Buying behaviour is evolving

rs-3E-commerce continues to shape buying behaviour, but one thing all customers require is a simplified purchase journey. RS aims to oblige, as head of region for Northern Europe, Mike England, explains

One of the biggest revolutions affecting customer buying behaviour in the electronics industry has been the emergence of e-commerce. Just as personal buying behaviour at home is moving towards digital purchasing, so too electronics purchasers are choosing digital ordering through distribution. This has gathered pace and many industry players have raced to strengthen their digital platform offering, making significant investments to support this.

Despite the fact that digital ordering is now preferred, human engagement remains a key customer requirement. Interaction is needed to support the experience and help customers make the right choices, particularly in light of the pace at which technology and industry is changing. With the move towards smart factories and smart buildings, customers are seeking smart suppliers that can offer a blend of digital support combined with a multi-channel approach to help them stay ahead.

Reducing pain points

Buying behaviour continues to evolve as customers prioritise what is most important when purchasing and choose which technologies to invest in. This can often be a complex process, resulting in a number of pain points during procurement.

Most importantly, customers face huge complexity in product procurement and in fact, the cost of procurement can often outweigh the cost of the product itself. Research into creating efficiencies in indirect procurement conducted by RS and verified by Manchester Business School highlighted a 3:1 cost ratio in procurement versus product cost.

Ironically the more choice there is, and the more channels there are, the more complicated it makes the buying process, as well as adding to the cost. Using multiple vendors inflates the overall cost of procurement and adds time in managing multiple invoices. Customers working with numerous vendors also miss the opportunity to gather consumption data about their buying habits, which can be used to buy smarter and reduce inventory. Reducing inventory will in turn aid cash flow, reduce product waste due to obsolescence, and minimise storage needs.

Finally, customers require technical knowledge and support to help them with purchasing decisions and this is exacerbated by the pace of change in technology and innovation. Using a distributor with a commitment to building and maintaining knowledge and a dedication to supporting technological innovation can help buyers make better choices.

Creating a personal approach

Today’s customer wants a simplified purchase journey. That is one of the primary expectations of any engineer when clicking through a site searching for the right component to build their bill of materials in the smoothest and quickest way. Ensuring a simple purchasing journey is best achieved via a supplier that really understands the customer’s needs and business goals.

Interestingly, RS’ Northern Europe region comprises eight countries, with definite differences in how customers from different geographical areas want to do business. RS therefore strives to tailor its approach depending on the contact, the industry and company type, geographical location and product needs. Its goal is to build long term personal relationships with customers.

Looking forward, distributors need to continually work closely with their suppliers to ensure that bespoke customer product requirements can be met. This will be a key development in the industry and a growing expectation of customers; one that will become much more commonplace.

Ultimately, simplicity is achieved by creating an end-to-end solution that doesn’t require customers to reach out to several suppliers. For instance, DesignSpark was initiated to provide engineers with free software and tools in which to create their designs while choosing product along the way that can be ordered via RS, including subsequent requirements for maintenance and repair operations. This personalised end-to-end process drives simplicity and will be what customers increasingly prioritise moving forward.

Driving future demand

The future of buyer behaviour is set to be as revolutionary as the last decade with a variety of elements at play. Industrie 4.0 will potentially add trillions to the global economy over the next fifteen years, creating an influx of start-up businesses. This in turn will change the marketplace and buyer behaviour further.

RS is a pro-active participant in initiatives to promote science, technology, engineering and maths subjects with the aim of inspiring tomorrow’s engineers, many of which will be the young entrepreneurs driving future tech businesses. This thirst for innovation will facilitate more supplier collaboration and demands a strong technical competency to bring quality service and value to customers.

The evolution of buyer behaviour continues to be fast-paced and is set to become more significant moving forward. RS believes the winning formula will combine a strong online offering with a dedicated personal approach, backed by technical knowledge. Distributors cannot afford to ignore this shift in customer behaviour.