Home News FACE TO FACE | PEW speaks to David Williams on data use and commercial trends

FACE TO FACE | PEW speaks to David Williams on data use and commercial trends

In this month’s Face to Face we speak to David Williams, VP Transactional Business at Schneider Electric UK & Ireland, to get his thoughts on data use and commercial trends.

What is your background in the electrical sector and what are your key aims and objectives as a the newly appointed VP for Transactional Business at Schneider Electric?

I have been at Schneider Electric for 11 years now. During this time, I have overseen the complete the activity across all our business units ranging between green energy solutions in buildings, the residential sector and overall power systems.

As the new VP in transactional business, I am looking to re-shape the priorities of the business, placing Electricity4.0 and our B2B partners at the heart of operations, the likes of which include electricians, panel builders, contractors, electrical distributors, and other key industry professionals.

With the current business climate being so volatile because of global conflicts, economic pressures, and environmental instability, I want to take Schneider Electric back to the basics; and reassess where the company fits into this new energy landscape to best support our customer network. 

How can wholesalers make use of their data in order to better understand the needs of their customers?

Companies have had to adjust to challenging economic circumstances that have transformed the global business landscape. There has been a sizeable fall in consumer confidence, resulting in 80% of customers now admitting to switching providers on account of poor service/experience. So, with the customer sentiment being so volatile, experience and brand reputation is imperative to business survival.

This shift places great onus on businesses to provide high standards of service or risk their customer base, and the answer lies in data.

Wholesalers must utilise operational data on inventories, stock levels, customer demand, profits, and costs. This equips them with accurate intelligence so that they can provide tailored service to their customers.

Data can help a company pinpoint the biggest operational deficiencies, laying the groundwork for where they can make the biggest impact. However, data alone cannot be transformational for businesses and instead utilised alongside realistic CX goals.

What is ‘omnichannel’ e-commerce and how can it be used to drive sales?

For top B2C businesses, omnichannel has become the dominant form of commerce. Customers are increasingly demanding seamless experiences across online and in-store shopping. Many brands now allow their customers to shop in-store, on their website, on their app, via social media marketplaces, and more. Not only does omnichannel drive loyalty by giving customers the freedom to shop in the ways they prefer, but it also helps the business to reach new customer segments—boosting sales, efficiency, and inventory turnover.

As a result, omnichannel is increasingly seeping into the B2B world. Corporate customers now use ten or more channels to interact with suppliers, up from just five in 2016, while 94% of B2B decision-makers agree that new omnichannel sales strategies are equally or even more effective than pre-pandemic models. Even established B2B brands like Schneider Electric are developing online marketplaces for distributors, with the company’s customer-facing web shop launching in Egypt, France, India, and Indonesia.

B2B suppliers cannot solve the needs of an entire segment of customers through one channel, nor can they ignore e-commerce. The option to engage via face-to-face, remote, and self-service should be available to all customers, from small to medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) up to the largest organisations. After all, B2B purchases are still ultimately made by people, and they must be treated as individuals throughout every stage of the process.

Wiring accessories are now available in a myriad of different styles and finishes – what advice would you give to wholesalers when deciding on the product ranges to stock? 

The market has expanded recently, offering a wider range of finishes. It’s important to know the core finishes required and consult with manufacturers for guidance on popular choices.

Manufacturers should utilise point-of-sale (POS) materials to showcase products, combining physical samples with online libraries for lifestyle and application images.

When it comes to decorative accessories, trends tend to favour cleaner lines like the Ultimate Screwless Flat Plate range from Schneider Electric. However, raised edge designs may also be preferred for interior design or practical reasons.

Some finishes are more customised, so having samples or points-of-sale with various finishes at the trade counter is beneficial. Stocking core lines and a few unique finishes should suffice. Wholesalers should consider flexible ranges that don’t increase costs or require excessive storage space. For example, Schneider Electric’s Lisse and Ultimate grid ranges offer modularity by using a base switch module with interchangeable rocker caps.

Wholesalers should understand that carrying every variation is not feasible but having a few core lines and on-trend collections still provides the essential choices for buyers.

What industry patterns and trends are you expecting to see develop further over the next 12 months?

The trends that we’re seeing dominating across the industry, again a by-product of the global economic headwinds, is greater consciousness on energy management and saving across the residential industry.

Specifically, we’re seeing it become the responsibility of electricians, property owners and developers, and other key trade professionals to retrofit and futureproof the residential sector, especially in the face of an energy crisis. It is therefore the responsibility of Schneider Electric to ensure that the key industry players have sufficient tools and the necessary training to be able to accommodate this seismic shift.

Already, we’re providing key education and training on our product offerings, granting them the tools to do more with less. We also work to connect trade professionals across the UK, effectively building a support network for all our partners.

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