Like many other market sectors, pipe, valve and fittings (PVF) suppliers have not been able to send their sales teams into the field as frequently during the pandemic.
Companies that turned to ecommerce found up to half of their clients willingly used ecommerce channels and they are now planning to continue their digital transformation.
PVF market overview
The global industrial PVF market was estimated to be around US$65.9billion in 2020 and is expected to grow at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 4% to 5%, at least until 2024.
Distributors are increasing their global footprint through mergers and acquisitions to reach emerging and maturing markets although the picture is still quite fragmented.
As shale gas production recovers in North America the market for oil country tubular goods (OCTG), capable of handling greater tension, compression, and torsion will increase. The growing oil and gas industry in Australia is also boosting the demand for PVF products. Smart valves to replace manual valves will also drive the market in developed regions where increased demand for seamless pipe production continues.
In developed countries rapid urbanization, increasing disposable income, rising private and public investment, and increases in government rebuilding initiatives mean water supply and sewerage treatment projects are increasing where large-scale pipework will be needed.
Environmental, health, and safety regulations, such as requirements for smog-producing volatile organic compounds (VOCs), mean many end-user industries will need to upgrade to improved PVFs.
However, shortages of raw materials, which account for some 65% to 70% of the total cost, are affecting pricing and production. Skills and labor shortages are also likely to affect market performance in the near future.
While the global market is still quite traditional, with many customers working only with their preferred suppliers on a cost-plus or fixed price basis, the sector remains both inventory and price sensitive. However, things are changing as digital technology like 3D printing has an impact. International sales and purchasing will also play an increasingly important role in the sector.
The role of B2B ecommerce for PVF suppliers
Accurate stock information – most PVF customers need timely delivery of products, parts and replacements, especially for maintenance. Real-time information about their suppliers’ inventory levels is therefore a key consideration that can be addressed with an effective ecommerce solution. Providing a single point of contact via a B2B ecommerce software will provide a competitive advantage and help to build customer loyalty.
Collaboration – with the current material shortages and production challenges many PVF suppliers are turning to partnerships to help them meet their customers’ requirements. Collaborations can range from working with a master distributor as the intermediary between manufacturers and smaller distributors to shared inventory amongst collaborative groups of distributors or industry-specific online B2B marketplaces.
Orders are increasingly likely to be placed online so stock control and visibility will become priorities, along with the ability to create tailored product bundles and pricing via a product builder tool. Using a bespoke quote workflow to make sure you have the most up-to-date pricing from manufacturers before passing information along to your customers will be important in this fast-changing environment.
Easy search – you can make it very easy for customers to find what they’re looking for with intuitive navigation and intelligent on-site search options. Part numbers can be cross-referenced, alongside product and manufacturer names and stockkeeping units (SKUs).
Integration – by integrating your ecommerce platform with your enterprise resource planning (ERP) system and other key business processes like product information management, warehouse management, and third party logistics you can give customers confidence to make their purchases based on accurate product details, stock levels and delivery schedules.
Digital integration creates efficiencies for both you and your customers, strengthening relationships and creating opportunities to provide other value-added offerings like back in stock alerts.
Fast reordering – orders can be placed quickly and securely online with tailored pricing, purchase orders, call off orders, credit agreements and digital invoicing. When customers are ready to reorder, a simple login process will give them access previous purchases, favorites lists and credit agreements.
Customer service – when you integrate your key business systems all your teams from sales and warehousing to marketing and customer service can share a single source of information, so they can respond quickly and confidently to your customers’ needs online, via chatbots, email or phone.
With continuing challenges for field sales teams, they can repurpose their skills and expertise to be reliable and trusted advisors for existing and new customers. When they are in the field Cloudfy’s mobile customer ordering app gives them the ability to check inventory and place the order wherever they are working.
Rely on an ecommerce solution designed for B2B markets
Cloudfy’s out-of-the-box B2B features can help to streamline the ordering process, access up-to-date stock information, improve customer satisfaction, and save time and money.