B2B distribution is one of the sectors where digital transformation has been a great contributor to improving service, increasing revenue and optimizing costs. The business is by its very nature predictable. Most business customers will buy a predictable amount of goods over time. Relationships are usually long term. Imagine hotel and coffee shops suppliers. Once you account for any seasonality factors and year on year growth it is easy to automate and optimize schedules.
Centralize order management with custom online solutions
B2B distribution benefits from online solutions to orders, payments and route optimization. Having a place that is open to accept customer orders 24/7 adds value to your customer offerings. You can configure your product catalog and easily keep it up to date. Customers can order and schedule deliveries ahead of time. They have access to their invoices with little back and forth with the AP department. You can easily configure cross selling and promote new product when they interact with your system. They can easily reach you during business hours or interact with intelligent bots for quick solutions to common problems.
Predicting customer orders to add value
Using predictive technologies it is now possible to understand your customer order patterns. In the B2B distribution sector this can be achieved with fairly high accuracy. Having a schedule in place ahead of time is important to optimize fleet deployment and routing, plan required resources and cut costs. As good as you system is it usually depends on your customer ordering on time. Unlike in consumer scenarios where one off purchases are more common, B2B is usually characterized by repeat orders of similar items and quantities. We can usually predict when a customer will order once some time has elapsed, as well as adjust for seasonality and common patterns across all the customer base. With an idea of who will be ordering tomorrow or the day after you might want to confirm deliveries and get your schedule ready. This is another process you can automate in the cloud. Automated calls can be triggered for the customer to confirm delivery, or reschedule it for the next day. If the orders are constant, you can easily collect payment on the same call. The value of acting on predictions and automating processes is especially important to smaller companies with more limited resources.
Optimizing delivery routes to cut costs
Route optimization is essential in distribution businesses irrespective of fleet size. The benefits are clear. Optimizing the distance drivers have to travel means cutting on both oil and maintenance costs, increasing profitability. The other advantage is being able to serve customers on time making you a more reliable partner. This process can easily scale from small fleets to larger ones. With dispatch automated you can broadcast it to warehouse operations and driver mobile devices so everyone is in sync.
Tracking and measuring delivery metrics
With the schedule on each drivers mobile device you can now track as orders are delivered. You can get automated reports on distance and delivery times. If the schedule is delayed, you can trigger automated messaging to customers notifying about the delay. This will help avoiding surprise calls about orders not having arrived yet and customers will appreciate you letting them know. With less time pressures drivers can operate more safely. Drivers can capture signatures on delivery and accounting systems can be updated automatically. Paperless operations are crucial to help you find the information you need faster later on and cut data entry times back at the office.
Getting paid faster
Online first systems are excellent means to optimize receivables. In distribution specifically you can accept payments at order time. This can be done whether the order is entered though online systems or automated phone calls. The driver can accept car payment on delivery through mobile terminals. Customers that you offer credit to will be reminded of their upcoming invoices and overdue balance if any. Email reminders with direct payment options or automated calls with payment capture, provide even more options to the business.
Why digital transformation is so essential
The main reason is that distribution businesses are characterized by a set of specific challenges. When working on digital transformation projects the options are vast and provide unprecedented value. This is especially true for smaller distribution firms. Small investments in adopting cloud based technologies can go a long way in helping you grow faster and serve your customers better.