Five things equipment owners want from distributors and dealers

Keyboard with shopping cart on it

Industrial purchasing has changed a lot in recent years. With more than 40 percent of buyers wanting to buy directly from distributors, there has been a massive rise in digital purchasing. But just providing a simple online buying option isn’t enough for many buyers anymore.

As digital expectations rise, distributors and dealers need to provide a comprehensive online experience that can rival what equipment owners and operators are experiencing in their personal lives.

So, what does that online experience look like?

It includes things like how-to videos, self-service options, smart technology, and more. Being able to meet these new digital expectations is what will keep customers coming back and separate companies from their competitors. That’s why we’re going to explain five critical things equipment owners and operators are looking for so that distributors and dealers can stand out and achieve long-term success.

Product Information

This may sound simple, but it’s true — the more someone knows about a product the more likely they are to make a purchase. Providing in-depth product information gives buyers confidence that they’re getting exactly what they need and makes them more likely to make a purchase.

Unfortunately, many distributors and dealers haven’t established product information as a priority. They understandably have a lot of products they sell, and as a result, they are not prioritizing the time to provide detailed information for all of them. This is hurting their bottom line though. In fact, 87 percent of customers said the lack of product content lowered their confidence in the brand.

[RELATED: The time is now for suppliers to invest in product information distribution]

So for distributors or dealers who don't want to miss out on all this potential revenue, they should start by following the 80/20 rule. That means, creating in-depth product information for the 20 percent of products that make up 80 percent of their sales.

Most of these items will have good stock plans and are available in the warehouse for staging product images, and they typically have up-to-date costs and appropriate price levels.  Product images, price, and availability are key requirements before most buyers make an online purchase.  Applying the 80/20 rule is a great way to grow online sales and then iteratively expand product information for the next set of products over time. 

How to videos

It’s great that a customer can buy parts from the distributor or dealer online, but do they know the best way to use, disassemble the old or assemble what was just purchased? Often they’ll head to YouTube or other websites to find videos on how to install the parts they’ve received. These videos don’t always follow the factory-recommended guidelines and can lead to confusion.

Distributors and dealers should instead make themselves the resources for these videos. The goal is to be a one-stop shop for anything involving the equipment and these videos are a part of that. Doing so lessens any safety concerns or challenges because they can follow the factory-recommended guidelines directly from the source.

These videos also provide the opportunity for market growth. Say someone who wasn’t initially a customer needs to install a part that a distributor or dealer sells for their brand of equipment. When they search for a video on how to do it, they’ll find the distributor’s videos and see them as a great resource. If that distributor or dealer can provide a great online experience there’s a good chance that the next time that equipment owner or operator needs a new piece of equipment, they will be considering that distributor's brand and the dealers associated with it.

[RELATED: Five ways product configurators can transform sales for distributors]

The ability to self-service

The world of distribution moves quickly. If equipment is down that means revenue is lost until it’s back up and running. So when buyers need a part, they want the easiest and quickest way to get it. And an increasingly large number are looking for digital self-service to find that part quickly. Instead of having to call to have someone assist them, they can visit the distributor or dealer website and instantly find the part they need for their specific equipment or machinery and get it ordered.

While this is largely what buyers want, it’s not what’s often provided. According to a McKinsey study, ”60 percent of B2B customers find remote sales at least as effective as traditional sales ... and 62 percent  prefer to reorder online. But only 13 percent of industrial OEMs say they are able to offer digital solutions with their current capabilities, and only 10 percent offer online, automatic self-service tools for placing reorders.”

So it’s clear the demand is there, and whoever can capitalize on it the quickest will see large increases in both recurring revenues and overall sales.

Service when they need it

Like we talked about earlier, time is money, and equipment downtime means there’s money being lost. That’s why getting issues fixed quickly is critical, and service on that equipment needs to be as efficient as possible. Providing an online way to schedule technicians or services in a shop makes that process easier. Providing instant access to technicians availability or a scheduling tool online can be much easier and more convenient than multiple phone calls and emails.

Customers are increasingly preferring digital experiences, they want the ability to schedule service online too. Having that option is another step towards being a company that can exceed digital expectations.

Smart technology

Imagine if instead of waiting for equipment to go down in an emergency, that equipment never goes down in the first place?

Smart technology can make that a reality by providing comprehensive diagnostic reports and letting equipment owners know when a part needs to be replaced. Many manufactured equipment today comes with remote monitoring devices that can warn equipment owners and operators of maintenance required before a problem occurs.

If the equipment is connected to an e-commerce site, it can send an email or notification with what parts are needed and potentially have them in the shopping cart. The time savings this can provide is immense.

This would provide a high level of personalization to equipment owners, which is an increasing expectation from many customers today. Most distributors and dealers aren’t that advanced on their digital journey yet, but eventually this will be a reality. So thinking about this now and creating the infrastructure to implement it will pay massive dividends down the line. 

Achieving digital success

A common theme through all of this is what customers want digitally has changed. The sooner distributors and dealers can adapt the better off they will be.

This digital transformation won’t happen overnight though, and taking a few steps now is better than standing still. The digital journey is a continuous process, but equipment owners and operators have made it clear what they want — it’s time for distributors and dealers to give it to them.

Kris Harrington is the president and COO of GenAlpha Technologies.  During her time with OEMs in the mining industry, Kris and the other founders of GenAlpha saw a need to find a better way for B2B brands in manufacturing to do business.  This led to the development of an eCommerce solution for manufacturers and distributors who want to grow their business online.  For more than 10 years, the experienced team at GenAlpha Technologies has been helping equipment manufacturers repurpose their bills of materials, 2D and 3D engineering data to make it easier for customers to safely identify and purchase parts.

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