As retailers move, almost en masse, to implement omnichannel functionality (e.g., ship to home/return to store, online order/in-store pickup, anytime/anywhere access to inventory) in an effort to effectively meet the rising demands of customers, the movement has significant implications for distributors. A recent study by global consultant Oliver Wyman comments on the phenomenon, particularly the impact of eCommerce:
The online channel is becoming increasingly important in B2B transactions: while it represents a $700 billion business in the U.S. today, it is set to top $1.2 trillion by 2020. More important, Amazon and Amazon-like offerings have led B2B customers to expect the same experience from their distributors as when shopping online. B2B customers are expecting more and more to be able to discover, buy, receive, and return products seamlessly across multiple channels: in short, they want to fully benefit from the omnichannel experience.
For distributors, this creates challenges and opportunities. While product manufacturers and online distributors can bypass distributors and go direct to customers, traditional distributors can leverage their unique strength in the supply chain to grow, and to reinvent their businesses and relationships, in order to become platforms or marketplaces for customers.