Is eCommerce the future of wholesale?

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Following in the footsteps of retail business, wholesale B2B sales are increasingly moving online. Over the past two decades, the internet and trade liberalisation have shrunk the globe paving the way for wholesalers (from small, specialist businesses to mass wholesalers) to compete in virtually every wholesale market. eCommerce has emerged as the simplest way to complete and manage mass wholesaling. If your business is to compete strongly with global competitors, embracing eCommerce is an essential step.

Is eCommerce really the future of wholesale?

Treating new developments in business technology with a degree of skepticism is a reasonable approach, although B2B eCommerce has been around for several years and is becoming increasingly established. In 2012, Amazon launched an experimental new venture, AmazonSupply. In 2015, the company demonstrated that B2B is a major part of its strategy, expanding its B2B operation, renamed as Amazon Business. However, Amazon is not the only major eCommerce company which is embracing wholesale. Alibaba estimates that over 10% of its multi-billion dollar annual revenue comes from wholesale eCommerce.

Smaller wholesalers and manufacturers are now moving towards B2B eCommerce, noting that selling online is more efficient and can significantly extend their business’ reach. Setting up online involves only minimal additional cost, and that cost is easily met by increased revenue and efficiency. For businesses who already operate online in the B2C space, moving to wholesale eCommerce is typically an incredibly simple step.

How can my business benefit?

Moving B2B commerce online is better for wholesalers and commercial customers. Customers often find it simpler to order products online, from wherever they are and at any time of the day. The internet typically finds a way into most B2B transactions these days. Even if most wholesale orders still take place using emailed or faxed purchase orders, customers still often undertake due diligence and product research online prior to ordering.

Wholesalers typically find eCommerce sales much easier to manage. Crucially, the paperwork associated with an order is minimised and is all kept in one place. An eCommerce platform should provide details of purchase approvals, payment and order fulfilment. Wholesale eCommerce also makes it significantly easier to manage product offerings and availability – updating an online catalogue generally happens at a push of a button, whereas updating print catalogues is often prohibitively expensive and time consuming.

How can I make the change?

If your business already has a B2C online store, consider the strengths of that platform. Although wholesale eCommerce is targeted at commercial customers, the product selection and ordering processes should be just as intuitive – business customers have even less time to waste than retail customers, so your platform should feel efficient. An online B2B ordering system should have features that B2C platforms don’t typically have, such as an order approval system, automated reordering support and purchase reporting. Be aware of the key differences between B2B and B2C customers.

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Melanie - Unleashed Software

Article by Melanie Chan in collaboration with our team of Unleashed Software inventory and business specialists. Melanie has been writing about inventory management for the past three years. When not writing about inventory management, you can find her eating her way through Auckland.

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