Part of the Avnet Group, Premier Farnell is a global distributor of electronic components to design engineers and those manufacturing or maintaining electronic systems. From smartphones to aircraft controls – if it has electronics in it, the chances are that Premier Farnell helped to enable its creation. Founded in 1939, the company now serves customers in 36 countries and has a turnover of close to £1 billion.

"I just wanted to say a huge thank you. This project has gone down an absolute storm with our Board and CEO, who has never been so interested in the detail of the research before. We will be using it to drive massive strategic decisions, and the quality you’ve provided gives us a huge confidence in our decision-making abilities."

The challenge

As a distributor, a core aspect of Premier Farnell’s proposition is their delivery service.  Not only is getting the product from the warehouse to the customer a fundamental requirement, the way in which this is done is a critical driver of business success.  To win and retain customers, a distributor’s delivery service needs to be consistently reliable, meet customer needs and be priced appropriately.

As part of a strategic review, Premier Farnell had placed its delivery service under the microscope and wanted to ensure that it was commercially optimised.  To inform this, three questions needed answering:

  • What is the relationship between delivery price and sales?
  • What price premium does‘ value add’ elements of delivery justify (e.g. speed)?
  • What is the optimum price for each delivery option – the point at which Premier Farnell’s subsidisation of delivery costs is minimised, but not at the expense of sales?

Circle’s task was to answer these questions and identify the best pricing strategy.

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Our approach

Premier Farnell needed b2b new service research, and there were three considerations were central to our approach:

To provide a reliable point-of-view we conducted an online survey of more than 2,000 customers globally.  At the core of this survey was a statistical approach known as Conjoint Analysis which seeks to mimic real-life decisions and explore the relationship between features, price and purchase behaviour.

To do so, different elements of the delivery proposition (including price) and the different levels at which these might be realistically set were identified (e.g. same day delivery, next day, 3 – 5 days).  Using this information, a series of hypothetical delivery propositions were created, each with slightly different features and prices.  These hypothetical offerings were then grouped into sets of three and customers were asked which one, if any, they would be most likely to buy under.  This was repeated several times until, across all interviews, hundreds of potential combinations had been compared.  Statistical analysis of this data was then used to reveal the level of demand under different feature combinations and at different price points

This exercise revealed which aspects of the delivery proposition held the greatest value, identified the incremental value attached to each ‘tier’ of service and created a price elasticity of demand curve which detailed how changes in pricing would impact sales.

These insights enabled us to make clear recommendations on the different delivery options Premier Farnell should offer and the specific price to charge for each.  We then went one step further and created a user-friendly, interactive modelling tool which Premier Farnell’s management team could use to conduct ‘what if?’ analyses.  For example, if they reduced the price of delivery by 5%, what impact would this have on sales?

The business outcome

The research has been an integral input into a strategic review of Premier Farnell’s delivery proposition.  The changes it drove are estimated to have reduced supply chain costs by 20% (a saving of several million pounds) and the approach is now used in Cranfield Management School’s MBA programme as a case study of best practice.

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