Digitally Transforming The Electrical Industry

At recent electrical industry meetings leaders reaffirmed the strategic value of digital transformations for long-term success. Why? Buyer trends show that electrical customers value online services and they also want to research and buy in different ways. Seller trends show that comprehensive websites enable buyers to self-serve, freeing up your salesforce to drive more business value. And technology trends show that procurement systems are getting smarter and increasingly automated.

Research on electrical buyers shows that “anytime self-service” (like invoice management, freight tracking, and skills training) can help buyers get jobs done on their own, which lets your salespeople focus on more complicated issues. When those simple online services are successful, trust is built, and then buyers and sellers can collaborate on more complex and high-value topics, like vendor-managed inventory and configure-price-quote capabilities.

For buyers, self-service is also great when coupled with predictive buying. For example, repeat orders can be pulled into customized order guides to save time with purchasing. But these guides also make it easier for your sales team to merchandise solutions that create add-on sales. And if those repeat orders are cyclical, they can also be integrated into online services like auto-replenishment so that product arrives consistently when and where it is needed. The benefit is ongoing, planned sales.

But in this era of supply chain calisthenics, isn’t an inside sales agent more effective at securing those hard-to-find items? Only sometimes. More often manufacturing and distribution rely on a “smart model” that uses deep and wide data sets to assign resources and optimize supply and demand.

It can be daunting to think about digital transformations. But the companies that ask themselves these four questions are aware of the buyer, seller, and technology trends, and are already on the journey:

  1. As buying patterns change, what is the cost to my business if I don’t further the digital journey?
  2. How do my customers use my website today and how would they like to use it in the future?
  3. How can I optimize value for both my buyers AND my sellers (including customer service?)
  4. Can we create competitive advantage with digital to both increase sales and decrease costs?

Let’s review a few examples of contractors and industrial buying* to make a case for digital transformation. In each scenario we show how electrical buyers and sellers are leveraging digital transformations today.

  • Contractor A buys from online retailers like Home Depot and Amazon as well as MRO distributors like Fastenal and McMaster-Carr, and buys occasionally or buys heavily in specific categories
  • Contractor B buys online and through salespeople checking selection, pricing and availability of a specific category and is rewarded for same-day delivery if they meet a specific online basket size
  • Industrial Buyer A buys from Grainger.com and Automation Direct and uses these sites to check prices, download spec sheets, and perform product research
  • Industrial Buyer B uses one-stop services with a trusted online partner (you?) places one order to many locations, checks delivery details, and pays for the management of real-time inventory

Digital transformations can feel like a leap, but if planned wisely can create sustained value. And with the trends all heading toward digital integration, there’s no better time to make, and accelerate, your plan.

* Kathleen has worked in and written about B2B ecommerce for over a decade, helping distributors like Amazon Business and EIS, as well as manufacturing brands like PURELL® Hand Sanitizer and Moen®, through digital transformations and innovation growth opportunities. Research provided by The Channel Marketing Group, 2018. 

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