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REXEL – mapping the B2B buying process

B2B Buying Process Case Study

Circle helped REXEL to map out the B2B buying process in their market and identify what really drives supplier choice.  These insights have been used to create a compelling value proposition and a truly multi-channel customer experience.

The client

REXEL is a distributor of electrical equipment to the trade (electricians) and industry.  The group has a presence in 35 countries, operates 2,100 branches and generates an annual turnover in excess of £9 billion.

The end goal

Historically REXEL had operated under a branch-centric model where the local outlet was the hub of all customer transactions.  But REXEL saw that times were changing.  Customer feedback suggested that many now expected a digitally led, multi-channel experience where they can buy what they want, when they want, how they want.  Furthermore, they expected this experience to be seamlessly joined up.  In other words, expectations around the buying process were evolving dramatically.

So REXEL set their mind to creating a best-in-class multi-channel buying experience.  That of course was only part of the puzzle.  No matter how well-designed the experience, customers won’t bring their business to a distributor unless their proposition is also compelling and differentiated.  As such, REXEL expanded their goals to include the development of a value proposition which would set them apart from the competition.

To reach these goals REXEL required a deep understanding of customer behaviour, motivations and preferences.  Circle was tasked with creating this insight.  Our brief was to:

  • Map out the current and ideal buying process for different customer types
  • Identify channel preferences and expectations at different stages of this journey
  • Uncover the most powerful drivers of supplier choice

On the basis of these insights, our role was then to make recommendations about the optimum design for the future buying experience and value proposition.

Our approach

We began with a deep and rich exploration of the customers’ world.  Through a series of in-depth, one-to-one interviews in the North America and Europe we:

  • Profiled the decision making unit and different personas within it
  • Mapped out the different buying journeys and defined excellence at each step
  • Uncovered the criteria which drove supplier choice

We then adopted a more structured research approach to verify these initial findings and ensure that all key markets were represented.  To this end an online survey of 1,300 customers in five countries was conducted.

This survey created a detailed map of the buying process and quantified the importance of different people and steps within it.  Core to this was a technique called MaxDiff which accurately establishes the relative influence of different decision making criteria in the buying process.  MaxDiff recognises that:

  • If asked directly people have a tendency to say that everything matters, whereas in real-life we make trade-offs accepting weaknesses in one area for strengths in another
  • If forced to rank the importance of different factors people tend to over-rationalise, placing factors they believe should be important at the top

To create a scenario truer to real-life and identify the most powerful drivers of decisions, MaxDiff forces respondents to trade different decision criteria off against each other.  Not only does this approach mimic real-life (and therefore is more accurate), a process of statistical analysis identifies patterns in the data to reveal the relative weight of each aspect of the buying process and proposition in the final decision.

The business outcome

The research revealed several critical insights and gave REXEL clear strategic direction.

REXEL now offers a truly multi-channel experience for customers, where they can access support or make purchases through any channel whether that is in branch, through their Account Manager, by phone, via the web, through a mobile app or through an EDI integrated into their own procurement systems.  Whatsmore, this experience is seamlessly joined up across channels.  In parallel, REXEL has also enhanced their value proposition so that it is perfectly in tune with customer needs.

By adapting to customers’ evolving needs, REXEL remains their first choice resulting in market-leading revenues and a trajectory which will see them triple multi-channel transactions by 2020.

See how Circle can help you to map out the B2B buying process in your market.