Hesitation to Innovation: Embracing AI in Distribution
With customer interactions happening in person less and less, labor shortages, disruptions in the supply chain, and much more to wrestle with, distributors need solutions. This is why artificial intelligence (AI) emerges as the transformative answer. By leveraging this technology, distributors can solve many of the problems they face and, of course, become more profitable.
Technology will continue to evolve, as will the expectations of customers, whether or not you decide to grow with it. But, deciding not to change along with the world may mean getting left behind.
You’ve seen B2C companies like Amazon forge the path forward, but the precedent they set puts pressure on us all to keep up. The key to achieving success, including in B2B, lies in harnessing the power of AI technology.
AI in B2B vs. B2C
While it is easy to see how common and even vital AI has become in B2C, its adoption in B2B has been relatively slow. That is, until recently.
B2B organizations like distributors face distinctly different challenges and sales environments than others, so the same AI solutions could not always be used. For instance, distributors often have enormous numbers of SKUs, and often across multiple sales channels. A lot more processing power and very different designs and algorithms are needed to accommodate these types of differences. Hence, the right kind of AI wasn’t in the same abundance as for B2C, and in many cases didn’t even exist.
On top of those issues, it has also been incredibly expensive, and therefore inaccessible to companies without the massive budget to spare. Oftentimes you’d also need to house the technology, which can take up a ton of space, as well as hire the software engineers to maintain it for you. This is why a Distribution Strategy Group survey published by NAW found that just 12% of distributors use AI in sales and marketing.
Today, though, there are options out there with the processing power (and cloud technology to remove the need for it being on-premise) and price points more distributors need, so it’s time to put the pedal to the metal and start catching up with the B2C marketplace. Plus, since not as many distributors have invested in AI yet, doing so now will give your business an advantage over the competition.
How AI Can Solve Distribution-Specific Problems
If you’re a distributor, you’re probably familiar with depending on distinct sales channels to handle various aspects such as marketing, inside and outside sales, customer service, and e-commerce. This separation can create misunderstandings, inefficiencies, and other problems. As a consequence, valuable opportunities slip away, customer experiences suffer, and overall operational efficiency is compromised.
AI can help you to centralize data from all your sales channels, and even allow your different teams to have information from any other part of of the process they may need. With this ability, sales reps can know what customers are looking at online, customer service reps can know what outside sales reps are selling, and so forth.
What Sales AI Can Do
With all of this data from each corner unified, it also allows AI to provide highly accurate cross-selling and upselling recommendations. Such a tool is incredibly useful and easy to apply immediately for any rep, so you can even start seeing ROI right away, in many cases.
AI can also use your data to predict what customers will buy, and even when, so that your reps can be proactive and your products can be more efficiently stocked. These kinds of tools also enhance the customer experience, making it more personal and timely for each of them.
After all, the point of all this in the long term is to keep customers happy and to keep growing your customer base; and optimizing your processes with AI is the way to do that today.
The competition will continue to invest in new technologies, so if you want to stay competitive you must find a strategy and technology that works for you.
And, hey, we can’t fail to mention our own software, which is the only distribution-specific CRM, e-commerce, and sales enablement system! Watch some videos about our features, or go ahead and schedule a free demo below.