The Death of the Chemical Distributor?

The fear of an internet giant entering the value chain and establishing a marketplace is all everyone seems to be discussing these days. Is this a threat?

I have not been in the chemical industry very long, but what surprises me is the status (or lack of) digital presence the majority of independent chemical distribution companies have. In my many years of business management I have learned, willingly or not, that if you do not embrace the technology revolution that has been going on over the last several years, you will inevitably fall behind. Once you are at the rear end of the pack it is hard, time-consuming and costly to get back on top, if at all possible.

And, the big guys are coming, with their big marketing budgets, in-house digital workforce, big buying power and the staying muscle that even the larger independent distributors envy.

In order to grow your business, you need to adapt to the “new” digital world.

Less-digital-savvy distributors will be struggling to grow regardless of whether an internet giant gains traction. The future of buyers in the chemical industry will demand a digital sales process, we are already seeing signs of this, and the companies that do not invest in keeping their technology up to speed will see a slowdown in growth and even decline in sales. These companies are also at the risk of being the entry point for the internet giants.

Well established, digital-enabled, companies that focus on digital infrastructure will be able to hold their own much better and the possibility for growth and success will increase proportionally with efficient and up-to-date digital enablement.

Recently I have had the great pleasure of meeting and speaking with several managers and owners of chemical distribution companies, and the number one obstacle or objection I hear with regards to modernizing their digital presence is that the cost is not justifiable. It is a time-consuming exercise to explain that the correct use of digital marketing and presence will save money and even more importantly increase sales, and sales is what it is all about. If your company stays on top of the technological revolution that we are going through (that is what is going on and continuing) you will be able to streamline your operation, increase efficiency and make your employees happier. This will give you a better run company.

So what can you do?

Here are 5 things:

  1. Get your website “on the ball”. Your website should be your digital sales channel. It should be constructed with the focus on funneling your inquiries and potential customers into a simple buying experience. Buyers of your products are the highest value of your site so have the website designed with that in mind.
     
  2. Make your website mobile friendly. Websites need to be as easy to view on a phone, pad or pc. Our phones are stronger than ever, and we spend more time working on them now than ever before. This is a trend that will continue.
     
  3. App. You should also look at the possibility to get your own app that customers can place orders through. It will really help the buying experience for your customers and your company will be looked at as a customer-oriented entity, in line with the bigger companies.
     
  4. Digital presence. You need to get your company in front of the buyers. This is done by Search Engine Optimization (SEO), Content Marketing, Social Media, Paid Advertising, Remarketing, Marketing Automation etc. A digital presence is perhaps the most time consuming and difficult task you will have, and I would recommend that you look for an experienced agency that can do this for you within your budget.
     
  5. Nothing. Relax, sit back and wait for the grim reaper.