eWholesale Collective answer your questions
The eWholesale Collective gathered with a selection of industry experts to answer your pressing e-commerce questions as the industry prepares to make another huge stride into the digital world
Q. What are the benefits of using different ordering methods, such as mobile and website?
David Gilroy, Director, Store Excel
Lotte Tregear, Head of Category Management & E-Commerce, Red Bull (LT): The benefit of getting to work in B2C and B2B is that I can see mobile has taken over on a lot of our accounts as bigger than desktop as an ordering solution. That hasn’t quite happened in B2B yet though and it’s far more about how the two parties can work together.
Most people we speak to who are using these platforms have a desktop shop for the core they’re buying, but what mobile brings to it is allowing you to add in things, whether you see something in a trade magazine, an advertisement or a piece of NPD on a poster by a bus stop. It allows you to gap fill, potentially using the scanning ability some of the apps have as well.
For me, it’s about having both and the people I see having most success are the ones who are managing to bring mobile and desktop together as one solution for the whole shopping journey.
Mushtaque Ahmed, COO, JJ Foodservice (MA): It’s an interesting area because JJ is truly multichannel and by that I mean it’s not just digital but the old-fashioned channels, such as telesales and face-to-face counter sales, as well.
Our experience is even that the B2B customers are getting quite tech savvy now because they’re on the move all the time.
In their B2C life, the business owner is also ordering from Amazon, Tesco or Ocado at home, so that gap in technology is narrowing quite fast. The positive side of that is these B2B customers are now being very demanding from their B2C experience of the software, whether it’s a mobile app or a website.
From our own statistics, we’ve found most customers are using mobile, with 70% of our orders coming from a digital channel, and out of that, 65-70% is coming from mobile apps rather than desktop.
Andy Morrison, Trading Director, Dee Bee Wholesale (AM): Customers are using both and the difference between our customer base and Mushtaque’s is interesting. About 30% of our business is mobile, so it’s predominantly desktop.
That’s dictated by a lot of our retailers using scanning systems attached to desktop, so that’s remains the primary ordering platform for them.
Q. In light of Covid and a greater shift towards e-commerce, will this increase or decrease competition? How can wholesalers maintain a clear USP?
Iain Johnston, Director, JW Gray
Kerry Morrison, Digital Strategy Manager, Diageo (KM): In light of Covid, this comes up again and again, not just in the on- or off-trade B2B but also in on-demand platforms such as Uber Eats, Deliveroo and Snappy Shopper.
It’s likely to increase the competition among the trade shoppers with people moving online and it’s easier to do a price comparison. If you have five browsers open at once, then you can see what’s the cheapest.
It’s going to be about knowing what the shopper wants and what the shopper needs, and maintaining a really distinctive voice as a wholesaler.
Price is definitely going to be something that’s always present but what else can wholesalers be doing to offer outside of that? That’ll be the USP and benefit trade shoppers.
We’re seeing things like keg collections and wholesalers dedicating specific areas on their site to giving really good trade advice. This is something trade shoppers are looking for.
AM: Your site needs to be slick and easy to use. It’s about adding value, so when there’s a news piece – for example, the government push something out – we try to push it out via MailChimp and do a news piece too.
LT: It’s about taking online whatever your wholesale business was famous for at a cash and carry or telesales level. What are the things you, as a wholesaler, are passionate about delivering and how do you replicate that online?
Tom Manktelow, Digital Commerce Customer Development Leader, Mars Wrigley (TM): Some research we found is that a loyal customer will spend 28 times more, so it’s all about how you make a customer loyal. It’s about keeping your identity but also the service – not just on the website but at the delivered moment as well because that’s key. It’s showing the retailer or operator that you care that will drive the identity of the business.
Q. With the increase in home shopping this year, what support can suppliers offer wholesalers for B2C selling?
Tom Gittins, Managing Director, Confex
MA: This was the biggest challenge we faced in March when we started targeting home deliveries when the lockdown started, only to find most of our products are very big in pack size and difficult for home delivery.
What we found when it came to particular food products was suppliers had tight contracts with retailers versus foodservice because something they’d deliver to one, they wouldn’t deliver to the other. And it takes time to reconfigure pack size to keep everyone happy.
LT: The biggest thing we’ve seen in soft drinks is the growth of the multipacks within the impulse grocery community, so we successfully scrambled to be able to make sure that those products are available.
KM: Moving forward, these massive swings are something manufacturers need to prepare for, whether it’s pack changes, staycation versus travel abroad or customers flocking to local outlets.
We’re ensuring we’re supporting those outlets with advice, ranging and everything else, given the swing in the customer demographics we’ve seen in cities versus more regional areas.
TM: The area we can probably help wholesalers on is that there is a different way to communicate to consumers than you would to a retailer or a restaurant.
The B2C sites run by wholesalers are still very much like communicating on a B2B basis, and the shopper journey and the movement around the platform is probably focused around that area too.
So perhaps there is an opportunity to look at landing pages that’d change if you’re a consumer or B2B customer, giving you a different skin to operate from.
The other moment is if wholesalers could support customers by creating group agreements with some food delivery companies in order to allow that home-shopping moment.
Q. What is the most important data for the channel to collect and analyse, and how does it help to identify trends?
Ravi Kotecha, Managing Director, Drink Supermarket (part of HT Drinks)
Tanya Pepin, Diretor, TWC: I keep hearing a lot of wholesalers saying ‘it’s all about digital’, but the piece a lot of wholesalers are missing is that the data they’re already sat on should be informing their digital strategy. Who are their customers? What customers are they? What are they shopping? All of that feeds through to online engagement.
A few weeks ago, I heard a service supplier saying that in two years we’ll have amassed so much customer data about e-commerce, but wholesalers have already got it and should use the data they have now.
Look at your sales-in data, but look at your sales-out data just as importantly. What’s selling, why and who’s buying it? There is a massive untapped opportunity at the moment around operational data.
The mults have driven efficiency through their business by reducing cost of handling and putting the onus on suppliers.
I accept wholesalers haven’t got time to go through them all, but there is still a piece that says, can you not drive through some more efficiency to improve margins from that direction rather than just on price?
KM: I focus wholesalers’ attention around what customers are doing when they’re on a site and what the key barriers are. There is quite a big disparity in what wholesalers’ platforms offer, it’s not like the mults where you get a similar experience.
So wholesalers should be focusing on what’s working and really driving spend within visits, where customers are shipping and are they going to areas of the sites they’re trying to drive traffic to.
It might be that wholesalers are seeing certain functionality on site when it comes to movement around and navigation, but if you’ve got areas of navigation that aren’t working because functionality isn’t there, then naturally customers won’t be using those sections and you’re probably missing sales within that space.
I’d really focus on driving loyalty, seeing how customers are coming back and repeat purchasing, and how to really leverage and harness this as the market becomes more competitive.
I’d be looking at abandoned baskets, so seeing what’s really driving attrition from the platforms and what areas of the site they were in before they fell off.
LT: To echo the point on customer data, this is the same as business has always been. The better we know your customers, the better the offer we’ll give them.
Part of the challenge is, the more we have a generalised approach and give everyone the same information, the same offer and put the same product in front of them, the less successful we’ll be.
So we know customer data can make us be far more targeted and personalised in what we do.
It means we can talk to a Scottish retailer about the drinks that are prevalent where they are versus a London retailer and what’s relevant there. I’d urge for more of that, more frequently.
We’re in a fast-moving shopper environment right now and I would love to know about your customers and what’s changing in their businesses quicker so we can adapt the messages we’re sending them.
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