The Consumerisation of Wholesale Commerce
Consider Harry. A self-employed plumber, Harry represents the type of customer that wholesalers serve.
Let’s take a look at a typical day in his life:
Harry flops down on the sofa at home after a hard day’s work.
He looks to see where he left his tablet, but can’t help noticing that his wife is already using it. “Can I please use the tablet, dear? I need to order a few more parts for this job I’m doing,” he says.
“Just a minute,” his wife responds. “I’m ordering a book. If I buy it now online, I’ll have it delivered here tomorrow.”
Harry’s wife can order a book by 11 pm and have it delivered the next day. Harry, on the other hand, already knows that he won’t be able to get next day shipping. It’s too late in the day. He would be happy with paying online for an item that he picks up in the store tomorrow. That isn’t an option his supplier gives him, either.
When he finally gets his hands on the tablet, he goes to his regular supplier’s website. He’s able to see the part he needs in the supplier’s catalogue. The store is closed, though, so he’s not able to call to see if the part is in stock. Harry plans on stopping by the store on the way to his job site. He crosses his fingers that the part he needs is there.
All your customers are Harry now
There are plenty of other people in Harry’s situation: service engineers, decorators, restaurant owners, office managers or farmers.
In their personal lives, they are enjoying new, more engaging ways to shop. They can reserve items online and pick them up in store. They can even have items delivered to them at home the same day. If an item isn’t stock, they can check inventory at other stores.
Unfortunately, small business owners and workers – who make up the customer base of many wholesalers – don’t enjoy the same types of conveniences from the suppliers they use.
In fact, wholesalers often force the customer to do business with them in a rigid way. The customer has gotten hooked on the latest retail innovations in their personal lives. Consumer retail innovations don’t just offer speed. They make the customer’s life better. It’s only natural that they expect the same or better services from their suppliers.
With work and private life becoming increasingly entwined, people cannot be expected to make a strict separation between both areas of their life when it comes to buying products. This situation is only reinforced by the fact that they use the same electronic devices, like smartphones and tablets, for both private and business activities. In a nutshell, the “consumerisation of commerce” is becoming the norm – for both B2C and B2B shoppers.
Keeping up with the customer
Wholesalers can find it more difficult than traditional retailers to keep up with the rate at which their customers are taking to new technologies.
The consumerisation of wholesale commerce both poses threats and offers opportunities.
The threats come from competitors, often unexpectedly, who begin to offer shopping conveniences which customers are already enjoying in their personal lives. Imagine catering wholesalers, for instance, which are seeing supermarkets offer online ordering and delivery services. Services that can eat into their bottom line.
The opportunities are presenting themselves to wholesalers that do business with their customers on the customer’s terms. When it comes to wholesale, maintaining strong relationships with customers is critical.
After all, this is yet another effect of the consumerisation of wholesale commerce: customers swipe their way through a new webshop at lightning speed if the service offered isn’t satisfactory.
When that happens, it’s better to be at the top of the queue than near the bottom.