Wholesale has traditionally been all about sheds filled with products lined up ready for shoppers to come and browse the aisles, choosing the products that are the best fit for their businesses.

The job of suppliers and the wholesalers was to tempt them with promotions to upsell into different formats, NPD and more lucrative lines.

That presents a challenge, with wholesalers being restricted by the physical bricks and mortar, the number of promotions and products that can be stored on display and zero targeting – every visitor sees the same offer.

Jim Berry, Director of IT at SalesOut, comments: “Wholesalers may fear the lack of control they feel when digital takes that visibility away, but we work with them to integrate data sets from across their business, reap the benefits of speed, insight and digital support but maintain the control the wholesaler desires. We guide our wholesalers on products they should have in physical stores, what they should have online and importantly which customers to target with which promotion so that they maximise their ROI and give their customers the best experience. This in turn will be repaid with increased loyalty. When delivery is so expensive versus collect it’s important to get this right in-store and online.”

SalesOut pioneered the targeting of customers with physical print and coupons but has evolved with the digital age to move into the space of e-commerce with its unrivalled wholesaler solutions.

IRI manages the customer data for 5 major retailers in the UK and their data scientists create and manage the maths behind the best way to target and reward customers.

SalesOut has now brought this capability to the wholesale and FS sector so that it can provide genuine 1-2-1 targeting based on customer behaviour and measured ROI for the many mechanics now open to attract customers online.

This means that wholesalers can not only design and execute different promotions for each customer but can vary the depth or type of discount too.

Using machine learning and AI, SalesOut can tell a wholesaler what product to run a promotion on, with what depth of discount each individual would respond to and which form of communication best suit the customer needs.

This means that wholesalers are not over rewarding or discounting people that will respond to a lesser promotion. For example, one shopper may need to be given a £5 discount to buy into a new case of lager, whilst another might only need £4; one customer responds really well to NPD if they are given a free sample whereas others would need to be incentivised with a ‘buy one get one free’ offer.

“The risk with online is that you can offer many more promotions to many more people – the winner will be the wholesaler who understands how to reward the right customer with the right personalised offer, and no more than it needs to,” adds Berry.

Salesout process 12 million SKUs every week and can see the performance of every line no matter where or how it is sold. Wholesalers can quickly see which products are in demand to ensure that they have the right range at the right price. They can even look at times of the day that work out when is the right time to push certain ranges, products and promotions to get the strongest ROI in the right locations.

“The Covid-19 period has undoubtably put a strain on the working functions of wholesalers and the IT systems will have been tested to the max,” says Berry.

As the new norm develops and businesses look to the future their investments will need to be in IT to support their business systems, but it will also need to be in the strategy that they put into place.

“Delivered businesses have a much higher cost base but in a time when customers will be hyper price sensitive the answer can’t just be to pass costs onto the customer,” adds Berry. “The wholesaler of the future will need to be savvy not just in buying and selling but attracting and retaining the customers that remain profitable and attractive to keep. For that, you need data! SalesOut truly believes it’s not just about a digital offering, it’s about digital understanding. Our unrivalled market view – together with our partnership with the FWD for provision of data to both wholesalers and suppliers during the ongoing pandemic – has helped placed our partners ahead of the competition.”

Kristine Moore, Retail Technology Channel Manager at Henderson Technology, comments: “There are many benefits of investing in technology for your store. EDGEPoS is a reliable and flexible EPOS system that grows with your business. It covers the three main areas instore – Efficiency, Security and Business Development.”

A retailer needs full visibility and full control of everything that is happening instore. EDGEPoS allows this with standard functionalities such as Authority Levels on till and back office; integrated EFT, fuel and Paypoint; Advanced Age Checking; No Means to Pay and Drive Offs at till; full Credit Accounts wizard functionality; and Instore Coupons.

Henderson Technology makes the process of installing a new EPOS easy – with a dedicated engineer and training officer for the process. All hardware, software, training, upgrades, 24/7/365 support and maintenance are included within the contract provided. With products available such as Self-Checkout, Click n Collect and Home Delivery App and Electronic Shelf Edge Labels available to bolt onto the EDGEPoS system, Henderson Technology is a one stop shop for all EPOS and Technology requirements.

