Navigating the New Industrial Landscape

Here are five tips to survive the most unforgiving terrain in business today: after the sale.

In today’s increasingly competitive industrial distribution industry, thinking beyond the point of sale is essential for cementing customer loyalty and as a means for differentiation.

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Simply selling products is no longer enough – industrial buyers now expect a higher level of service with that product – and they are willing to shop around for superior after-sales service.

Digging deeper

Findings from UPS’s most recent Industrial Buying Dynamics survey underscore this trend. According to the study, half of surveyed industrial buyers are either extremely likely or very likely to shift their business to a supplier offering post-sales.

Returns top the list of customers’ post-sales service expectations, with 82 percent of survey respondents saying they expect suppliers to help them with returns.

Easy returns are an integral part of today’s industrial customers’ experience, which may have come from their personal buying habits and transcended to purchases for industrial products. And just like their personal purchases, they expect seamless returns.

Here are five tips to elevate your post-sales offerings:

Be simple: Suppliers should make sure their return policies are simple, short and expressed in customer-friendly language, not legalese. Policies should also be easy to find on the supplier’s website while clearly indicating who pays for what.

Be accessible: According to the UPS study, 44 percent of industrial buyers frequently contact their suppliers for post-sales support. Distributors should make themselves accessible to their customers through both traditional and online channels.

Distributors looking to connect with the millennial and Gen X generations should also consider going mobile. According to the study, nearly seven in 10 millennial buyers will shift business to a supplier with a mobile app.

Be service oriented: Buyers also expect a superior level of after-sales service when purchasing a product, including training and on-site maintenance, repair, recycling and disposal.

By providing these extended offerings, suppliers have a chance to interact with customers on a more personal level, which can help increase loyalty and drive future sales. An easy and seamless returns process should top the list.

Be customized: A growing need for post-sales service also gives suppliers a chance to tailor their services to meet unique customer needs. This is especially relevant for suppliers looking to attract a newer, younger customer base.

According to the study, roughly 70 percent of millennials and more than 55 percent of Gen X buyers would shift a portion of their business to a supplier who provides a better sales experience.

Be global: Buyers are no longer bound by geography: UPS’s recently released Global Pulse of the Online Shopper showed a majority of online consumers don’t worry about borders when shopping.

Supply chains need to support this trend. As a result, you should think globally as well.

A robust post-sales services can also help suppliers attract an international customer base, as buyers in other global regions also have high expectations for on-site support, training and recycling.

Stand out from the pack

Navigating this new industrial landscape isn’t easy. Sellers need to ask themselves whether or not they can meet buyers’ expectations today.Just a handful of online sellers provide the post-sales support that educates buyers, makes returns easier and provides clear trouble-shooting advice.

Any industrial distributor that does so will certainly stand out from the pack.

This article originally appeared on EBN and was republished with permission.

Simon Bhadra is Senior Marketing Manager for Industrial Distributors segment at UPS. He has 25 years of experience and has written numerous studies and papers documenting the sector's changes.

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