Lockdown accelerated a shift to digital for wholesalers and distributors

Change in consumer behaviours are accelerating digital transformation plans for wholesalers and distributors, allowing them to sell online and become automated
October 19, 2020
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5-min read

B2B businesses have experienced an accelerated growth in the eCommerce market during the coronavirus crisis and this applies for merchants, wholesalers and distributors as the entire supply chain has been disrupted. With growth in online sales also comes a need to digitalise operations to meet demand and operate effectively when delivering a multi-channel sales experience.

A recent survey by Wunderman Thompson Commerce, a global eCommerce consultancy business, states that 46% of B2B purchases are now conducted online, with 58% expecting to use digital shopping channels more in the future. During the lockdown period, consumers have become accustomed to buying online as the bricks and mortar stores closed, so it no surprise that buyers will continue with their online habits in the future and expect an online experience when researching and purchasing products.

Interestingly, 46% of B2C respondents in the Wunderman Report 2020 stated they prefer to shop with a brand that has both physical and online stores. This may not directly correlate with the B2B world, but the same principles still apply to wholesalers; people like human interaction and often pick up the phone with a trusted supplier. This means it is crucial that customers receive the same experience no matter the channel. Customers need to be able to research prices and products online and expect to receive the same costs and stock levels when they call or visit a trade counter. From price to stock levels and product information, each channel (eCommerce website, trade counter, phone call or marketplaces like Amazon) need to access the same data for the customer.

This is why having the infrastructure in place to manage all channels from a centralised location is key to maximising your success online. It's important to consider your internal processes and systems when moving into the online world which is why the recent pandemic has accelerated the need for wholesalers and distributors to go digital. Future-proofing your business doesn't simply mean setting up a website, but it's creating the digital foundations of your company that will enable you to drive your business forward.

Thankfully, Sphinx Industrial Supplies implemented OGL Software back in 2015 when they wanted to overhaul their manual processes to make them more efficient. In 2019 they implemented an integrated eCommerce site to provide them with an online presence and increase their sales and have reaped the rewards during lockdown. The Finance Director, Sophie Donnelly, explained, I think we still would have been here [after the lockdown], but we would have struggled. The website has saved us, it was just processing orders for us as people could see what we sold and the stock we had. The website kept us ticking over the whole time and our online sales revenue increased by 300% during that period, it was manic.

Deligo, a fastener and fixing supplier to the electrical wholesale industry explained how they'd more than doubled their eCommerce website turnover since the lock down period, which is why the integration with their ERP system, OGL Software, is crucial to coping with demand. The increase in web traffic and online sales highlights the importance of having a solid infrastructure to cope with the increase in online activity without the increased admin and the ability to offer the same quality service.

Selling online and moving to digital processes is no longer a nice to have' but a necessity to survive. Future-proofing your business with digital tools to improve efficiencies and automate processes is crucial for survival and creates opportunities that otherwise wouldn't have been achievable.

If you're looking to create an eCommerce website or set up your own Amazon or eBay channel to begin selling online, consider your internal infrastructure and processes to ensure you can handle the orders without increasing admin and workload.

Originally published in Torque magazine - Issue 47 - Page 72

business man dispatching orders on laptop

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