Five tips for foodservice ecommerce

Richard Fletcher is the managing director of Foodservice Online

Get a PIM

Whilst this may seem strange choice for our first tip, you would be hard pushed to find a wholesaler actively using a dedicated PIM solution who does not agree. Product data is the lifeblood of ecommerce, but it can be complex to collect, store, manage, enrich, and distribute. Most businesses have product data everywhere, stuck in back-office systems, ecommerce platforms, shared drives and spreadsheet after spreadsheet and spreadsheet. Inherently, product data is inconsistent, incomplete, and difficult to access. This is why a dedicated PIM solution is so important.

PIM stands for ‘Product Information Management’ and cloud-based PIM solutions are now readily available. Our preferred PIM is Akeneo ( which is a great solution for food and beverage wholesalers. It is affordable, quick to implement, easy to integrate, and simple to use.

A PIM establishes a central database of enriched product information which acts as a single source of truth within your business. A PIM is where you store technical information, descriptions, and media files (images, PDFs, videos) relating to the products you sell. Within a PIM, you can set requirements and supervise the quality of your data across thousands of products.

When you need product data for ecommerce, procurement channels, marketplaces, print marketing, customer requests, ePOS, and more, the PIM is where you access this data from via a suite of powerful APIs or flat file export profiles.

Read more: Opinion: A lot to be learned from Amazon’s business model

Have a PIM strategy

PIM again! A PIM solution needs a PIM strategy and this can be as simple as identifying someone within your organisation who is responsible for product data and defining the expectations for data quality.

Managing product data across thousands of SKUs is not as complex as it seems, and you do not need an army of employees to stay on top of the task. From experience, the biggest mistake businesses make is spreading the responsibility for product data to thinly across their organisation. It is never going to work if buyers, marketers, designers, warehousing, IT, and ecommerce are all involved. Who job is it anyway, right?

Look at your own sales and marketing channels, in particular ecommerce, and based on the quality of product information being presented, would you buy from yourself? This is an important question.

At home and in business, buyers rely on good quality product information to make purchasing decisions. Good images, detailed descriptions, and technical data are essential in food and beverage wholesale. With 73% of caterers preferring to access product information online, can you afford not to be invested in PIM?

Talk to your ERP provider about data access

Not as easy as it might sound, but absolutely necessary. ERP providers are notoriously poor at providing their clients with easy access to data, but the ability to seamlessly move data to and from a back-office system is more important than ever.

In an increasingly digital world, to innovate or merely remain competitive, wholesalers must expand their application networks to include platforms that provide specialist services. At the same time, data relating to customers, pricing, orders, products, and inventory must flow seamlessly from platform to platform in order to deliver engaging omni-channel experiences.

Wholesalers must work in partnership with their ERP providers and establish an affordable, timely, robust, and scalable way of working with data.

ERP/back-office solutions are arguably the most important applications in every business, but they can’t provide every solution, especially when technology is advancing so quickly.
Ecommerce, business intelligence, CRM, and automated marketing are just some of the platforms with the power to revolutionise customer experience, but it will be much harder to adapt without your ERP provider onside.

Allocate the proper resources

83% of caterers use the internet to purchase catering supplies so you should spend a few minutes thinking about the following:
1.     What was your total investment in field sales last year?
2.     What was your total investment in telesales/call centre last year?
3.     What was your total investment in ecommerce last year?

Food and beverage wholesalers are comfortable investing millions into armies of sales reps and call centre operators, but many find it difficult to allocate the proper resources towards their ecommerce strategy.

Business leaders who are attempting ecommerce transformation must ensure the level of investment and ambition is sufficient when it comes to making key business functions, such as online ordering, marketing and customer service, truly fit for purpose in the digital age.

There is no room for complacency. Buyer expectations continue to grow and the fight for foodservice supremacy will increasingly be fought on a digital battleground. A winning ecommerce strategy requires time and resources and Boardroom buy-in is essential.

Read more: Website service helping wholesalers get products out to general public

Go to an ecommerce event

Probably not the timeliest piece of advice, but we recommend looking at your 2021 calendar and planning to attend a couple of ecommerce events.

Attending events like Adobe Summit and InternetRetailing EXPO is an opportunity to learn. Big-name brands, top speakers, and educational conferences provide insight into the very best ecommerce and customer experience management practices.

Foodservice Online specialise in the application of ecommerce, PIM, online merchandising, and marketplace solutions within the food and beverage wholesale sector.

To contact Foodservice Online, please email:

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Paul Hill is the Editor of Better Wholesaling. He can be found on Twitter at @BW_PaulHill, or contacted via and 07960935659.


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