In the past, b2b’s did business with companies right before or after their own position in the chain. However, due to the changing customer behavior and digitalization, it’s time to investigate on how b2b’s can position themselves and connect to other links within the chain.
Low prices or a good product are no longer sufficient. Due to the low costs of production in foreign countries, the pressure on margins increases, resulting into companies that have to ensure their service stands out more than ever. By offering a service that is interesting for new groups as well, you will be able to strengthen your position in the chain, which is crucial as all other links in the chain look further than their immediate neighbors.
Yet, the question remains: what is it that clients are actually waiting for? How can you make yourself more valuable? Most of the time, the client does not even have an answer to this either. The best way to figure this out, is to conduct anthropological research and observe the client within his own work environment. The results will show sufficient valuable information in order to create a service that perfectly fits the wishes of your target group(s).
A smart way of connecting within the chain
The expert group B2b Experience of ShoppingTomorrow investigates how a good customer experience will strengthen your position within the chain. Each meeting, the experts discuss one of the three themes: insight, proposition and organization. During the third session, we discussed the theme ‘proposition’ at Scelta Mushrooms in Venlo, the Netherlands.
We talked with our host Roy Janssen, marketing manager of Scelta Mushrooms, about the changing developments in the mushroom industry. Scelta Mushrooms processes about one third of all mushrooms in the Netherlands and sells these to the food industry, retailers and chains of food service in more than 75 countries. They either get the mushrooms frozen, conserved or dried. Next to that, Scelta also produces products such as fried onion rings and special flavors derived from those mushrooms.
“We don’t have just one type of client, the relationship with each and one of them differs highly. With fast food chains, for example, we talk with menu-developers about how mushrooms could be an alternative for a hamburger. While in the food industry, we’re often faced with price-driven buyers or either real technicians who try to reduce salt by adding umami.
Organizations after us in the chain invest a lot in new business models; especially in food services. We see that the industry is changing due to digitalization, resulting in a changing consumer expectation as well. The pressure to keep the consumer satisfied increases. For instance, pizza delivery chains wish to deliver ever faster, which subsequently creates a demand for a fast production. Pizzas have to be baked within three minutes instead of five or will soon be baked inside the van during the delivery itself. This calls for new processing methods of mushrooms for a pizza funghi.
Looking at two of our clients, we see that they start personalizing nutrition in the near future (offering a one-to-one food service). Scelta Mushroom innovates a lot in order to keep up with this request. With umami obtained from mushrooms, we will be able to reduce salt in diets. We will also offer mushrooms rich in vitamin D, which contributes to healthier and stronger bones.”
Smart content is key in the b2b purchase process
“Because 60% of the b2b purchase process is ran digitally, we like to focus on the online informational supply when it comes around to new business (awareness). For example, delivery information, technical information and product composition. Based on this information, potential clients create a shortlist.
At first, our employees were hesitant to share their knowledge on our website, as they were scared of competitors using that information. During a training Business English, everyone had been assigned to write an article about mushrooms, written from their specific expertise perspective. For instance, mushrooms tend to make pizzas soggy, which is seen as a big problem by a lot of our clients. Our account manager wrote about a solution for this and now we are being approached by potential clients due to that article on our website!”
In the following video, Roy Janssen explains how digitalization influences the food industry:
Predictive analytics to help the client in a new way
“Besides having to deliver to our clients directly, we operate a share of the market via a broad network of distributors, importers and agents. However, this model is being put under pressure due to smart technology, resulting into fewer links in the chain. To be able to survive in the future, you will therefore have to make smarter choices. Our company does this based on data that is being converted into insights for us and our network. The data from sources, such as our CRM, web analytics and data market, already give us new insights. Our ambition is to grow and expand to ‘predictive analytics’. By using this method, you will be able to predict customer demand in the future and anticipate on that. Consequently, the customer satisfaction and loyalty will grow. The production processes can therefore be planned more efficiently and improve the workflow. Bigger online b2c chains already adapted to this method, however, as a b2b you will be on top of the game. Although this method seems like something far away and difficult for fruit and vegetable companies, due to Amazon for example, who took huge steps in the right direction by buying retail chain ‘Whole Foods’ last year, the fruit and vegetable sector is facing a whole different type of customer. These kinds of developments have a huge impact on all steps you take towards digitalization.
At Scelta, we ‘winnovate’ by establishing connections between the ever-changing industry and the unique characteristics of mushrooms. Healthiness, sustainability and taste-experience is key; however, digitalization impacts the way we eat today and tomorrow. Keeping up is a necessity, but we prefer to stay ahead.”
“Staying ahead is a continuous process, there is no final goal”
Roy takes part in the ShoppingTomorrow expert group to obtain more inspiration, to contribute to the ambition to make Scelta a leader in the digital innovation in the fruit and vegetable sector. “Because participants of the expert group come from different industries, you can talk openly and do not have to worry about giving knowledge away to competitors. We all know that we have to seize our chance for digitalization and improve user experience through digital channels.”