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By now, we’ve settled in to our new normal. At Insite, we’ve published a lot of content about how our customers are responding to the impacts of COVID-19. You can learn how Schilling Supply pivoted at the onset of the virus in this interview. Or check out how companies like Test Equity, Behler-Young and Consolidated Supply are open for business here.  Finally, you can access Insite’s business survival guide here.

We’ve seen how agile manufacturers and distributors are succeeding during this unique time. Changes are happening before our eyes. But what happens after? How can manufacturers and distributors prepare for what’s to come?

Recently, Episerver published 5 post-covid predictions for the manufacturing and distribution industries. Here’s what’s in store:

Order fulfillment will shift.

COVID-19 has forced many B2B companies to come up with new and creative solutions to get customers their orders.

Some companies like Distributor Corporation of New England have introduced pickup lockers, allowing customers to easily pick up merchandise outside the warehouse in secure lockers. Others have offered curbside pickup with consistent text and email delivery tracking.

Giving customers more efficient ways to pick up orders shapes their expectations for the future. Now that customers know a world with less wait time and visible delivery tracking, their preferences and expectations will remain and steadily increase. That means manufacturers and distributors must offer clear visibility into things like order status and inventory availability to stay ahead of the competition.

Buyers will rely on digital even more.

As shelter-in-place and stay-at-home orders have been mandated, consumers and B2B buyers alike have flocked online to make purchases, expecting Amazon-like experiences. Though ecommerce sales have not increased in every industry, reliance on digital buying mechanisms is here to stay.

Technology investments will be re-forecasted.

Of course, as buying preferences shift, manufacturers and distributors will need to innovate to meet new expectations. Many B2B companies are finding out the hard way that they are not fully equipped to serve customers in a digital-first world.

For many, it’s tempting to pause investments in technology during this uncertain time. But reconsidering investments now could save business in the long run. According to Episerver’s second-annual B2B Digital Experience Report – a survey of 600 global B2B decision makers – companies agree that investments in technologies like personalization and ecommerce need to be prioritized in 2020.

In addition, most manufacturers and distributors predict that ecommerce will be a significant revenue driver by 2025. In fact, 93% of manufacturers and 95% of distributors surveyed said they expect that more than 20% of their revenue will be derived from the B2B ecommerce websites they own and operate by then.

In manufacturing and distribution, ecommerce is no longer a matter of “when” it’s a matter of “how”. COVID-19 is accelerating digital transformation efforts across the board.

Salespeople will evolve into data scientists.

As many salespeople are conducting business from their homes, they are forced to find new ways to create customer touch points. In order to make product recommendations for example, salespeople need access to analytics that help them better understand customer behavior and needs.

Episerver’s March 2020 survey of B2B leaders indicates 35% of manufacturers and an equal percentage of distributors say ”providing our salesforce with digital selling tools” is one of the most significant opportunities for their business in the next year. The salespeople who can add value through data-backed consultative services will keep relationships healthy and close more sales through tactics like upselling and cross-selling. They need the digital tools and training to be successful though.

Customer prioritization will continue to be the name of the game.

Customer prioritization is a long-standing reality in the manufacturing and distribution industries. Manufacturers and distributors have always found a way to say ”yes” to their customers. During the outbreak, manufacturers and distributors have found ways to accommodate changing demands and have placed priority on certain products and customers. Personalization can help in prioritizing how to cater to these customers, from products to content.

A lot is changing in the manufacturing and distribution industries. As the Coronavirus outbreak continues to shock the greater economy, manufacturers and distributors need to be agile and pivot at a moment’s notice.