EDGEPoS offers one of the first hybrid Self-Checkouts globally which bolts onto one or more of your existing Cashier tills. This eliminates the need for additional floor space and is an extremely cost effective way to add Self Serve instore. With other innovative products such as Click n Collect and Home Delivery App; and Gander Reduction App – Henderson Technology is allowing their retailers the ability to be forward thinking retailers – but giving them the control of a fully integrated all in one system to track and monitor the performance of these products. In 2019, Henderson Technology also launched EDGEPoS Electronic Shelf Edge Labels, allowing the retailer to install this time saving addition instore, and spread the cost over a seven year rental agreement.

EDGEPoS offers a full electronic wholesaler link to various wholesalers, and these partnerships are growing every month. The link allows invoices, price changes, credit notes, products, promotions and more to be received electronically from the wholesaler. It also allows orders and returns to be sent to the wholesaler at the touch of a button.

Designed specifically for wholesale and distribution businesses, sales-i is a developer of sales enablement software that intelligently trends, tracks and monitors customer buying behaviour.

Hundreds of SME wholesalers up and down the UK (and thousands internationally) use the sales-i platform to facilitate data-driven conversations with their customers, ultimately helping them to sell better and forge stronger client relationships.

Hosted entirely in the cloud and accessible 24/7 from a laptop, tablet or smartphone with or without an internet connection, the sales-i platform gives wholesalers complete visibility into the inner workings of their business and customer base via a series of easy to digest dashboards.

Detailing analytics on a wide range of customer metrics that are updated on a daily basis, this data allows users to easily identify sales trends such as top customers, best and worst selling product lines, and anticipate opportunities to cross and up-sell.

Commenting further on the benefits of sales enablement software for wholesalers, John Downes, business development manager at sales-i, says: “Typically, SME wholesalers are short on resources and technology adoption across the space is broadly low with many of the smallest players having only a basic web presence, if that. This is slowly changing however as more operators see the benefits of harnessing technology to help them do better business.”

One thing wholesalers are rarely short of is customer data. Most are awash with it and yet the vast majority is buried in impenetrable spreadsheets and goes to waste. This presents a significant opportunity for the sector as there are bottom-line benefits for wholesalers who can harvest, collate, and analyse their data better.

“Typically, we find that the average wholesale business that adopts the software can expect to enjoy an increase in total sales volume of as much as 20 per cent or more, alongside increases in average invoice value and the number of spending customers,” adds Downes. “Fundamentally, what customers tell us they value most about being better informed about their customer behaviours is it enables them to make better decisions about their sales strategies and move from reactive customer relationship management to more proactive sales.”

Wholesalers are very receptive to doing more with their data but what usually seals the deal is the accessibility and usability of the platform. For technology to really deliver benefits for time-pressed users, it needs to be easy to use and accessible on platforms that wholesalers are already comfortable with. Software like sales-i effectively functions like any common application a user might have on a smartphone so it acts very much as a plug and play solution that starts delivering insights from day one and can be used by sales professionals at all levels – from trainee to director.

“With lockdown now easing and sectors such as hospitality and retail gearing up, wholesalers will be keen to maximise the sales opportunity,” Downes continues. “We will inevitably see an increased reliance on technology solutions though, as sales teams continue to work remotely and need to optimise online revenue where possible.”

Having had their revenue streams disrupted or entirely cut off for months, wholesalers will be looking for any advantage they can to protect and ringfence valuable revenue, especially smaller players who typically rely on a handful of long nurtured customer relationships to pay the bills.

“There will no doubt be further pain to come in the sector but those operations whose systems are streamlined and optimised to capture and interpret customer data stand to be at a significant advantage to their competitors in the new normal,” says Downes.

Alex MacPherson, Director of Solution Consultancy and Account Management at Manhattan Associates, comments: “Wholesalers are well established within the supply chain, but often still rely on inflexible legacy systems that are no longer fit for purpose.”

With the fast-paced introduction of new technology, wholesalers can sometimes find themselves being left behind as manufacturers and FMCGs streamline their supply chains, removing the wholesaler altogether by liaising directly with the end customer.

“To overcome this, wholesalers must change their approach and recognise the need to embrace the more agile and shifting landscape they now occupy,” says MacPherson. “Investing can be daunting (especially during a global pandemic), but quick to deploy and easy to use digital solutions can rapidly demonstrate ROI and remove the fear of going digital.”

