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    5 Must-Dos for Manufacturers and Distributors in 2016

    Looking ahead to a 'truly transformative year' for food and bev suppliers

    By Michael Elmgreen, Handshake

    Low fat. Low carb. Locally sourced. With each year comes the next food and beverage trend that will change everything. For manufacturers and distributors, 2016 will bring a renewed focus on their customers––the retailers.

    To succeed this year, manufacturers and distributors must create seamless offline and online customer experiences that remove complexity and prioritize convenience. Here are five customer-centric, must-do initiatives for staying ahead of the curve in 2016.

    #1 - Shift Technology Investments to the Front Lines

    While food and beverage suppliers have already made significant investments in technology to run back-office operations, 2016 will a see a shift toward improving front-line sales processes.  Manufacturers and distributors are increasingly investing in best-of-breed solutions like mobile order writing software, CRM, and more to simplify ordering and arm sales reps with more retailer-specific information.

    Your sales reps should have all the information they need to have a consultative sales conversation about order history, brand performance, trade support, upcoming promotions, and new and updated products.

    #2 - Give Customers the Power to Conveniently Place Orders 24/7

    B2B e-commerce is no longer just a buzzword. According to Forrester Research, 74 percent of B2B buyers today research at least half of their work purchases online, and 30 percent actually make at least half of those purchases online.

    In 2016, manufacturers and distributors must prioritize the development of existing B2B e-commerce solutions by encouraging customer adoption, and those who haven’t already implemented a B2B e-commerce platform must play catch-up to remain competitive in the coming years.

    #3 - Embrace Mobile Commerce

    Manufacturers and distributors that invest in native mobile apps for their retailers running on modern devices can realize increased order velocity and incremental revenue in 2016. Providing visually appealing, information-rich ordering experiences on smartphones and tablets not only allows retailers and their employees to place orders any time they choose, but also from anywhere they choose.  

    Those suppliers that make it easy to build an order by scanning products in the aisle or place a re-order with a just a few taps on their device will not only increase customer loyalty, but also win business from competitors.

    #4 - Leverage B2B e-commerce for Actionable Marketing and Merchandising

    B2B e-commerce has opened up new marketing opportunities for manufacturers and distributors, allowing them to push products and educate retailers on a more regular basis.  Brands are increasingly using this channel to highlight product benefits, introduce new products, and alert retailers to new promotions.  

    In addition, recommended planograms, merchandising materials and promotional media can be easily reviewed and downloaded online. Manufacturers and distributors can deliver an impactful, value-added brand experience through B2B sites where it matters most at the point of order.

    #5 - Integrate Systems for Faster Fulfillment

    Integrating the front-end systems with those in the back office is critical to ensuring faster order fulfillment for retailers. For instance, to reduce cuts, ensure freshness, and manage delivery expectations, inventory management systems should sync directly to B2B commerce platforms.

    This ensures that sales reps and customers have stock levels and restock dates on products prior to submitting orders.  At a minimum, order management systems need to be tightly connected to ERP and logistic systems to get orders from submission to the warehouse and delivered on time.

    2016 will truly be a transformative year for food and beverage suppliers. As buyers’ expectations rise, companies willing to invest not only in the next food trend, but also the technology trends that improve their customers’ experiences will come out on top.

    By Michael Elmgreen, Handshake
    • About Michael Elmgreen Michael Elmgreen is chief revenue officer at Handshake

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