We have already seen countless trend reports and top five lists for 2017 for wholesale, distribution and supply chain. These predictions all seem to have one thing in common: namely the observation that change is the only constant. Digital is the new normal, and you must embrace these changes as quickly as possible as an entrepreneur: eat or be eaten.
But, how can you stay ahead of your competitors as a modern wholesale distributor?
The fact that the future lies in a good quality web shop is not news for the sector. However, actually setting up an online sales channel lags behind. The transformation of a traditional goods-driven supply chain to a modern (digital) information-driven supply network means it is more important than ever to work on your digital relevance.
What do we mean by this? When trade and sales move to the digital sector, the (business) customer is in the driving seat. They will keep buying online and they do that with providers whose digital appearance really stands out. This does not only mean that they have a good web shop, but also that the customer gets the feeling that they are understood and that they are communicated with in a consistent way, regardless of the channels they use. Trade agreements, sales history, online and offline contact moments and pricing; all channels must be aligned and have the same personalised customer-focused feel. The (digital) expectations of your customers grow every day. Boosting your digital relevance means that you must go beyond offering a superior omni-channel experience to that of your competitors; it places the greatest demands on your connectivity (EDI, web services), the digital knowledge that you have of your customer (CRM) and ‘shop floor automation’ (POS).
Entering new markets
The opportunities that digitisation creates have not been fully seized by the entire sector. B2B Commerce could play a central role in this, where it is essential to automate processes as much as possible. From manufacturing to marketing, sales and service. For many businesses the digital transformation is the solution for their daily challenges. A report from Rabobank, which included the 2017 predictions for the sector, indicated lagging growth. The way to address this is to develop new business models or enter new markets.
In today´s digital world the customer is acquiring an increasingly decisive role. They are no longer the last link in the chain. With the world at their feet, the (business) customer determines where they will make their purchases. It is generally known that B2C leads the B2B world. B2C customers are now accustomed to the delivery of their order the following day, or even on the same day. Delivery within more accurate time limits and (as drop shipment) at specific locations will also become more common in B2B. The customer-driven supply chain will result in a multitude of (micro) logistics services. This will determine the expectation pattern of the business customer.
While we are not really discussing trends – digital disruption can hardly be called a trend – we do see many developments on a smaller scale, which all start with the manufacturer. New technologies make personalised (or: customised) piecemeal products possible. 3D printing and the digital factory make manufacturing smaller order sizes cheaper. In addition, with the development of micro logistics and a growing customer demand, ‘direct-to-consumption’ processes and drop shipments are increasing in importance for the sector. It is not a threat – it is an opportunity that you can respond to and benefit from. This on the condition that you have already automated your business processes with a robust ERP and CRM system.
If we have to make a prediction for 2017, there is only one single important tip: take the plunge and get onto the fast-moving digital train. The digitisation of the world around us is not a trend, it is here to stay and will only get faster. It is the new norm. The companies that follow these changes – or are even ahead of them – and embrace the changes and opportunities it offers, will convert the new possibilities into growth and success.