For more than 30 years, Manhattan Associates has earned a reputation for building technology solutions that solve the most complex business challenges in global supply chains and retail markets, from inventory, point of sale and omnichannel advances, to transportation and automation.

Manhattan Associates’ Active Warehouse Management is a versionless solution that allows wholesalers to continuously access new capabilities. It was born in the cloud and enables wholesalers to access their stock wherever it (or they) may be, and is a steppingstone to helping businesses operate digitally, around the clock.

Additionally, Manhattan Associates’ Order Management solution uses machine learning and IoT integrations to ensure promises made, are promises kept. It is the central hub for customer orders across all channels, brands and geographies, greatly improving operational agility and the customer experience.

Quite simply, these easy to deploy cloud solutions can help wholesalers to sell online, with intelligence that enables them to learn, adapt and flexibly fulfil order requirements against a shifting industry landscape.

Jon Roberts, senior sales manager at OrderWise, comments: “Wholesalers and distributors certainly occupy a unique place in the market – facing some distinct and particular problems. No matter how tempting it can be to simply invest more time, resource, and energy into tackling these issues, it’s unlikely they’ll be solved with a quick fix.”

In reality, wholesalers need to ‘work smarter’ and one way this can be achieved is through the implementation of a Warehouse Management Solution (WMS), designed to help improve accuracy, efficiency and daily productivity.

A good quality WMS should allow wholesalers to easily adapt as customer demand changes, scaling up operations during peak times and configure how goods in, replenishment and despatch processes are managed based on order volumes. The implementation of barcode-scanning technology can also allow operatives to double, triple or in some cases quadruple the number of orders they were previously managing, instantly impacting the bottomline and freeing up time for more important tasks.

OrderWise’s WMS allows wholesalers and distributors to store key data online, condensing a huge amount of vital business information onto a single, easy to use platform – something that benefits almost every member of the team. Rather than requiring your accounting department to talk to your purchasing division, who need to communicate with the warehouse, who then need to liaise with the courier and so on, OrderWise’s software will encapsulate all of this into a single system.

When speaking to wholesalers, many complain of the endless time wasted on re-keying information due to format variances – something that is not only frustrating for your team, but also incredibly costly from a business perspective. OrderWise’s software offers an alternative, providing clear and streamlined integration, ensuring information is stored and automatically rearranged to fit the needs and nature of every platform your business is dealing with, avoiding administrative bottlenecks.

] Rob Mannion, founder and CEO of b2b.store and RNF, comments: “Digital has been a key growth channel in wholesale for several years but the Covid-19 pandemic has accelerated the shift to online ordering, with benefits including 24/7 ordering capability, service back up should telesales employees become ill or need to self isolate, and support to pivot business models for B2C sales.”

] While many larger wholesalers had already made the shift to digital, the time and financial outlay required to create enterprise-grade apps that work across different platforms has, until recently, been prohibitive for many wholesalers.

The launch of b2b.store creates a fully-branded digital ordering solution that work across mobile, desktop and tablet within 24 hours of a product file being supplied. This frees up telesales staff to deliver on other customer service issues while allowing wholesalers of all sizes to put their depot in their customers’ pocket.

“Better still, it is free to set up, meaning wholesalers don’t need to worry about the financial risks of moving online and can instead focus on ensuring they use their staff in the most effective and efficient way possible, protecting the bottom line,” adds Mannion.

Wholesalers looking for greater functionality can access a range of premium features, including barcode scanning, in-app advertising, product placement and rapid basket building, with all premium features free for 60 days and many more premium features in the pipeline.

“While digital ordering has been a lifeline to many wholesalers during the pandemic, advances in technology will continue to drive the evolution of the sector,” says Mannion.

Many wholesalers are interested in how insights derived from mobile data can be used to improve their services and drive their business forward. For example, tailoring push notifications based on the buying patterns and habits of individual customers is proven to increase engagement in supplier promotions and also helps grow basket sizes.

Data-driven insights can not only inform how and when wholesalers communicate with their customers but also anticipate customers’ needs more effectively, helping wholesalers stay one step ahead to enhance their customers’ buying experience.

“Keeping customer needs at the heart of everything wholesaler do will be key to the sector’s success,” Mannion continues. “Our aim is to add real value, by advising wholesalers on the latest technologies and helping them develop the right services that will drive their business forward.”

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