November 5, 2020
Average Read Time: 4 minutes
It seems that every business topic these days—almost any topic, really—is framed in terms of the global pandemic. Businesses that are solving problems today are likely doing so in light of the pandemic. For example, food wholesalers have experienced a decline in demand while healthcare wholesalers saw a spike in demand. No doubt, both industries experienced subsequent demand issues—both problems brought about by the economic consequences of COVID-19.
However, in the case of wholesalers and distributors, another issue began to surface before COVID-19 and will continue to require attention after the pandemic subsides: the need for a digital presence to better meet the expectations of today’s buyers. This omnichannel approach will serve their businesses more effectively.
Consumers who are doing their personal shopping online in increasing numbers are purchasing for businesses, too. And many businesses aren’t meeting their high expectations: for example, some 60 percent of B2B sellers still don’t have a website. As for wholesalers and distributors specifically, 53 percent of all distributor sales are still done manually by paper, fax, email, and phone. That means there is an enormous sales opportunity for wholesalers and distributors who grow their digital commerce capabilities, according to data and analysis in the 2020 Distributor 300 research report.
The pandemic didn’t create this gap, but it is highlighting it and potentially accelerating a shift to digital commerce for wholesalers and distributors. Total manual distributor sales will drop by a projected 16.9 percent in 2020, according to the report, and the main reason for that is COVID-19. The coronavirus is changing the behavior of business buyers, and they, like retail consumers, are looking for more digital commerce options.
Considering trends before and during the pandemic, and what they mean for the “next normal,” wholesalers and distributors need to invest more to really develop their digital presence. Those who have adopted digital and, at a minimum, already have a website can think about leveling up to true omnichannel commerce. Why is this important?
An omnichannel experience might not be necessary for all wholesalers and distributors. For example, scale is important. “The platforms that work best are those that serve verticals tied to products that everybody needs—as might be seen in grocery retailing, for example, and bulk goods, where price competition is a hallmark,” says a PYMNTS.com article on buyer/supplier dynamics. “But as soon as buying groups desire to purchase a diverse group of products—some of which may be specific to certain regions or consumers—the scale advantage disappears.”
But for those who can benefit from omnichannel, technology that creates frictionless, consistent customer experiences across all sales channels and borders, anytime, anyplace and from any device is critical. That’s where the value of bundled omnichannel commerce technology from a single provider comes into play. There’s no need to piece together offerings, learn multiple systems, deal with different vendors, or consolidate disparate data. Channels, customers, and payments are connected seamlessly.
In a world that will continue to rely more and more on omnichannel commerce, wholesalers and distributors do themselves a disservice if they don’t focus more time and effort on their digital and fulfillment capabilities and overall customer experience–pandemic or not.
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