Many distributors looking for ways to fend off disruption (read Amazon) are considering how to repurpose legacy brick-and-mortar facilities, according to NAW – the National Association of Wholesaler-Distributors. Some concepts include a food service equipment distributor building out a fully functional restaurant and dining facility, or a plumbing wholesaler assembling a digitally enabled working system of pipes, heaters, sinks and appliances. These operations, once active, can host a variety of events including hands-on training, talks by trendsetters and subject matter experts, customer forums to discuss needs and solutions, off-campus training for local colleges, tours for grade school students, banquets and barbeques, and more.

The un-Amazon approach

Underlying these facilities and events is the idea that distributors can create something that online disruptors like Amazon cannot – real-world, hands-on experiences facilitated by actual people. Distributors be known as “The Experience Store.”

Execution of The Experience Store strategies may vary widely by the line of trade and distributor strategy. Some best practices are beginning to emerge, according to NAW:

  • Carefully select your staff for an event. People should be both knowledgeable and creative. The role at an “experience” event is not purely a sales, marketing or training function. Active listening skills are required as well as the ability to think on one’s feet. One distributor offered that the role is not unlike people working at an Apple Store – part geek, part evangelist.
  • Design experiences for customer and distributor value. The value for a distributor is more about building customer loyalty and strengthening the distributor’s brand. 
  • Look for inspiration from books and online sources. As an idea for your business begins to gel, go online and make visits to experience spaces. One distributor has traveled to Singapore and Milan to experience next-generation brick-and-mortar distributorships in his line of trade.

Tell stories about your experience events on social media. Getting the word out can help build your brand and position your company as a modern, dynamic business and a great place to work. Your stories can help make your reputation with your suppliers as a builder of experience-based brands for their products. Real-world experiences create business-to-business brands.