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Wholesale Distribution Rebate Programs
Don’t Let Your Bottom Line Bottom Out
by: Chris Wiesen | June 20, 2023

6 tips to supercharge your wholesale distribution rebate programs

In the increasingly competitive $8.2 trillion wholesale distribution industry, distributors like you often turn to rebate programs — offering customers financial incentives to purchase products — to improve the bottom line. These incentives, discounts, rebates and other financial benefits can help drive incremental sales and promote customer loyalty. Yet some distributors find rebate programs to be too challenging to manage.

Benefits abound

One of the most significant benefits of a rebate program is that it can increase sales. Customers are more likely to purchase a product or service when offered a financial incentive. Rebates can also help distributors move slow-moving inventory or secure new authorizations and distribution for new products.

Secondly, rebate programs can promote customer loyalty, leading to increased sales and a better bottom line. Additionally, customer loyalty helps with word-of-mouth marketing to attract new customers and boost sales.

Cost conundrum: offering rebates without breaking the bank

Rebate programs can be expensive to implement and maintain, especially if you don’t have an automated management solution.

There are additional challenges beyond cost that you may face when implementing a rebate program:

  • Rebate management
    You must ensure the rebate is only offered to eligible customers, paid on eligible products, and processed promptly.
  • Structure
    Rebate programs can be easily abused, with customers purchasing products to receive the rebate and returning the product later. You must ensure your rebate program is structured to encourage customers to buy products for the right reasons rather than just for the rebate. You also need the right tools in place to recover returns.
  • Manual processes
    Processing buy- and sell-side rebates in spreadsheets is time-consuming, involving multiple headcounts. Manual processes are error-prone and inefficient.
  • Visibility
    Many companies struggle to understand the impact their bottom-line rebates generate from a cost and revenue perspective. You need reliable insight into the analytics of your rebate programs to know how effective they are.

Rev up your rebate programs

To overcome the above challenges and breathe new life into your rebate programs, follow these 6 best practices:

  1. Define your rebate strategy and set goals
    Clearly define objectives and measure results regularly.
  2. Keep your rebate programs simple and easy to understand for customers and administrative teams
    Customers need to quickly understand your offer and what they need to do to earn the rebate. Keeping it simple also helps your program administrators manage your program.
  3. Offer fair and reasonable rebates
    Your rebates should be enough to incentivize customers to purchase products, but not so high that it becomes cost prohibitive. Additionally, you should ensure your rebate programs are easy to understand and access, with clear instructions on receiving the rebate.
  4. Offer customizable options
    Include tiered and exclusive rebates for loyal customers to promote customer loyalty and encourage sales. With this approach, your customers receive a higher rebate percentage for purchasing more products or reaching a certain spending threshold. Additionally, you can offer exclusive rebates to loyal customers, such as those who have made a certain number of purchases in the past.
  5. Automate the incentive process
    This helps drive down costs while increasing accuracy and generating confidence that the program is being run fairly.
  6. Collect and analyze transactional data
    The underlying data of rebate programs is a powerful indicator of how responsive your customers are to your marketing programs.

Achieve data-driven dominance

To optimize your rebate programs so you can achieve maximum profitability and grow your business, you need a robust, data-driven rebate management solution that helps you:

  • Offer and track supplier (buy-side) and customer (sell-side) rebates, allowing for accurate settlements and reversal settlements
  • Better align rebate programs with budgeting
  • Track sales data and rebate program usage, giving you visibility to which products are selling well and which rebate programs are most effective
  • Automate the rebate processing and payment system, ensuring that rebates are processed in a timely and accurate manner, eliminating the need for manual processing, reducing errors and increasing efficiency

As a wholesale distributor, you have more exposure to rebate programs than virtually all other industries. Buy-side programs with suppliers offer an essential supplemental revenue source to help boost the bottom line. Effective sell-side programs incentivize customers to buy more products and services from you, not competitors. In today’s digital age, you must have a solid revenue management solution to manage and automate these processes. Revenue leakage from manual processes can be recaptured, typically representing a 2-3% improvement to net margins.

It’s essential to understand the size and scope of your rebate programs and estimate the potential value for improvement. The sooner you address this, the quicker you can recover revenue leakage from your rebate programs.

Visit the Execute section of the Wholesale Distribution Industry Journey to learn more about rebate programs for wholesalers.

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