We spoke to James Bielby, chief executive at the Federation of Wholesale Distributors (FWD) to discuss the importance of technology within wholesale operations.
After the events of 2020, adopting a digital platform is no longer a choice – it’s a necessity for wholesalers when trade customers increasingly expect the same ease of ordering they get as consumers. We’ve seen so many new competitors looking to move into the space, particularly in last-mile delivery. They are technology-led but don’t have anything like the logistical skill and experience of established wholesalers – yet.
Many of the development costs that have put wholesalers off investing in digital in the past have been reduced by off-the-shelf solutions targeted specifically at the channel, so it’s a lot easier to get in the game now. However, there is still a considerable investment to be made in acquiring the new skills needed and in making sure your online ordering platform does not clash with existing sales structures.
One approach when marketing directly to consumers might be to start with specific categories or niche offers, rather than the entire range offered to trade customers. In the end, data is just as important as the customer interface – whoever collects, analyses and uses data most effectively will win this battle. What’s becoming crystal clear is that it’s not a battle that wholesalers can afford to sit out.