In search of the ‘winning model’
At the time of the Convention, the UK’s continued membership of the EU was still to be decided, but the EDA’s membership of the European Union of Electrical Wholesalers (EUEW), which dates back to 1960, remains an important commitment for the Association. The EUEW brings together wholesaler associations from 15 European countries to share best practice, address common issues and promote the sector in general.
The total membership of the 15 national associations is about 1,300 companies with more than 5,200 outlets that employ some 65,000 staff. The products these companies distribute are produced by national and multinational manufacturing companies in the electrical industry. On 2-4 June, in Sardinia, 100 wholesalers, 83 leading manufacturers and 15 other industry organisations committed to developing their European businesses came together for presentations, discussions and networking at the 61st Annual Convention of the EUEW, hosted by Italian wholesaler association FME.
From 9am to 5pm, delegates attended plenary sessions that covered a range of topics. The first was the differences between wholesaling operations in each of the countries. The challenge was to find a ‘winning model’ in the light of a survey of wholesalers carried out across Europe in 2016.
Anyone in the UK who complains about cash flow may think themselves lucky when compared with wholesalers in Italy with 137 debtor days and 76 creditor days. On the other hand, Finland only has 28 debtor days on average. There are huge national differences in sales through wholesalers’ websites. Switzerland tops the table – more than two-thirds of sales are through websites. The UK is at the bottom with just 5.5 per cent. The top average gross wage was in Portugal – €58k – with Poland at only €13k. One KPI that was relatively constant across Europe was the average age of the workforce, which fell within a band of 37-44 years.
Unsurprisingly, a whole section of the programme was dedicated to multichannel marketing and included presentations on e-commerce, the internet of things and digitisation of business. Readers may be surprised to know that B2B e-commerce, at €780bn a year, is worth more than twice as much as B2C e-commerce. B2B sites are now using B2C ‘front ends’, taking advantage of their ease of use and the fact that they have become familiar to users. Delegates also heard that, this year, mobile devices have become more important than desktops and laptops, and that a video can double your conversion rate on a website. A major opportunity for wholesalers is that the phone is now being used to ‘assist’ and close on-line purchases – in some cases phone-assisted sales can be as high as 50 per cent. Adding value Prof CA Carnevale Maffe from Bocconi Business School berated delegates for thinking that wholesalers were a channel to market. He says we are the key interface in the sales process and it is our job to ‘servitise’ – to add value though services. Some of the key sponsors of the Convention also took their turns on stage. There were presentations from Ledvance (Osram) on the huge changes going on in the lighting market. Look out for the official launch of Ledvance in July. Siemens warned delegates about the imminent death of the B2B salesman and explained that we must all adapt our selling styles to different buying situations. Wholesalers may have to be order-takers, navigators, explainers and consultants – and they will need to choose the right approach. Can one person do all these things or are different profiles necessary to serve, guide, show and enlighten customers?
Siemens said the consultant who enlightens probably has the greatest opportunities. Representatives of cable company La Trivenenta Cavi spoke about the construction products and the low-voltage directives – and how they will affect the cable business.
Another important message came from the MSSI – the Market Surveillance Support Initiative – created to foster co-operation across Europe to keep counterfeit and non-compliant products out of the supply chain. They stressed the key role of the wholesaler in this initiative. Italians are known for their passion and there were rousing messages from the President of FME, Guido Barcella, who said the key differentiating factor in any business is the passion and energy that is put into it. He used a potent film clip from The Little Prince to illustrate this and presented red roses to the delegates.
Please see below presentations from the weekend. Further information from the Convention can be found at http://www.euew.org/conventions