Why there are no more excuses for not moving your business online

If your customers aren’t ordering online, that’s your fault, not theirs.

It’s common sense that great relationships help to drive profits, but in a marketplace where online orders are increasing, how do you keep those relationships going? We know online selling is on the increase – Booker has grown online sales from £15m to £874m in just 10 years. And yet it seems logical that when buying online, your customers will spend less because they are not being ‘sold’ products, and can just click on what they know they need.

JJ Food Service offer ordering through an app and website

But Terry Larkin, general manager at JJ Food Service, says this isn’t the case at all. He says: “Our customers tend to buy two extra items when they buy online, compared to one extra with telesales.” The company has special prices online and promotes with a weekly newsletter of offers.

Moulton Fruit and Veg managing director Simon Varney agrees.

“For our customers – chefs – the end of service is 1am. One of our customers had only placed an order with us once. Since going mobile, she has placed an order for three times as much every week,” he says.

For a long time, lacklustre digital activity in the trade has been put down to independent retailers simply ‘not being online’. But that excuse no longer stands up.

Sharon Dougherty, trading controller for delivered supplier Fresh To Store, which works with online ordering provider GoKart, says: “During 2014, Fresh to Store carried out an extensive customer survey, where seven out of 10 of our retailers told us they already order food and drink online.”

Wholesalers are also reporting an increase in frequency of digital sales. Hancocks executive chairman Mark Watson says: “Hancocks online sales are growing at a much faster rate than through other means. For example, we are 50% up year on year for ecommerce sales.”

The business now has a new team structure in place to increase its search engine optimisation and marketing campaigns.

It’s easy to think of retailers and consumers as separate but retailers are consumers as well – we all are and we now expect convenience and speed when buying.

GoKart provides a branded mobile ordering service for wholesalers
GoKart provides a branded mobile ordering service for wholesalers

Anx Patel, CEO of mobile order capture system GoKart, says: “We need to mirror the experience our chefs and retailers are now familiar with. Mirror the Amazon experience. Mirror the reliability, intuitive design and ease of use. Boost our businesses with mobile technology, and use cameras, location awareness and push notifications.”

And it’s easy to get started if you haven’t yet. You already have a team in place that is regularly speaking to customers. All you need to do is connect with them online as well.

Dunns Food and Drinks is seeing a big uplift in sales online – as much as 30% in some cases – and the mix of products sold is greater than before.

Dunns MD Jim Rowan says: “When we were first thinking about going online, we had to get a comprehensive list of emails and contacts. We then got our staff to encourage customers to spend online, using really strong promotions and helpful information.”

Moving sales online doesn’t just make money – it can decrease overheads. Giles Prime, financial director for Elm Valley Foods, which also works with GoKart, says going online has not only increased turnover, it has also enabled the company to reduce its telesales team by 30% and halve its business development team.

“We give our customers free tablets with our app installed and set up, ready to go, making it even easier to order. This has meant we have created loyalty, while growing sales. We make the cost of the tablet back in the first few weeks of orders,” he says.


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