In our last issue of FordPros Magazine, I noted that the meme, “I thought we’d have flying cars by now,” was a sign of our times. I have another one for you; “Trending now!”

Maybe you’re thinking that “trending now” is a post-modern colloquialism reflecting the fickle world of B2C rather than the B2B commercial vehicle industry. But stick with me for a bit, and we’ll explore whether retail buying trends may have bled through to commercial vehicle sales.

“Trending now” and FOMO

The fear of missing out, a.k.a. FOMO, is a natural phenomenon; who wants to miss out on something desirable just because it wasn’t even on the radar? So, it’s something of a service to the general population for marketers to alert them to hot products/services that are, well… trending now; “Everyone wants this new thing; don’t miss out!”

One of the current trends is custom-ordered products, which the American population is supporting with their wallets. We want to determine the size, shape, color, and configuration of everything we buy. Manufacturers and retailers are working to accommodate this demand because if they don’t, someone else will.

21st-century technologies such as big data, 3-D printing on demand, and reliable doorstep delivery are the primary enablers of the “trending now” phenomenon. Although the global supply chain is every bit as influential on B2C as it is on B2B, the retail world seems to have managed recent disruptions with much greater agility. Note that retail shopping has largely already transitioned to ordering products online as opposed to foraging at brick-and-mortar stores. It’s likely that this scenario has helped to manage customer expectations, thus mitigating the harsh effects of faltering supply chains.

Commercial vehicle industry trends

The commercial automotive industry is undergoing a similar trend in moving to a pre-order sales model. But, unlike retail, this transition is slowed by prolonged supply chain issues, rather than customer demand. Auto manufacturers seem to have embraced pre-orders as an antidote to current supply deficiencies. Indeed, OEMs are pivoting from pushing specific vehicle models onto customers to pushing dealerships into pre-orders as a preferred sales model.

Although there may be some similarities in the order first, take it home second, model, the main drivers for the change are drastically different—and the reception to the paradigm shift is decidedly different.

Trends vs. business best practices

Although being mindful of shifting trends is good business, best business practices are not trends. It is unwise to let the fluid nature of trends diminish the foundations of good business, one of the cornerstones being customer relationships.

B2C sales rely heavily on prospective buyers’ emotional investment—think FOMO. It’s a relationship of sorts, albeit a brief one, due to the relatively short buying cycles of B2C compared to B2B. However, B2B, particularly in the commercial vehicle industry, is even more reliant on relationships with customers. Successful dealers realize this and intentionally nurture those relationships.

Customers are investing quite a bit of capital in work trucks and vans. And, they often don’t have the luxury of conducting intense research before buying their next vehicle; downtime equals lost revenue. So, your expertise is invaluable to buyers, BUT you must have already built a bridge of trust strong enough to bring your insight across. Although your knowledge in the field may be a great boon for them, your customers must trust you before they can receive it and benefit from it.

My main point here is that no matter what is “trending now,” building strong relationships with customers is always going to be foundational to your dealership’s success. Rather than “trending now,” it’s “trending always” when it comes to fostering commercial customer relationships—and if you use this as a guiding light, you’ll come out on top far more often than not.