Today, distribution is focused on getting products into customers’ hands quicker than ever before. Unfortunately, the human element is often a casualty.

That can impact the bottom line and distributors have noticed. In fact, 37% of distribution professionals named customer retention as one of their top three priorities in 2019, and the highest non-financial priority.1 Distributors are focused on bringing back the human touch to their businesses through personalized communication, service and products.

Customer retention starts and ends with great communication and customer service. Modern, successful distributors leverage varied communication channels from social media to text messaging to cater to different customer communication habits, 24 hours a day, seven days a week. And customers use these different channels. In 2017, 64% used social media, 59% used phone, 54% used email, 45% used live chat, 37% used website chatbots and 31% used SMS messaging.

Communication Channel Use

Although artificial intelligence is making strides in creating more life-like chatbots and improving interactive voice response, consumers today still assign a high value to genuine human interaction. In fact, 70% of consumers indicated they rarely or never use chatbots in a recent survey.2 Therefore, it’s critical to continue to provide more personalized support through live interactions.

Chewy Instagram post

Chewy is an online pet supply company that really gets the human component right. The company sends personalized messages in response to customer issues offering real, tangible solutions to help solve their problems. For example, when a customer is unhappy with a product, a customer service rep recommends other products that will solve the customer’s specific scenario rather than a generic, auto-generated list of alternate products. In the case of returns, Chewy encourages customers to donate unwanted products to a local shelter instead of shipping the items back.

Other exceptional distributors are providing personalization through controlled marketing campaigns and catalog sales. Maintaining customer data like purchase history, previously viewed items and communication preferences allows distributors to send more targeted campaigns that customers find relevant and helpful. Distributors are also personalizing the shopping experience by providing customer specific pricing and discounting.

FabFitFun Instagram post

Although we see a trend in developing a human connection through support and communication, we’re also seeing innovative techniques on the product side, specifically around packaging. Consumers notice when something is beautifully packaged. Subscription box services like FabFitFun, StichFix or BarkBox go the extra mile and utilize attractive boxes with tissue paper and personalized notes. Packaging in this way creates an element of excitement—like opening a present. To further evoke emotion and bring the product to life, we’re even seeing social media influencers open these boxes online.

Even in businesses, purchasers are people. Distributors need to make that human connection in order to create lifelong customers.

For more, check out this video.

Other Sources:

1. Modern Distribution Management & NetSuite, “2019 Outlook for Distribution,” (January 10, 2019).

2. NetSuite and Wakefield, “The Future of Retail,” (January 2019).