WhatsApp Business is key to wholesale, says expert

The growing use of WhatsApp Business API technology in the wholesale sector as one of the key weapons in a business’s armoury to correct a trend, according to Lumina Intelligence’s Maria Georgiou.

Maria told an online workshop attended by e-commerce-focused suppliers and wholesalers brought together to discuss the Lumina Wholesale Online Report 2023 that the disruption

WhatsApp’s messages can have on a customer’s online-ordering journey could transform dwindling baskets, with a trend of smaller, higher-frequency transactions taking hold.

The enhanced ability to send scheduled, personalised messages to retailers at times when figures show they’re most likely to be completing orders is a powerful tool wholesalers should be paying more attention to.

“It’s all about real-time, targeted communication, and WhatsApp [Business API] can deliver both,” said Maria.

“It’s very important because we’ve seen a lot of orders being placed outside of the core trading hours, so being able to send messages using an almost-immediate online
communication, like WhatsApp, can disrupt the online customer journey. Our findings show 64% of foodservice and retail operators in the UK use online channels as their preferred way of stocking their stores, so WhatsApp is a great tool to communicate NPD and deals at scale.

Read more: Four wholesalers sign up to B2B Open Banking service

“There are tools available – b2b.store’s B2B WhatsApp, for example – that are tailored
specifically for the purpose of driving customers to order online or adding additional products to an order, with benefits like one-tap ordering or reordering too. This can definitely facilitate spend, alongside sending out targeted promotions to customers through a WhatsApp channel.”

B2B WhatsApp is making waves in the industry, with Bestway the most notable early
adopter. Among the wholesalers using the technology already, they’re seeing 51% of users engage with the message within the first hour of being sent (rising to 91% within the first 24 hours), and spend increase by 9% on WhatsApp compared to SMS.

And the findings of Lumina’s report suggests that using WhatsApp Business API is likely to only grow in popularity as wholesalers aim to boost engagement with increasingly price-conscious customers that are changing their habits due to cost pressures.

Maria doesn’t expect the downturn in online basket sizes to be a long-term one, though, but says wholesalers need to adapt now to make sure they’re keeping up with their customers’ behaviours.

“In these tough economic times, we’ve seen this trend across the entire market with
operators and consumers, it’s about having more frequent shops and spending less,” Maria explained.

“I feel once the situation improves – and there are signs we’ll be in much better shape in 2024 – then basket sizes could go back up again.

“But for the time being, wholesalers need to have a very targeted strategy for this online behaviour, which is going to help with the spend, and making the most of tools such as WhatsApp is key. Our research also suggests unlocking wholesalers’ e-commerce websites to allow non-customers to browse products, and optimising search functionality will also help basket size in the future.”

b2b.store chief executive Rob Mannion says it’s not just wholesalers that need to be exploring new digital approaches and challenged the suppliers in the online workshop to look at how they can use technology to boost their offerings and affect the figures too.

“We’ve seen over the years that suppliers have tried a wide variety of techniques to have a more direct dialogue with retailers, whether that’s through the wholesalers, building their own websites or launching other initiatives to talk about NPD or share category advice,” said Rob.

“There’s certainly an opportunity for suppliers to spin up their own B2B WhatsApp channels. They don’t have to be transaction based, but could be used to share relevant content, or NPD or category advice – currently WhatsApp is the best in class to do that.”

Gain a comprehensive understanding of how retailers and operators interact with wholesaler web apps, enabling businesses to identify areas for improvement in the user interface,
navigation, and overall design of their site or app with Lumina Intelligence’s Wholesale
Online report 2023.

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


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