Quick Take: Talking innovation on the Wholesale Change show
What steps are you taking to turn your physical stores into a competitive advantage in the post-pandemic era?
Defending against disruption
My first “heads up” edition announced my guest appearance on the Wholesale Change show with Jonathan Bein and Ian Heller, where I discussed how distributors might innovate their physical stores to defend against disruption and create competitive advantage. The show aired earlier this week and our conversation was fantastic. I encourage you to register, listen to our recorded discussion, and share your thoughts. Click here.
From my point of view, innovating physical stores is an opportunity for distributors to align with the post-pandemic zeitgeist and create new value for customers. Every distributor customer considers how zoom calls are replacing physical meetings, how office denizens may work elsewhere, and how to give next-generation workers the freedom to work anywhere, anytime, as nomads. Distributors can build on their current store capabilities for will-call, repair, and training and go much further. Stores may be gathering places for networking, project meetings, data wrangling, community meetings, and much more. There are likely differences by the line of trade—industrial opportunities may be different from construction—but shared characteristics as well. As distributors do more and more business through virtual means, working with customers in physical spaces will keep them firmly grounded in the real world.
I will dig into our show conversation when the transcript is available, sharing ideas and examples from the guests and hosts. In the meantime, one listener, Gabe Encarnacion of BBL Safety, reached out and shared his takeaways:
The "localness" of the distributor still exists in B2B, sometimes even more so than in B2C. For instance, construction companies have different needs for equipment based on the location of the job site.
Distributors should think about the titles of the customers they're serving and try to align their physical locations to cater to those customers' specific needs.
Consistency and frequency in marketing efforts is important. Distributors should find ways to make it a habit for customers to visit the physical stores. Even small gestures (a cup of coffee, place to charge a phone or laptop, clean meeting space) can go a long way to building rapport with customers and making the store an integral part of their routine.
Integration of the physical AND digital strategies is important. It's not an either/or situation.
Gabe hit the nail on the head. By imagining new uses for a physical store, B2B innovators may create value through underused assets. By engaging with customers, distributors will deepen relationships. By providing suppliers with a state-of-the-art forum for managing user experiences, distributors will carve out new, vital roles in the value chain. Physical stores are not what’s left over after digital transformation. They are a foundation for innovation and a powerful tool for doing business as humans for humans in the digital age.
Can your company offer customers a different way to do business at your physical stores away from their offices? Have your customers already done so? Have you asked them? Have you pitched your suppliers? What do you think? Please share your comments below or reach me at email@example.com.
Love this take on the future use of space at a distributor. And to take it a step further, as less space is needed for stocking commodities that are readily available on line, more space will be available for executing value-add services like training, pre-fabrication, project management meetings, etc.
Yes, Gabe squarely hit the concept with what I consider a Starbucks model: for the last two decades plus Starbucks has become an oasis for nomad workers and job seekers. By positioning physical locations as a place to get off the job site and out of the pickup, physical stores offer temp office space. I think a big upside could be to have products and services present when real problem solving gets done. By having resources at hand, it should vastly increase the odds that your business offerings become part of those solutions. For a plumbing distributor, are customers more likely to choose your offerings if they meet at your location, or at a Starbucks?