Technology resellers operating in the business-to-business market are coming under pressure to offer a customer experience that more closely resembles the seamless, on-demand interactions consumers get from ecommerce companies, ride-hailing companies and other digital disruptors. Those that meet these expectations will be strongly positioned to lead the market in the future.
That’s according to Gary Pickford, CEO of Tarsus Distribution, who says that buyers in the enterprise market are questioning why corporate technology purchases should not be as quick, simple and transparent as ordering an electric toothbrush or a tablet computer for personal use from one of the country’s ecommerce retailers.
“A CEO or CIO working for medium-sized business is also likely to be a tech-savvy consumer who uses Uber and shops online,” says Pickford. “They are beginning to ask why fulfilment for the purchase of a new office printer or notebook takes three days or more, when consumer ecommerce sites offer overnight delivery and when some are even moving towards same-day delivery.
“What’s more, when they buy a consumer electronics product online, they can track the progress of their order in real-time. But when a corporate buyer orders an IT product from a reseller, they will usually need to chase the reseller to get status updates. They often don’t know whether the order has shipped or when it’s likely to arrive.”
The VAD’s new role
The role of the value-added distributor in this changing world is to provide the digital backbone technology resellers need to meet emerging customer demands, adds Pickford. Distributors need to provide resellers with access to tools and logistics systems that enable them to offer their customers more seamless fulfilment of their purchases.
The more progressive resellers in the market are looking at how they can leverage digital supply chains to increase the stickiness of their customer proposition, Pickford says. They realise that they need access to a backend technical platform to make it happen, yet building such a platform themselves is complex and expensive.
According to Pickford, leading resellers are developing skills in the new IT – including virtual reality, big data, artificial intelligence and the Internet of Things – and are positioning themselves to help customers reposition their infrastructure for a changing world. The conversation is shifting from selling scanners or PCs towards packaging business solutions.
From push to pull
This is another area where the backing of the value-added distributor is invaluable, he adds. Tarsus resellers, who register and make use of the Tarsus B2B Portal, will get access to tools that will digitally enhance their relationship with their end customers. These tools will enhance the customer experience as well as deliver efficiencies in the technology procurement process. The aim is to deliver a complete solution for the customer – from consulting about the business requirement to seamless digital fulfilment of the order.
“We’re moving away from selling towards responding to the pull from the customer,” says Pickford. “The question resellers and distributors need to answer is, ‘What problem can we solve for the customer?’ Pulling together the elements of the solution takes place in the background, shielding the customer from the friction and complexity.”
Pickford says the market is moving into a new phase, following the birth of the digital-first and digital-only companies a few years ago. Pure-play digital companies are adding brick-and-mortar infrastructure to their offering, even as traditional companies digitise processes and add digital channels to their offering.
“We have seen consumer ecommerce companies start to move into the physical world by offering collection points and even opening up their own stores,” concludes Pickford. “We expect the same omnichannel approach to emerge in the business to business technology space, as resellers and distributors seek to offer customers the best of the old world and the digital model.”