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A review of cloud computing in the wholesale distribution sector

A review of cloud computing in the wholesale distribution sector

With cloud computing fast becoming a mainstream option for companies across all sectors of the economy, the benefits of deploying these tools are becoming more widely-known all the time. And one area where the cloud is having a particular impact is in the wholesale distribution (WD) sector.

This is an industry that operates on slim margins, so solutions that can boost efficiency and cut costs will be highly in demand – and this is why cloud computing is highly attractive to organisations in this sector.

In fact, a report published earlier this year by International Data Corporation indicates that 35 per cent of wholesalers have already embraced the cloud, with a further 50 per cent currently in the process of implementing such solutions, or have plans to do so.

The study, which was sponsored by Infor, added: “The future of the wholesale distribution industry appears bright … but it is critical for these businesses to do a better job of embracing and leveraging technology.” It said effective use of tools such as the cloud can enable these firms to maximise profits and deliver strong competitive advantage.

So with this in mind, how could wholesale distribution firms benefit from the cloud?

B2B eCommerce

One trend that all B2B firms will have to get used to in the coming years is the evolving expectations of their customers. With familiarity with consumer-based eCommerce services higher than ever, business buyers are increasingly expecting the same high level of service during their B2B interactions that they would receive from a B2C transaction.

In fact, a November 2013 study by Wakefield Research and Avanade showed enterprise buyers are increasingly mimicking consumer online shopping behaviours – and are even prepared to pay more for solutions that offer high levels of service – so this is something firms must deal with.

This may mean WD companies changing how they display prices, for instance, so buyers only see those prices that they have negotiated, and not the list prices. Or it could require overhauling how customers search for items in order to find the products they want more easily, so this could mean introducing faceted search with a list of previously viewed items.

And increasingly, customers are expecting a consistent omnichannel experience, so being able to provide a great shopping experience on any device is becoming more important.

Cloud software solutions allow you to integrate all aspects of your business – including eCommerce, accounts, CRM, and inventory management – which provides you with a comprehensive view of your business and allows you to provide the higher level of customer service that is now expected. For example, by integrating your eCommerce with your CRM, you are able to track exactly what each of your customers are buying frequently, and then use this information to tailor future marketing.

The flexible and scalable nature of cloud solutions also means that your business management system can be tailored specifically to the unique needs of your WD company, and it will grow with you.

Take control of inventory

Being able to take full control of inventory, warehouse and shipping management can also be made much easier with the cloud. Tools such as demand planning and automatic replenishment solutions can help ensure that WD firms do not suffer with either overstock issues or a lack of inventory, guaranteeing they will be able to fulfil orders on time and cost-effectively. With real-time alerts the instant stock levels fall below predetermined thresholds you can re-order before it becomes a serious issue.

The ability to track inventory anywhere anytime can also be very useful, so that rather than having to wait until you get back to your computer to check stock levels, you can do it from anywhere provided you have an internet-enabled device – whether you’re in the warehouse or working out of the office that day.

Meanwhile, cloud solutions such as NetSuite can make tracking and reporting inventory costs much easier by factoring in landed costs and allocating costs by weight, value or quantity.

Easier collaboration

Being able to connect more easily with partners, suppliers and subsidiaries around the world is another key benefit distributors can see if they move to the cloud. When individuals in multiple locations around the world need to work closely together, being able to take advantage of the access-anywhere nature of the cloud can be hugely beneficial, enabling them to ensure they always have access to the latest information, so the entire company is working from the same page.

Real-time visibility into a business

Being able to see what’s going on within a business in real-time can greatly improve a company’s decision-making, helping employees to identify and take advantage of opportunities as soon as they arise, as well as allowing them to respond to potential problems before they become a serious issue.

Real-time visibility into key inventory trends, on-time delivery metrics, shipping costs and more can help guide distributors when evaluating their strategy, as well as helping boost customer satisfaction by giving instant answers to queries about areas such as stock levels and pricing bands.

If you would like to know more about how wholesale distribution firms can benefit from cloud software, please don’t hesitate to get in touch with our team of experts.

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