The Importance of Data Insights for Distributors

by | Oct 28, 2022 | Lincoln's Insights

A few weeks ago, I had the opportunity to attend Modern Distribution Management’s SHIFT conference. While in Colorado, I had the chance to connect with some of the leading distribution professionals to discuss the business transformation trends in distribution.

The SHIFT conference was organized in three well-focused tracks: Sales, Digital Transformation, and Data Analytics. This was the first time that MDM curated a conference in this manner, and this event brought people with these specific disciplines together.

The Sales track focused on how distribution can reimagine sales to improve profits and customer engagement. The second track, Digital Transformation, touched on the other ways customers want to buy products. Lastly, the Data Analytics track taught participants how to grow their metrics culture and the newest trends in distribution data best practices.

Most of my time was spent in the sales track broadening and sharing my knowledge of the new processes and transition to an Omni approach. However, I found the Data Analytics track effective in promoting ways that we need to use data to improve business strategies and better serve customers. Overall, the SHIFT conference provided more insights into how we can help design performance incentive programs to drive behavior change or “SHIFT.” One key area of emphasis for incentive program design comes from the Data Analytics track.

Data Analytics Takeaways

Data insights are key to understanding a distributor’s audience and growing their business. There are different types of data that can be gathered from customers (incentive/loyalty program participants): descriptive, diagnostic, predictive, and prescriptive.

     Descriptive Data

Data from the past, uses historical data to help describe trends and relationships. You could look at the previous purchases a customer made from you to learn a little bit more about them.

     Diagnostic Data

The “why”, is used to figure out why an instance occurred. For example, trying to understand why a salesperson is outperforming their colleagues. Looking into their behaviors and noticing that the data shows that they are constantly keeping their sales engineer in the loop compared to their colleagues shows why there’s a leap in performance.

     Predictive Data

Is information that tells us what could happen in the future. If you’re looking at YoY growth of a customer, you can see that in year 1 they grew 5%, and in year 2 they also grew 5%, and we can draw a conclusion saying that this customer is more than likely to grow 5% this year as well.

     Prescriptive Data

Provides information that can help make recommendations. If you take the customer from above and notice that they are only growing 5% YoY, what is the data showing that can help us get them to get from 5% to 10% growth YoY.

Understanding these types of data insights and how to use them is important.

Incentive Programs Gather Data Insights

Because there is so much data that can be given to us from our audience and interpreted from their quotation and purchasing behavior, and within our own business, collecting it might be tricky. Incentive programs are an effective way to learn about customers. With an incentive program, we can focus on predictive and prescriptive data and learn where and how we can improve. Some ways that we can use an incentive program to learn about a client’s audience are:

  • Or upon enrollment into the program. From here, you can add in profiling questions about who they are, and their role and find out their contact preferences (email, phone, text message). You may even be able to get a sense of the potential of the account.
  • With a captive audience, it’s easier to solicit responses to gain key insights, especially if there’s an incentive offered.
  • Building a promotion that helps incentivize customers to answer questions (often by earning entries) so that we can better understand them.

By implementing these different ways in which the participants of the program can give us information, we can learn about their preferences and the trends within participating groups, and thus we can alter strategies to help our clients keep their customers growing their share-of-wallet spending.


I had a fantastic experience networking with other distribution industry leaders at the SHIFT Conference. MDM did a wonderful job putting together such a worthwhile event that I am excited to attend next year. If you have anything you would like to share with me, please reach out!

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