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How to win over MRO buyers

Two men wearing yellow reflective vests and discussing something while standing near an open loading dock door in a warehouse.

In the maintenance and repair of industrial facilities and equipment - known as MRO (maintenance, repair and operations) - buyers who can't get their needs met will jump to a different supplier. Your ability as a supplier to deliver reliability, quality, and competitive prices is essential. The UPS Industrial MRO white paper, Growing MRO business: Closing the gaps, from UPS and research firm IDC (, reveals how MRO buyer/seller relationships are changing and what you can do to cement your success instead of being blacklisted from future sales.

Buyer-supplier disconnect

The Growing MRO business study finds significant gaps between the top five focuses focus areas of sellers and the five most important things that influence buyer spending.

Top 5 focus areas
Convenient locations
Real-time product visibility
Ease of ordering
24/7 ordering
Order response time

Top 5 buyer spending influences
Competitive pricing
Ease of ordering
Product always in stock
Consistent experience across channels
Available on multiple channels

Sellers who prioritize their capabilities to align with their buyers' needs may find a competitive edge over competitors who focus on factors that are less important to their buyers. The findings don't suggest that sellers should deprioritize things like convenient location, visibility, and order response time; rather, they suggest that sellers who listen to their buyers and align their priorities will enjoy longer-term relationships.

Buyer satisfaction by channel

The 150 buyers who participated in the survey were asked to rank their satisfaction of five primary channels of distribution (online marketplaces, consumer retailers, traditional distributors, direct from manufacturers, and third-party service providers). No single channel emerged as a strong leader or straggler in buyer satisfaction; however, the findings suggest opportunities for MRO suppliers who want to gain competitive edge.

For example, third-party service providers received lower customer satisfaction scores than other channels for competitive pricing and convenient locations, and highest for being one-stop shops and having products always in stock. Competitive pricing and products in stock are two of the top five spending influences; the findings suggest that MRO suppliers who prioritize their customer service improvements could see more buyer loyalty.

Criteria for MRO supplier dismissal

Post-purchase, buyers are likely to dismiss an MRO supplier because of poor after-sales support and returns options. In fact, these rank in the top five in importance by buyers for passing up a supplier. Buyers reported that 60 percent of the time, service response time took three days and up to a month 21 percent of the time — something buyers can’t afford.

The future of MRO: 3D printing

Innovations in technology are disrupting many industries. For example, additive manufacturing, a form of 3D printing, is gaining ground as a way for suppliers to offer limited production runs and faster prototyping, something that buyers increasingly request. Twenty-seven percent of buyers see 3D printing as playing a major role in the near future, and 56 percent think it will be important in generating components and parts. The findings suggest opportunities for MRO suppliers who identify emerging technologies early.

Focus on customers, competition and change management

Trying to satisfy all buyers isn't possible, but emphasizing the three Cs-customers, competition, and change management-can help you use your resources well. Specifically:

  • Know your customer. Ask them questions, listen to their feedback, and figure out how to solve their problems.
  • Know your competition. The number of MRO sellers continues to quickly grow. Assess your strengths against theirs.
  • Commit to change management. As the industry changes, staying current with today's trends is a must, but so is looking to the future.

Evolve today for tomorrow

MRO suppliers can cater to customers while reducing infrastructure expenses by:

  • Working with technology providers to better manage inventories, real-time visibility and e-commerce experiences.
  • Implementing turn-key service enhancements to help provide fast, efficient maintenance.
  • Using a third-party logistics partner to speed up deliveries and reach new markets.
  • Keeping costs down by optimizing processes, networks and supply chain operations.

Success hinges upon knowing your customers' needs and evolving alongside market and channel forces, sometimes with strategic leap-of-faith investments and reimagined business models. Anything less and your business will almost certainly be dropped from consideration by buyers.

Read the Industrial MRO white paper now to learn specific tactics for using these findings to gain a competitive advantage.

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