nate addition of branch locations to meet this challenge could
create unsustainable cost structures.
Technical Support: There is no doubt that technical support helps,
both in on-site consultation to tough problems or over the phone.
Searching for the best solution will always be an important part of
the services offered by distributors. Integrating technical support
into the e-commerce experience is the challenge. The self service
model of the future driven by a connected youth culture must
address this issue by investing in keyword search capabilities and
extensive SKU-level data. Again, there will always be a need to talk
to (or chat with) an expert. AmazonSupply is addressing both, by
leveraging its extensive experience in search, and the user-friendly
presentation of product details that focuses on the characteristics
that matter most, as well as building a call center for live support.
Increasingly, MRO buyers are saying: “Bring me solutions that
address my needs on price, availability, and service. Customize those
solutions to make doing business easier by integrating with the way
I want to do business, and you will be rewarded with a higher share
of my spending.” More importantly, the ability to execute the perfect order will be the price of admission — failing in execution will
result in not being given an opportunity to participate.
The Future: MOE (Multichannel Operations
As industrial distribution continues to evolve, it is clear that neither the AmazonSupply 2012 model nor the MRO branch model
will be where industrial distribution is headed in the future.
Instead, a major transformation will propel industrial distributors to a whole new place – one that allows immediate responses
to customer expectations and rapid adoption of new innovations
in the marketplace. Some have taken hold of the word “
omnichannel” to represent the correct path, but since omnichannel
is a relatively new word, move forward with caution. The thinking behind omnichannel is that distributors need to interact
with customers in an integrated, consistent way (think channel
continuity, or sometimes termed “enterprise selling”) via many
channels (websites, branches, catalogs, integrated supply, social
media, mobile devices, peer to peer integration, etc.) that provide
customers with endless value and satisfaction.
But to move beyond the crossroads, industrial distributors need
to provide excellence within several channels as well as the omnichannel. Engaging and serving customers under their own terms
(how, when, and where) compels distributors to achieve MOE.
MOE demands that every aspect of industrial distribution be
interactive, educational, engaging, and personalized. Distributors
who employ MOE will set the pace for the next decade as well as
define distributor excellence for the next 50 years. But approaching MOE requires a major transformation.
This is not saying that pure online or pure branch will fail. To
the contrary, these models can be made to work if distributors are
involved in multichannel in all cases. A pure online distribution
should use multiple online channels such as Google, and Yahoo,
and a branch should use Facebook, Groupon, and similar outlets.
In this age of connectivity, mobility, and social networking,
distributors will need to focus on adapting to how their customers
make decisions and purchases. Multichannel access may involve
branch events by reaching out to customers in new ways; or
integrating online and physical operations to leverage the access
with customers (online order with branch pick-up, or returns, and
branch selection with delivery); or partnering with competitors to
broaden the selection and availability; or integrating online and/or
branch events with social media such as Twitter and Facebook.
Regardless, achieving MOE requires the adoption of new processes and technologies so that effective selling techniques will
continually delight customers.
Once company leaders begin to understand MOE, how do they
begin moving beyond the crossroads? Read the full report from
Tompkins at www.tompkinsinc.com/id-crossroads.