Today's business environment and customer expectations are fast evolving. B2B buyers are demanding more than the lowest price or the largest product selection from their wholesalers.
You have to take the customer interaction beyond monetary transactions and add value to the relationship if you want to attract and retain customers.
Here are 6 trends in B2B wholesale you can't ignore:
1. Sharpen Up Your Value Proposition
Known competitors or new entrants in the industry could disrupt the market, e.g. by expanding geographically or adding new product categories.
Don't take your customers' relationships and loyalty for granted. They can quickly switch wholesaler if they find a vendor that can provide better value.
Can you articulate why you're better than your competitors when it comes to servicing your target market?
Be vigilant about industry disruptors and consistently work on distinguishing your business by refining your value proposition.
2. Deliver Customer-Centric Experiences
Customer experience is becoming the most important brand differentiator. By 2020, 86% of customers will pay more for a better experience.
Review your entire purchasing path and identify steps you can improve to augment the customer experience -- e.g. are you accepting multiple forms of payment set up in a way that's most convenient for your customers? Are you offering account management features that streamline the ordering and delivery process? Do you integrate with customers' backend systems to help reduce paperwork and error?
Make the ordering and fulfillment process more cost-efficient for your customers. B2B buyers have different priorities from consumers -- understand your customers' unique needs and design a system that works for them.
3. Cater To Millennial Buyers
More and more B2B buyers are from the millennial generation, and they have a different set of expectations.
For example, they prefer to research online, use "self-service" sales channels, and demand an omnichannel customer experience.
To cater to the needs of buyers from this generation, you need a robust eCommerce platform that offers functionalities such as detailed product views, product attribute configuration, customized recommendations, and customer support such as live chat, knowledge base, and FAQ.
Don't forget the mobile experience of your eCommerce website. It's an important touch point as more and more B2B buyers are using their mobile devices to conduct business online and are demanding seamless interactions across all channels.
4. Keep Up With Government Regulations
Wholesalers and retailers alike are facing increasingly complicated regulations and compliance issues, adding layers of work to the administrative process.
These regulations are adding costs and complexity to your customers' businesses. It also represents an opportunity for you to stand out by helping them navigate the regulatory environment so they can streamline their processes and reduce costs while staying compliant.
You can offer new services to your customers or provide templates or training that will help them adapt to the marketplace.
Customers are willing to pay a slightly higher price if they can eliminate the inconvenience of doing all the legwork themselves.
5. Embrace the Changing Role of Sales Reps
As eCommerce platforms and automation technologies reduce repetitive administrative tasks, sales reps are freed up to take on a more consultative role.
Customers now expect sales reps to offer expert advice on how to improve business outcomes by using your products. Some customers still prefer to interact with sales reps while others may need help configuring a complex order.
Not to mention, sales reps have the ability and experience to navigate the complexity of B2B decision-making -- e.g., help resolve conflicts among stakeholders so they can get the most out of doing business with you.
Look at your customer journey to identify touch points at which sales reps can step in to offer advice, provide a quote, and ultimately close the deal.
Your wholesale commerce platform should support both online and offline transactions and show sales reps all the activities associated with a customer's account so they can have a holistic picture of the customer relationship and provide the best services while reducing errors.
6. Double Down On Customer Support
The advancement in eCommerce means B2B buyers can now purchase from wholesalers all over the world. If they're not getting the support and attention they expect -- whether it's pre-sale or post-sale -- they can quickly switch vendor without having second thoughts.
To up your customer support game, you need an omnichannel customer support strategy. Implement a centralized database on which all your customer data and profiles can be synched in real time for seamless interactions.
Meet your customers where they're at. Just having an email and phone number on your website's contact page is no longer enough. You have to offer support through your customers' preferred channels, such as live chat, knowledge base, social media, email, and phone.
Provide comprehensive training so your customer support representatives not only deliver answers and solutions but also maintain a consistent voice that's reflective of your brand throughout the interaction.
Where do you think B2B wholesale is heading? Leave a comment and share your insights: