As the UK emerges from lockdown, schools, retailers and workplaces will have an increased need for cleaning and hygiene products to ensure they are keeping their environment safe. With different parts of the economy effectively being switched back on overnight, this will inevitably create an entirely new trading environment for product manufacturers and distributors. Mastering increasingly complex supply and demand dynamics will be key for operators looking to stay ahead in this new landscape, but there are practical strategies to help sales teams rise to the challenge.
Global supply chains have really borne the brunt of the Covid-19 crisis, especially in the cleaning and hygiene industry, where there simply has not been sufficient ongoing stocks of some popular products like hand sanitiser and cleansing wipes to satisfy surging consumer demand. This is leading more and more manufacturers and distributors to question the resilience of their supply chains, particularly those involving China, which was initially hit hard by the pandemic.
Going forward, being able to call on more diverse product supply chains will give organisations looking to capitalise on high demand a significant market advantage. In particular, this presents a significant opportunity for UK-based manufacturers to champion their offerings, especially as we head towards life outside the European Union and any further logistical challenges the transition process may bring in the short term.
New normal means new markets
For many industries, the new normal will mean reduced or muted demand, slower operations and an uncertain future. But as businesses of all kinds develop new health and safety protocols to protect customers and staff, at least in the short to medium term, there will be fresh opportunities for the cleaning and hygiene industry to access new markets.
Construction, for example, which has been one of the quickest sectors to restart operations is already rapidly implementing new guidelines and procedures around handwashing, toilet hygiene and equipment cleaning, which entail widescale specifying of a range of sanitation products and services. Those businesses with the flexibility and stocking strategies to service new markets and help companies in differing sectors meet new regulatory obligations stand best placed to take advantage of new opportunities as they arise.
Fresh rules of engagement
Across the industry, returning sales teams are having to adopt completely new ways of working, often with reduced resources, to maintain strong client relationships and keep their offerings front of mind. With little prospect of face to face meetings between sales reps and their clients being the norm again any time soon, the onus will be on manufacturers and distributors to get even closer to clients despite social distancing guidelines.
This means identifying clients preferred methods of communication, as early as possible and being flexible to adapt these as circumstances change. In an age where the vast majority of commercial relationships will be conducted over meeting apps like Zoom and Microsoft Teams, companies will have to work harder than ever to differentiate their offerings.
The devil’s in the data
Amid such an unprecedented period of fluctuating supply and demand, any advantage manufacturers and distributors can employ to identify new buying trends and patterns will be particularly useful.
Typically, buying organisations in this sector are awash with sales and purchasing data yet frequently don’t capture it properly, let alone use it to inform future business practice. Sales enablement software is increasingly prevalent in multiple sectors and we fully expect uptake to continue as more and more businesses see the benefit in taking time to analyse and interpret their customer buying data to put themselves at a commercial advantage.
Fluctuating demand for products and services has been a key feature of commercial life under lockdown, with many businesses struggling to fulfil existing orders one minute and then being forced to sit on or in some cases, dispose of stock altogether the next. Yet in some circumstances, product manufacturers have also been able to unexpectedly move stock that had been sitting idle for some time.
The moral of the story here is to be flexible. The reality of the current circumstances means that planning for future product demand with any kind of certainty is largely impossible. What we can say with some certainty however, is that as long as this crisis endures, demand for personal hygiene and cleaning products will remain strong.