the level of perceived value-add of your services. Is it easy to navigate, can I track my order remotely, what are my shipping options, can I get notifications if something changes? Technical specifications, how to video’s, supporting documentation form an opinion of value by your buyers. The reality is; buyers today don’t interact with you directly unless they can’t get what they need online. If they must do this too many times, chances are, they will look elsewhere.
I believe the true value proposition is the combining of all of these and they are all in your control. Think about the last time you purchased something online – something a little more technical or a bit expensive. What swayed your decision to go ahead and click? For me, it was: being priced right, (not the cheapest), easy to order, reasonable shipping options offered, and that I would being notified of each progressive step in the order through fulfillment process. Take that experience and ask yourself if your customers are experiencing that from you.
I’ve now arrived at our conference, ready to engage, listen, learn and have a little fun with our customers and partners in support of our mutual pursuit of everything Distribution! Oh, yes, on that award I mentioned. Sorry, but I can’t disclose the winner until awarded later in the week. 🙂