Online retailers have made the concept of business hours obsolete; business is open 24/7. However, for most beauty retailers and distributors working with manufacturer reps, the same rules don’t apply–until now. Previously, retailers and distributors relied on directly contacting sales reps to assist with orders and, in doing so, were bound to more traditional hours and often a slower process in procuring product. However, retailers are increasingly seeking viable, digital alternatives in order to make operations run both faster and smoother. To meet this need, manufacturer reps have steadily begun to digitize their business model.
One such company is Coleman Harrison, a manufacturer rep group with territories in the Midwest, Northeast and Southwest that connects manufacturers with wholesale distributors and does business with beauty storeowners and distributors directly. The company, which was founded by principals with a combined 75 years of sales experience, has pioneered Nectar, an online platform that allows retailers the option to do all their ordering themselves. In taking this crucial step, Coleman Harrison is digitally elevating the industry while setting the scene for other manufacturer reps to follow suit.
The Nectar name is a play on the company’s hummingbird logo, an animal much admired for its efficiency, work ethic, speed and agility. “This makes us open for business 24 hours a day,” says Tom Harrison, principal, who is looking forward to a paradigm shift in the way business is conducted following the introduction of Nectar. Both distributors and sales reps save time when orders are placed directly by the distributor through Coleman Harrison’s new customized Nectar digital system. Sales agents can focus on resolving higher-level actions, such as merchandising proposals, addressing challenges from an admin perspective or discussing new items–which will help boost business for both retailers and distributors.
Harrison adds, “It’s much more forward-thinking and future-planning than the current system. We want to help our customers plan for the future.”
The Nectar platform allows storeowners direct access to merchandise through the Coleman Harrison website. Both Harrison and partner Charlie Coleman, also a principal, agree that the ease of use is key. There are many benefits afforded by going digital and communication is definitely a factor, especially as the system sets up a direct channel between the storeowner or distributor and the manufacturer. “It’s going to give all of our customers the opportunity to see all the brands they buy from us, all the education from that brand and also new items, which are defined in two ways: either new to the market or new to the customer,” Harrison explains.
The ability to order without having to rely on a paper trail is definitely a game-changer– switching to digital allows retailers and distributors to place orders on their own schedules, but they don’t need to fear losing their Coleman Harrison sales agent. “This is not replacing anything,” Harrison ensures us of the enhancement.
“Our customers will have the option of choosing what’s most comfortable for them,” Coleman says. Whether that’s placing orders online, calling customer service or giving orders to salespeople, all are standing options. “It’s about our customers and how we provide a higher level of service today than we did yesterday,” he adds.
The system functions much like Amazon–complete with an image of the item and a familiar “buy” button. It also tracks order histories and offers suggestions based on purchases. Past purchases are shared with sales agents to create conversation and lead to viable analysis surrounding product performance. “We feel this is revolutionary,” Coleman notes. “Our sales agents will be able to have great discussions with our customers and ask, ‘How did this move? How did this sell? We notice you bought this item, and it’s new to your mix. How is that doing?’”
Ultimately, convenience works and drives sales. Salons that made the switch, ordering directly from the distributor, purchased 40 percent more on average, according to Coleman Harrison. When you’re given more options for items to stock in your store, you can make better choices to stay in line with your vision and provide what your customers want.
“This is not the end, this is a beginning,” Harrison explains. “This system will continually evolve. A system that we use a few years in the future will be different than this one, and it should be. Business is changing and so are we.”
Nectar is currently available to every Coleman Harrison distributor in three different territories, including the Northeast, Midwest and Southwest. Visit the Coleman Harrison website for more information. ■