The wholesale industry was evolving steadily before the pandemic and has since been struck with many challenges and unpredictable demand and strain on supply chains. The industry has had to rethink its operations, adjusting the business models to be more efficient. Distributors are realising the importance of going digital and adapting processes by adding value via additional services like credit finance and distributor managed inventories.
With constant advancements in B2B technologies, the wholesale industry will continue to grow and embrace the new world of selling and managing inventory online. Below, there are some identified industry trends to look out for including increased use of technology, international commerce, omnichannel marketing and sustainable operations.
Increased Use of Technology
There is no better time than now to embrace digital transformation. Technology improves the agility, adaptability and effectiveness of a business and in wholesale, this is exactly what you need for long-term success. Smaller businesses will evolve with technology by perfecting and updating existing software whereas larger businesses invest in more advanced technology such as robotics, IoT and Blockchain. Artificial intelligence will also be used more by distributors, for example, Amazon has utilised artificial intelligence with 35% of its eCommerce revenue generated through AI (Illyas, 2021).
Virtual showrooms are hugely popular in the wholesale industry. BrandLab360 use ground-breaking CGI and 3D rendering techniques to replicate a business's current physical environment or build a brand-new bespoke experience. Some features of their environments include integrated video chat to host live sales appointments, information tags for product images, text info and any form of media, unlimited users, the ability to live stream, host online events and even create pre-assortments for customers. The technology is easily accessible by the user, through the click of a simple live link, meaning no apps or downloads are required prior to using the platform.
Image by BrandLab360
Due to advancements in technology and popularity of B2C online selling, global Ecommerce has been rising for a long time and becoming the new normal. Many B2B wholesalers have expanded overseas due to popularity of shopping online and e-commerce platforms becoming more accessible for wholesale buyers and distributors, so customers can now come from anywhere in the world.
With this, many factors need to be considered; an omnichannel marketing approach, flexible payment options and an understanding of cultural norms. This may not seem important but for example, in terms of payment options, the US and UK population mostly use credit cards for purchasing, while central Europe is generally more credit averse (Sea Coast Bank, 2021).
Image by BrandLab360
Online selling has the convenience factor, as wholesale distributors can make their catalogue available on their e-commerce store where retailers can pick items and add them to their shopping cart just like B2C online selling. BrandLab360’s virtual environments eliminate the restriction of location of buyers and sellers’ brands, helping wholesalers sell to their customers around the globe via live video chat integrated directly into the virtual environments or live stream.
Nowadays, customers expect a convenient shopping experience. Therefore, businesses need to be more flexible to keep up in what is now a competitive market. Whenever consumers choose to engage with brands, there is an expectation to be there waiting for them at every touchpoint which is where omnichannel distribution comes into play.
Image by BrandLab360
Omnichannel is when customers are able to engage with, purchase and receive orders directly from a brand via any channel they choose, making purchasing more manageable for the customer whilst strengthening brand loyalty as ease of purchase will make them more likely to return. The different channels include offline channels, website, telecommunications and social media channels which all build brand awareness, improved customer satisfaction and in turn, higher sales. 90% of customers expect consistent interactions across different channels showing the importance of this marketing strategy (Illyas, 2021).
Businesses must connect all aspects of their distribution operation including inventory, transit options, orders, customer interactions and deliveries. Otherwise, there is the risk of losing vital information and cannot efficiently fulfil orders, regardless of channel. To stay ahead in this competitive market, wholesale marketers should look to adopt this marketing strategy.
Consumers now care more about where their products come from and how sustainable they are. As the customer comes first, sustainability is something that businesses really need to think about adding into their operations. 92% of customers are more likely to trust a company that supports social or environmental issues, and 87% of customers have a more positive image of a company that supports social or environmental causes (Coad, 2021).
Sustainable practices also improve efficiency as waste is reduced and processes are streamlined. This innovation increases profits with a conscious approach. Sustainability is also something that employees care about. By 2025, 75% of the workforce will be made up of millennials and 76% of millennials consider a company's social and environmental commitments before deciding where to work. Furthermore, 64% of millennials will not take a job if an employer doesn't have strong corporate responsibility practices (Coad, 2021). This shows that sustainability and CSR should be at the forefront of how businesses operate.
These are some of the trends that are up and coming this year but are there any other trends you think are important? Let us know below!
Illyas, 2021: https://b2bwoo.com/blog/wholesale-distribution-trends/
Sea Coast Bank, 2021: https://www.seacoastbank.com/resource-center/business-insights/5-trends-in-wholesale-distribution
Coad, 2021: https://www.aptean.com/en-GB/insights/blog/wholesale-distribution-trends-2021