David Gilroy on the transformative impact push notifications could have in your business
Talking to people in our industry about apps can be a tricky business. Native apps, mobile-optimised websites, et al – it is not the most riveting of subjects. Then again, demonstrating how apps are already driving sales and revenues tends to garner more enthusiasm. I liken this to buying a car. What do we desire? A brilliant-looking vehicle, great performance, comfort and our own space equipped with an array of gizmos. Personally, I never look under the bonnet of my car, save for topping up the water bottle. I do not even check the tyres. The car management system does this. It is all about the driving experience for me.
Maybe this is the same for apps and technology in our industry. What do wholesalers and suppliers really want? They want to shift more boxes, to achieve a greater distribution for their brands and to work efficiently at the lowest possible cost. How they get to that stage is interesting, but certainly not the main event.
More importantly, what do wholesale customers want? They are no different to all of us. They want convenience, speed of service and rapid fulfilment. The expectation bar has been raised by Amazon and the like. The ownership of smartphones has created existential growth in commercial activity on the move. Wholesale customers are spending more time than ever before on their mobile devices and, as a result, this offers a valuable opportunity for wholesalers to communicate and trade through this channel.
In 2015, research by Google found that nearly half of B2B buyers in its sample were millennials, and that they were expecting the same personalised and streamlined service that they were getting from B2C services. A lot has changed over the last few years, and apps now work well across all devices and deliver a search facility, a barcode scanner option and rich, easy-to-use content. Those wholesalers already using apps for taking orders in their businesses have enjoyed a huge growth in purchase values and frequency.
The marketing options have moved on from the i-beacon technology of aisle and depot alerts to rich, push-personalised, relevant and contextual content geared to triggering purchases. The timing and the content is being tailored by user profile, location and purchase behaviours. Apps now offer a new type of customer engagement: user-centric, service-driven and visually stunning. Push notifications can be set up and deployed in hours. Campaign effectiveness can be assessed quickly with a high degree of accuracy.
The big data and analytics which operate behind the app will ultimately determine message content, timing of the message, frequency of the message, product recommendations and related products. Machine learning and algorithms will continually hone this process, too.
Virtually every wholesale customer I speak to has a mobile device which they seem to use extensively. In the not-too-distant future, apps will facilitate order taking, customer service queries, interactive chat, rapid product information and e-billing. The big game-changer will be app self-scan, which some retailers are already testing and looking to roll out. The impact of this could be profound.
We are a long way from the ‘one size fits all’ traditional wholesale printed brochure. Mobile-first and the power of push is in the here and now. Does it sell more boxes at a lower cost? The stats below show you the proof.
Wholesale expert David Gilroy is co-founder and MD of Store Excel