2014 Trends for B2B Catalog Marketers.

2014 will be a big year for B2B Multi-Channel Marketers

With the New Year off to a roaring start it’s helpful to pause and look at the road ahead. Much has happened in the last two years and the pace of change shows no sign of slowing in 2014.  If you are a B2B multi-channel marketer here are 10 things to think about….and, better still, take action on in 2014.

1. Product and service differentiation will again become the focus. “You are what you sell” becomes more and more important in today’s online world of instant information, competitive shopping and supplier access. Marketing teams will spend more time on developing/testing new products and services – the only real tangible differentiators. The pendulum will swing back towards real product innovation from new online marketing tools.

2. New and valuable content will drive mobile application and use. Just having a mobile site will become secondary. Providing educational/training content and applications via mobile to customers “in the field” will drive new customers and retention.

3. The process of market disintermediation will continue as more and more manufacturers sell direct via online marketplaces. Amazon Supply, Ebay and Google will lead these efforts. In addition, vertical marketplace players like Global Industrial and Staples will become increasingly important. Also, manufacturers, increasingly, will take direct control of online content for their products, not the online distributors/sellers.

4. Like mosquitoes in the summer, “Net Knats” will continue to proliferate. They buy products from distributors and wholesalers but will never take possession. They will rely on their wholesaler’s drop ship facilities, have low costs/overheads and take only a 5-10% margin. They will look for fat margin lines to exploit and your best selling product may be next.

5. Amazon and Ebay will expand their B2B SKU offerings…and there will be no stopping them. Look for their B2B SKU offerings to exceed 2 million in 2014. Their “one stop shopping” advantage and superlative delivery and online services will continue to grow. They are adding sales/tech support too.

6. Traditional B2B distributors will falter and fail. It will become increasing difficult to survive when your offering is mostly (if not all) distributed products. Branded, easy to find and buy items (like MRO tools, electronics and office supplies) will be hardest hit.

7. Customers will increasingly rely on other customers for purchasing counsel and advice. The lines of “customer to customer” communication will continue to grow with social media and vertical associations and buying groups. Both manufacturers and competitive B2B distributors will need to co-operate to manage (not control) this increasingly important customer influence.

8. The age and education of your buyer will markedly change the way they research, shop, buy and communicate with B2B sellers. We suggest looking at the behavior of your house file based on age segments and tracking evolving trends over time.

9. Email, online advertising, paid search and other online forms of promotion will continue to increase although their marginal effectiveness will soften as more dollars chase the same customers in the same media channels. Marketers will come to understand that telephone/people relationships are key to continued customer understanding and loyalty as the use of new technologies (one after another) evolves.

10. Survival will require significant change. Sometimes this will be painful. In order to avoid becoming irrelevant traditional B2B direct marketers must change rapidly. Taconic change is hard to achieve within the existing organization and culture. This is exacerbated by the fact that many organizations are reluctant to risk change until they must. Traditional B2B distributors threatened by emerging business models would be well advised to consider sponsoring competitive start-ups designed to compete with existing business models and/or acquire emerging companies based on new business models. Many leading companies now operate multiple brands designed to function in different channel with lower cost structures.

Lots to think about. As always, focus is key. Good Luck! Call if you need help.

All my very best for the New Year!


Terence Jukes is president of B2B Direct Marketing Intelligence LLC, a strategic B2B direct marketing consultancy based in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., that services B2B catalog company clients in the U.S., Canada, France, the U.K. and Germany. You can reach him at tjukes @ b2bdmi.com or (954) 383-5221

Comments or questions are welcome.

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