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5 Ways Millennials Are Changing the Wholesale Distribution Channel

If you haven't caught on already, B2B and wholesale distribution businesses are increasingly influenced by the Millennial generation.

More than 1 in 3 workers and over 46 percent of potential B2B buyers are millennials.

There's no arguing that Millennials are the future of the workforce and their influence on making purchasing decisions for businesses will only increase. It's important for distributors to devise strategies that cater to their preferences and behaviors.

Millennial BuyersImage source

The millennial generation is the first generation to grow up fully online -- they're "digital natives." They research online before making a purchasing decision and many prefer to use self-service sales channels -- a fact that makes having B2B eCommerce platform a non-negotiation component for wholesale distribution.

As a B2B wholesale distributor, you need to understand this shift in purchasing behavior, so you can make sure your distribution channels are set up to serve this market.

Here are 5 ways millennials are changing the wholesale distribution channel, and how you can adapt to stay competitive:

1. Online Research

The first thing millennials do when they need to find something online is to hop on Google. On average, B2B researchers do 12 searches prior to engaging with a specific brand’s website. 

That means if you don't meet your audience where they're at -- in search engine results -- you're missing out on the opportunity to get in front of them when they're most likely to consider your products or services.

73% of global traffic to B2B company sites originate from the search engines. To increase your visibility to B2B buyers at the beginning stage of their purchasing process, make sure your website is optimized for search engines by implementing search engine marketing strategies.

SEO for WholesaleImage source

2. Lead Nurturing

For many distributors, 57% of the B2B buying decision is made prior to customers engaging with a sales representative. How you communicate with prospects between the time they come across your website and the time they engage with your sales team or complete a transaction online is critical.

Since millennials are used to communicating digitally, you need to continue the conversation after they land on your website. Devise a lead capture mechanism and a lead nurturing sequence so you can leverage the power of the Inbound Methodology and content marketing to take your prospects from the Awareness stage to the Purchase stage and Retention stage.

lead nurturing for B2B eCommerceImage source

3. Online Transaction

According to Forrester’s 2015 Global Business Technographics Infrastructure Survey, millennials are more likely to purchase from eCommerce websites than older generations. Many prefer to use self-service sales channels to complete a transaction, rather than interacting with sales representatives.

This means you need a robust eCommerce platform to support quick and seamless product search, account management, checkout, order management, and re-ordering.

Moreover, to attract and retain millennial visitors, you need to pay attention to the user experience design (UX) of your eCommerce website and make sure it's conversion-optimized

Funnel eCommerce leadsImage source

millennials are used to websites that are fast, functional and intuitive to use. Moreover, they're likely to be consuming your content or placing orders on mobile devices so make sure your website is mobile-optimized.

4. B2C User Experience

80% of companies implementing B2B eCommerce strategies believe that their customer expectations have changed due to B2C practices.

B2B buyers from the millennial generation are used to banking online, booking travel on their smartphones, and shopping from their tablets. They expect the same seamless B2C user experience and functionalities when they're interacting with a wholesale distributor online.

Since most millennial B2B buyers prefer to purchase online, your online presence and eCommerce platform need to offer a user experience similar to B2C brands, e.g.:

  • Relevant and informative content to build trust and relationship, and assist customers in their decision-making process
  • Interactive tools to aid the research and decision-making process, such as a product selector or configurator 
  • Distinctive brand identity and brand story to stay top-of-mind. Brand image can also be enhanced by social proofs such as endorsement and references.

5. Omnichannel Customer Experience

Your millennial-generation customers expect to interact with brands across different channels -- e.g. social media, website, phone, app, store, email, support forum, etc. -- and have an equally on-brand and positive experience.

Omnichannel CommunicationsImage source

9 out of 10 consumers expect a consistent cross-channel experience, while 60% of customers change their customer service contact channel depending on where they are and what they’re doing.

As a wholesale distributor, you need to make sure that you're creating a consistent brand experience across all channels and customer touch points. 

Moreover, all account information should be synched up real-time across these channels -- especially at the point where customers are ready to make a purchase -- to ensure a seamless and personalized user experience, minimize frustration, and reduce errors.

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