The days when distributors could rely on just one medium to reach customers are gone. Today, more and more transactions are happening online. Which is why a multichannel approach mixing sales force expansion, e-commerce, service centers and inventory branches to reach customers is essential.
Grainger, an $8.1 billion distributor, tells Modern Distribution Management that this approach has resulted in a “more powerful and stickier customer relationship.” According to Court Carruthers, Grainger’s US president, E-commerce is the “glue that holds the multichannel mode together.”
A significant amount of Grainger’s transactions come into the company via e-commerce. Grainger is ahead of the pack in devising a mobile app that’s not just a source of information, but also enables the company to service customers from their smartphone. 25% of transactions on Grainger’s new mobile app are reservations for will call at the distributor’s local branches, compared with just 2% of transactions through the company’s website.
This is a company that everyone in distribution needs to watch – Grainger’s creative use of mobile apps is an indication of things to come for lots of distributors in the near future. While such apps aren’t likely to reduce costs, distributors should see return-on-investment through increased sales.
Results of a recent Real Results Marketing survey indicate that most distributors do have solid capabilities with outside sales and inbound telephone sales. But when it comes to in-store marketing, outbound telephone sales and e-commerce, capabilities vary widely. Jonathan Bein of Real Results Marketing suggests that “distributors of all sizes need to create and continually refine their multichannel capabilities.”
Start taking steps toward a multichannel approach with a distribution strategy assessment.