Hardware and industrial distributors must feel as though they’re performing a balancing act in the course of doing business each day.
On one hand are the demands of manufacturers, whose brands they are representing and distributing. On the other are the complex needs of a diverse customer base of secondary distributors, retailers and end users, spanning multiple industries.
The service conduit from manufacturer to consumer
Considering the technical nature of hardware and industrial products, suppliers who want to compete in this market need to possess sophisticated B2B commerce capabilities. Here we’ll examine two critical areas:
- Content capability
- Process capability
Without competency in these key areas, industry leaders will quickly be overtaken. Either by the challengers who innovate first, or worse, the global behemoths like Grainger or Amazon, moving in with their massive buying power (but not necessarily great customer service).
In the end it's all about the flexibility of the platform and the people who can drive rich content with smooth process.
Why digital capability matters to Hardware & Industrial
Hardware and industrial products are by nature highly specialised, tailored to the customer segment, with high value inventory.
This presents a unique set of ecommerce challenges for suppliers in this space, for example:
- How can agribusiness customers self-serve when searching for a spare tractor part 2 days before harvest begins?
- How can mining customers quickly locate the dewatering pump they need amongst dozens of oil pumps? Only one will suit their application, and choosing incorrectly is an expensive mistake.
- What happens when a hydraulic valve fails in the field and needs attention under warranty?
Whether an industry leader or challenger, hardware and industrial suppliers must equip themselves with B2B commerce capability that their competitors don’t offer.
To serve a broad customer base in a specialised market, B2B commerce tools must go beyond a simple transactional portal.
Differentiation through content
So what do we mean by ‘content capability’, exactly?
We’re talking about a depth of product information not commonly seen on a supplier’s website, with some examples being:
- tailoring product ranges to customers, showing only relevant content to cut out the noise and reduce friction
- Rich data:
- offering product information such as specifications, diagrams, safety sheets, and spare part compatibility empowers your users and encourages self-service
- Knowledge capture:
- making the ecommerce platform an accessible repository of information, especially for the kind of technical knowledge which often lives only in peoples’ heads
- Effective search:
- combining rich product content with powerful search and filtering capability makes it easy for users to find what they need, quickly, in a sea of complex information
It takes more than a shopping cart to enable a service agent to find the right part at the right time so they can repair that machine.
Differentiation through process
In some markets, once the product is sold, the transaction is finished. But when it comes to hardware and industrial products, the supplier-customer relationship rarely ends there.
Dealing in such high-value, mission-critical goods means that when something goes wrong, the customer will quickly come looking for resolution.
Service repairs and warranty claims are areas of customer service that carry an extraordinary amount of admin burden. But the right B2B platform can smooth a tricky situation and allow wholesalers and distributors to offer their customers a painless claim process.
Consider the level of ownership traceability required where complex product servicing and returns are concerned. Suppliers need to ensure they’re not unwittingly accepting grey product / parallel imports back into stock. Some distributors will go to great pains to trace the product back to its point of origin, getting tangled in a maze of RMAs, credits, and proof of purchase.
A B2B ecommerce platform that can facilitate returns and warranty claims online eases a traditionally labour-intensive admin process, ultimately lowering the cost-to-serve.
Beyond simply investing in a website with shopping cart, industry leaders are digitising processes all along the supply chain to accelerate their businesses.
Industry leaders - and challengers - turn to us
By removing friction and streamlining B2B commerce and its adjacent processes, both supplier and customer benefit from productivity gains.
Investing in digital capability is what turns Hardware & Industrial supply challengers into industry leaders.
If you’re involved in Hardware or Industrial supply, or would like to know more about being ‘Powered by Commerce Vision’, let’s talk!