Over the past few years, cloud computing has become the mainstream option for companies in every sector of the economy. Indeed, in the last quarter of 2020, spending on public cloud IT infrastructure surpassed traditional IT spend for the first time.
As the benefits of deploying cloud tools for business have been more widely communicated, they have been accepted and adopted by many. One area where the cloud is having a particular impact is in the wholesale distribution sector. Here’s how wholesale distribution firms can benefit from the cloud.
The Wholesale Distribution Sector
In 2020, the wholesale distribution sector was worth £828.2 billion. With around 224k businesses making up the wholesale, transport and storage sectors, the industry represents some 8% of all UK organisations. The number of companies in the sector has declined recently, but this is as a result of there being fewer, larger companies because of some mergers and acquisitions. This consolidation in the industry is attributable to increasingly intense competition and the growing popularity of online shopping.
The industry operates on slim margins, so software solutions that can boost efficiency and cut costs are in demand. This is where cloud computing can be highly attractive to distributors. Those businesses that can embrace and leverage cloud technology that enables them to maximise profits and deliver a strong competitive advantage.
One trend that all business-to-business companies are becoming used to is the evolving – and more demanding – expectations of their customers. With familiarity with consumer-based eCommerce services higher than ever, business buyers are increasingly insisting on the same high level of service of their B2B interactions that they would receive with a B2C transaction.
A 2019 report by Marketo of buyer behaviours identified a convergence of B2B and B2C buyer behaviour. It pinpointed three areas where this behaviour converges between the buying types. One of these areas was effectively managing the customer experience. Nearly half of business buyers stated that personalisation of offers and communications engendered their loyalty. Offering an authentic, tailored experience like those delivered by consumer brands is what buyers have come to expect and is what is increasingly driving B2B business.
For wholesale distribution companies, offering differential pricing is a key requirement of their eCommerce software. This allows them to display prices according to volume rates rather than list prices or restricts buyers to only seeing those prices that have been negotiated. Equally, product searches need to be based on experiences in the consumer world, with lists of previously viewed items or related search results.
Increasingly, customers also expect a consistent omnichannel experience, so being able to recognise customers across sales channels and deliver a familiar experience is important.
Cloud wholesale distribution software solutions allow companies to integrate all aspects of their business – including eCommerce, accounts, CRM, and stock management. This provides a comprehensive view of the operation and allows distributors to provide the elevated level of customer service that business buyers now expect. For example, by integrating eCommerce and CRM functionality, wholesalers can track exactly what each of their customers is buying, enabling them to use this information to tailor future marketing campaigns.
The flexible and scalable nature of cloud solutions means that business management software can be tailored specifically to the unique needs of any wholesale distribution company, and still grow with it as it expands over time.
Take Control of Stock
Cloud warehouse management software allows businesses to take full control of inventory. Tools such as demand planning and automatic replenishment solutions can help ensure that distributors do not suffer from either a lack of inventory or overstock issues. Instead, they can better guarantee to be able to fulfil orders on time and cost-effectively. With real-time alerting when stock levels fall below predetermined thresholds, re-ordering can be done before it becomes a serious issue.
The ability to track inventory anywhere and at any time is also very useful. Rather than having to wait until they back to a computer to check stock levels, warehouse managers can do it from anywhere provided they have an internet-enabled device. This means that decisions about stock can be made whether the manager is in the warehouse or working out of the office that day.
Cloud solutions like NetSuite make tracking and reporting inventory costs much easier by factoring in landed costs and allocating costs by weight, value or quantity.
Being able to connect more easily with partners, suppliers and subsidiaries around the world is another key benefit distributors can gain from moving to the cloud. When people in different 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. It assures them that they always have access to the latest information, meaning anyone from across the business is always working from the same data and intelligence.
Being able to see what’s going on within a distribution operation in real-time can greatly improve a company’s decision-making. This helps employees to identify and take advantage of opportunities as soon as they arise and allows them to respond to potential issues before they become a serious problem.
Real-time visibility into key stock trends, on-time delivery metrics, shipping costs and more can help guide distributors when evaluating their strategy. This insight also helps boost customer satisfaction by giving instant answers to queries about areas such as stock availability and pricing.
For a free business consultation or a quote for cloud software tailored to your wholesale distribution operation, book an appointment now or contact us. Our certified consultants have significant experience of helping wholesale distributors and can help you identify the right system for your future growth.