Omni Channel – The Way Forward

RS Components interim ANZ managing director, Scott Philbrook.

Omni channel describes procurement and distribution across all buyer touchpoints, and the best exponents have a seamless interface between their channels and the end user. For RS Components, omni channel procurement is a combination of a digital interface in conjunction with sales and customer service teams. RS Components interim ANZ managing director, Scott Philbrook, explains.

RS Components have been industry leaders globally through the implementation of a customer centric digital interface with 65 per cent of our customers only transacting digitally. RS Components also has robust sales and customer service teams for those who prefer a human touch with their procurement experience. Customers can still contact a person if needed when purchasing digitally. Approximately 50 per cent of our business has some element of human touch as part of the sales process and more often than not, a digital element was part of the transaction. This approach has allowed us to enjoy a customer satisfaction rating (NPS) of 50 which leads the industry.

A combination of digital and people-centric procurement is the future of our industry and distributors who rely on traditional bricks and mortar outlets may not reap the benefits of lower cost per sale whilst maintaining customer satisfaction levels. At RS Components we have found that our cost per acquisition has plummeted from approximately $1,000 per customer to approximately $20 when we talk about acquiring a customer digitally. Since we launched our website in 2001, we have taken our business with 3,000 customers to around 100,000. The single biggest benefit that an omni channel approach has given us is the digital means to acquire customers. Over the last two years, our customer base has increased by 15 per cent per annum. We have only been able to achieve this growth by partnering our digital interface with the human touch.

Our sales team also look to leverage our digital capabilities to help our customers manage the challenges presented with the indirect costs of procurement. By taking a holistic approach to the procure to pay process and aligning our solutions to suit the requirements, we can deliver considerable benefits through the total cost of ownership approach.

A scenario where all procurement elements work together effectively is as follows: a private customer visits the RS Components website to buy a box of masks and can seamlessly order it and get it delivered to his doorstep in 2 days. The same customer goes to work and, as a material buyer, he needs to buy 100,000 boxes of masks. He visits the RS Components website, looks at the price, then calls the salesperson to negotiate a price that falls within his budget parameters. He is issued a quote and code which is redeemed with a login on the website and the products are delivered to his workplace in 2 days.

Another example of RS Components’ omni channel approach creating value is a design engineer who needs one product; He searched the product on the RS website but needs additional technical information hence he calls RS technical support teams and once satisfied he buys it online to include in his first prototype. As the product development evolves, he needs further prototypes for testing and the volume of product needed increases and he is experiencing budget overrun. He can speak with a sales representative who will ascertain whether he can meet the engineers needs within his budget to allow for further prototyping, issues the quote and the additional purchases are made online. He can then track his order online; if there is a delay due to Covid impacting the supply chain, he can speak with the customer service team to allay any concerns.

Executing a customer centric omni channel platform is not without its challenges; we have relied heavily on data that maps the customer experience, not only online but in the physical realm, optimising each channel to reach, engage, and satisfy customers – RS Components want to meet the customer where they are.

It’s also good to remember that B2B purchasers are also consumers outside of work hours, and experience omni channel procurement and distribution from B2C businesses, where much innovation around procurement has occurred, especially in this Covid environment. Customer experience (CX) is increasingly informing consumer purchasing decisions, and it is not implausible that CX will overtake product and price as the main driver of procurement. They are wanting this seamless, consumer grade interaction with their B2B suppliers.

As big data informs us of likely changes in procurement, RS Components will continue to evolve its interface to enhance customer relationships, deliver value to all stakeholders, and grow top and bottom line growth.