Distribution may appear to the untrained eye to be a straightforward industry, but in reality, it is evolving more rapidly than ever before. From increased competition and changing business models to a barrage of new, innovative technologies, the way distributors do business is starkly and fundamentally different than it was even five years ago. In an age of such pronounced structural change and competitive pressures, risking not changing is risking ultimately failing.

Here are the five most important trends for wholesale distributors in 2017.

1. Your Target Market is Online, You Should Be Too

The modern consumer across all parts of the supply chain turns to the internet as the ultimate source of knowledge for purchase decisions – thus, a strong online presence is crucial for continued business success, whether in the world of B2B or B2C commerce. Ecommerce continues to be a key topic and distributors need to be ahead of it if they want to remain relevant and fresh in the face of major industry changes.

2. Competition is Everywhere and They Are Leaner, Meaner and More Tech-Savvy Than Ever

In today’s distribution landscape, it is getting harder to differentiate. With the ever-growing number of competitors, how do distributors position themselves as unique and stay a step ahead? What trends are affecting our industry? Assessing and reassessing these questions on a regular basis is absolutely essential for continued success in the constantly evolving world of distribution.

3. Business Models Are Rapidly Changing

Distributors are exploring new ways of going to market. Between the internet’s pervasiveness among modern consumers and the constant flood of technological advances in the business world, companies have to fundamentally change the way they operate in order to hold up against their competitors.

4. Investing in Tech Is Not Just for the Amazons of the World

To remain competitive, distributors need to continue upgrading their work environments and stay updated on the cutting edge of technology. Gone are the days of paper pushing and manual processes – tablets, scanners, and cloud systems are changing the game and making the modern distributor warehouse sleeker, cleaner, and more efficient.

5. Employee Productivity is Critical for Success

Tech upgrades – although very important – are useless without the employees to act on the efficiencies they bring. Employee productivity for the modern distributor is key to long term success; much of that productivity can be facilitated with new technologies. Warehouse automation, CRM, ecommerce, pricing and analytics are just some of the updates modern distributors implement to streamline their processes while increasing employee productivity to improve the output of their operations.

Although our list of five things may not seem like much, they are completely altering the face of the distribution industry. Even just a year down the line, distributors may look completely different. With that in mind, it begs the question – if change is imminent, what are you waiting for?

For more on how NetSuite can help wholesale distributors, download the data sheet.