Delivering for Best-in-Class Wholesaler-Distributors
July 28, 2016  |  ByMark Dancer, NAW Institute for Distribution Excellence Fellow
NAW-7 Strategic Findings Regarding the Adoption and Use of Digital Tools

We have identified seven strategic findings for wholesaler-distributors, especially for the leaders who will set visions, define goals, and drive execution:

1. Digital tools hold promise and peril for distributors. As intermediaries between customers and suppliers, distributors hold the knowledge, information, and data that drive the value chain. Digital tools can help harness those data and improve a distributor’s ability to communicate with customers and collaborate with suppliers…

2. Distributors are refreshing and refining the core value offered to customers. Faced with an uncertain future and at least the potential for radical change, distributors are taking an appropriate first step: to examine the core value offered to customers and ensure that it is up to date, differentiated, and compelling…

3. Digital tools are not a one-size-fits-all solution for distributors. Digital tools can create value for distributors, but only if the tools are aligned with the core value upon which each distributor seeks to offer its customers. Different distributors are headed in different directions, and so the role of e-commerce, social media, advanced analytics, mobility, CRM, and multichannel coordination will vary accordingly…

4. Value strategies, not value propositions, are an essential ingredient for success. By nature, distributors are practical, operations-minded people, but a new mindset is required. The term value-add tells the tale: the traditional wholesale distribution business model is built around acquiring products; making those products available to customers; and adding value through a range of inventory, logistics, and technical and financial services…

5. Change will accelerate, but don’t drink the Kool-Aid. While researching and writing this book, we passed the 20th anniversary of the Internet. It is sobering to think back 20 years about all of the changes that have occurred since then. Before the Internet, websites did not exist, let alone social media. Voicemail was used for business messages, not e-mail. Big-box retailers were emerging, but Amazon, Google, Facebook, and Twitter were not even conceivable…

6. A consensus around top business priorities charts the course for wholesale distribution. In our research, four business priorities emerged for the vast majority of distributors: improving profitability, driving growth, upgrading the customer experience, and strengthening sales productivity and value-add…

7. Leaders must learn the art and science of innovation. The adoption of digital tools by distributors will drive change through a process of business model innovation. Digital tools drive internal productivity by connecting people and arming them with information. Externally, digital tools drive results by advancing communication and collaboration with suppliers and customers. In all cases, it is better to follow a vision and plan for change than to allow change to occur randomly or make it up along the way…

Adapted from Becoming a Digital Distributor: Strategies and Tools That Create Value

The full study shares data, analyses, tools, recommendations, and more than 250 direct quotes from distributors who provide expert advice for creating a vision and driving your wholesale distribution business forward.

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Mark Dancer, NAW Institute for Distribution Excellence Fellow

Mark Dancer, NAW Institute for Distribution Excellence Fellow

Mark Dancer founded the Network for Business Innovation to drive awareness, advocacy and excellence for B2B innovation, and to enable an exchange of ideas between leaders on business transformation, technology adoption, social impact and community engagement. For more than 30 years, Mark has worked with leading companies to achieve go-to-market excellence across a wide range of industries in developed and emerging markets.

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