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Sparking a new buying process

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 Challenge

Historically, REXEL operated under a branch-centric model where the local outlet was the hub of all customer transactions. But expectations around the buying process were evolving dramatically. 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, in a seamless experience.

Based on this, REXEL set their mind to creating a best-in-class multi-channel buying experience. However, no matter how well-designed the experience, customers won’t bring their business to a distributor unless the proposition is compelling and differentiated. As such, REXEL expanded their goals to include the development of a value proposition which would truly set them apart.

To achieve this, REXEL needed a deep understanding of customer behaviour, motivations and preferences. Insight we were tasked with creating. Our brief was to:

  • Map out the current and ideal buying process for different customer type
  • Identify channel preferences and expectations at different stages of this journey
  • Uncover the most powerful drivers of supplier choice
  • 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 North America and Europe we:

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

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

This created a detailed map of the buying process and quantified the importance of different people and steps within it. The study incorporated a MaxDiff to accurately establish the relative influence of different decision-making criteria in the buying process. We found:

  • If asked directly, people tend to say everything matters, whereas in real-life we make considered trade-offs based on perceived costs and benefits
  • If forced to rank the importance of different factors people tend to over-rationalise, placing factors they believe should be important at the top

MaxDiff effectively countered these biases, mimicking real-life and identifying patterns in the data to reveal the relative weight of each aspect of the buying process and proposition in the final decision.

The outcome

The resulting insights were critical for REXEL, giving the brand a 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.

What’s more, this experience is seamless across channels.

In parallel, REXEL has also enhanced its value proposition to tune into customer needs.

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

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