As software suppliers to a wide range of foodservice companies we have seen the speed that you and your customers have had to change the way you operate to meet the unprecedented demand that has been placed on certain sectors. When the hospitality industry effectively closed for three months other customer groups boomed meaning wholesalers have had to adapt as their traditional markets closed.
All this upheaval has meant businesses have needed to change to comply with the new normal that we are now all getting used to; and here are just some of the requests and trends we have worked with clients to overcome. With either reduced order books or increased demand the ability to cost-effectively schedule and plan customer deliveries – often with added complication of needing meet limited delivery windows – has become a priority for many users, add in labour restrictions by staff needing to shield or through self-isolation and traditional journey plans have changed beyond all recognition.
Whilst the Furlough Scheme has ensured the survival of many business it’s also meant that a lot of knowledge has also been furloughed. RouteMagic users have filled the knowledge and skill gap through technology with planning and schedule optimisation to ensure that deliveries are planned effectively and the integrated RouteMagic Mobile App provides an end-to-end software solution for all aspects of modern logistics operations. Features such as the driver’s load list, journey manifest and full route and stop notes allow many years of saved knowledge to be available at the fingertip of the field sales rep.
Businesses had to quickly adapt to survive
Needing to reduce the handling of paperwork and minimising personal contact has led to businesses across all sectors changing the way proof of delivery is captured and recorded – the revolution away from signature capture to GPS recorded deliveries, image capture of goods left on doorstep and email notification has been led by online giants like Amazon and the major couriers. This utilises the basic underlying technology of mobile phones and has been harnessed by ourselves in RouteMagic, and other tech providers, and is been rapidly adopted by wholesalers to maintain the integrity of the POD cycle without endangering staff.
Similar to claims that online sales have accelerated consumer take-up by 5 years over the High Street, the adoption of Tech to manage wholesale delivery is comparable. We are now all accepting of paperless transactions and as businesses run on tight margins and restricted work-forces, eliminating the production and processing of paperwork will save time and money – as well as depicting your organisation as an efficient, forward-thinking business well placed to provide exemplary service.
Wholesalers who adopted mobile technology for delivery and sales are also leading the way in the level of customer service they provide through instant updates of completed deliveries and sales and live visibility of driver’s location. With this level of business integration sending live updates and revised ETA’s to customer is a reality for Tech-led delivery businesses. Your customers all experience and expect this level of visibility with their home deliveries and now it’s possible for you to provide this level of service to yours.
Van sales affected most
Some of the biggest changes we have seen is in the world of van sales which always relied on the face-to-face interaction between buyer and seller; as well as needing the support outlined above, businesses have been actively discouraging this 1-2-1 interaction have turned to technology. A traditional Van Sales Rep would own the relationship with their customers, understand what sold and what didn’t and that knowledge ensured their routes remained profitable and returns kept to a minimum. But without either the interaction with customers or where route schedules are dramatically changed the Rep often becomes blind to the nuances of individual stores.
We support some of the UK & Irelands leading food based Van Sales businesses and over the recent months have worked hard to implement AI based algorithms to suggest orders and move van sale providers to pre-order; allowing VSR’s to spend less time and need less interaction with customers; whilst retaining low return rates and minimising stock-outs between deliveries.
Similar to the way retail customers have seen the short-term benefit (or safety) in buying online has changed many buyers habits for life; we see Foodservice Wholesalers and Van Sales teams looking to adopt and retain these changes beyond the current adverse climate as it has made them more efficient and reduced the all-important cost to serve.
So where next?
Taking cues from supermarket home delivery services moving retailers and hospitality customers to self-service portals allowing them to place orders and manage accounts by self-service will become the norm. RouteMagic provides your customers 24×7 access to administer their orders and accounts at a time when they are available and will make your service the one of choice and naturally save time and money for both customer and the wholesaler.
Adopting Machine Learning principles will enable you to better understand your customer buying-habits and in the future will form the basis of product promotions and suggested orders that are specifically targeted and focussed on what will sell in individual outlet.
The future is bright for wholesaler who embrace new technologies to make both the customer experience better and manage your own cost base.
Paul O’Connor has 10 years’ experience of wholesale delivery and van sale technology and is Product Manager for Mobile Enterprise Systems a leading supplier of handheld technology for the Foodservice sector throughout the UK and Ireland. RouteMagic is an industry-leading Wholesale Delivery & Van Sales suite of applications to support both office and mobile users, for more information contact firstname.lastname@example.org or for more details about our solutions visit www.routemagic.co.uk