Declining revenues force change

The world is rapidly changing and we must adapt to change in order to compete. One example of this is how the Distributor Strategy Group reported on February 23, 2021, that due to channel shift, distributor revenues in the US will decline from 66% to 52% over the next five years. Taking the bite out of the distributor pie are direct manufacturers whose revenues will increase from 12% to 19% and online shopping platforms, where revenues will rise from 22% to 29%. These statistics signal the need for distributors to adapt to change, and shift their business model in a new marketplace marketplace.

Staying relevant

The COVID-19 pandemic supercharged the technology disrupters that were already in play along the supply chain. It brought us rapid change in technology deployment, workforce considerations, customer service, and selling methodology. All of these factors impact the future of distribution.

Four important areas

The traditional distribution model needs to adapt to these changes. To be relevant in five years, you must pay attention to these four areas.

  • Customer purchasing – While the distributor still needs a “show and tell,” store location to differentiate itself from other channels, it must up its game in other categories. For example, today’s distributor needs to provide “just in time” products and services in order to compete with online next-day delivery offerings. As customer purchases are increasingly managed through computerized inventory systems, distributors need to reframe the way those accounts are managed on their end.
  • Manufacturer’s expectation – Today’s producer has three routes to the customer ­— through direct-to-customer sales, via online suppliers, or with a distributor. To remain relevant to the manufacturer, the distributor must provide good customer product/service training in-house. LEAN cost reduction methods must also be deployed, and same-day repair assistance offered.
  • Distributor sales effort – The pandemic has changed the way we approach sales. Distributor reps have face-to-face calls with customers that can be “virtual” (on screen) or “in-person” (on site). The former puts distance between reps and their clients. To offset that disconnect and adapt to change, it is important for reps to gain customer trust and to be seen as well-informed partners to decision makers. Rapid response to inquiries with the right information is crucial to success. This requires good organizational and communication skills.
  • Distributor collaboration – As end-user markets continue to expand with the internet, distributors need larger platforms from which they can offer products and services. Collaboration and the formation of distributor network cooperatives is a good way to pool resources. In this way, independent distributors can offer comprehensive fast and local assistance to customers that may be outside their geographic reach or offerings base.

Poised to offset loss

With the continued threat of erosion in Distributor revenues, the application of the above principles will ensure that your business model is poised to offset losses. Make sure you are adapting your distribution model to today’s changing marketplace.

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