How Wholesale Distributors Are Fueling the On-Demand Economy

Glen Coates
February 1, 2016

Consumer expectations have never been higher in today's on-demand economy. They want simple shopping experiences online, on their mobile devices, and in person — whatever is most convenient at any point in time. Most of all, they want to be able to purchase the exact item they’re looking for, and they want it delivered fast.

For the last decade, retailers have been adapting rapidly by rolling out omnichannel strategies to address these on-demand requirements. To better support and service these retailers, wholesalers have also begun to change their processes and implement technology to increase the speed and ease of ordering and fulfillment.

Wholesalers looking to speed up delivery times start with the workflows in their warehouses and distribution centers. While this is a critical component, it needs to be complemented by improvements in order processing time and how information is recorded, submitted and transferred. Implementing B-to-B e-commerce solutions that put the latest technology in the hands of buyers and integrate with wholesalers’ core back-office systems drive the operational efficiencies that reduce fulfillment times and help retailers better meet consumer demand.

How Wholesalers Are Fueling the On-Demand Economy

1. Lean and Responsive Delivery Logistics

Wholesalers that want to stand out in the on-demand economy need to increase the flexibility of their supply chains to deliver the breadth of their catalog fast. For many retailers (especially independents), carrying enough inventory to meet the needs of consumers can be expensive and fraught with risk.

Since manufacturers and distributors sell to many retailers, they can spread that risk out across their customer base. By offering short turnaround drop-ship terms for small orders either to the store or to the end consumer, wholesalers enable retailers to showcase the full range of their products and allow them to deliver on the on-demand promise without taking on the additional inventory risk. Even if wholesalers don’t go this far, they’re reorienting their processes and adopting reorders to get products onto store shelves faster.

2. Instant Ordering Processes for Retail Employees

To make the process as fast as possible, many wholesalers are adopting B-to-B e-commerce solutions like websites and mobile applications. These solutions provide retailers with online product catalogs that are customized with relevant products and pricing. The product catalog also includes HD images, enabling the retailer to visually confirm what they’re ordering.

These solutions provide store employees with a simple, self-service B-to-C-like ordering experience. Retailers no longer have to take time faxing, emailing or calling in orders. Instead, retail staff can write orders and submit them directly to suppliers from the floor of their store, starting the order fulfillment process early to ensure faster delivery.

3. Eliminating Order Management Inefficiencies

After the retailer has written the order, B-to-B e-commerce solutions provide the ability to sync that order to the manufacturer or distributor’s back-office systems. Digitizing order writing and automating the submission process offers suppliers a seamless, error-free process that removes the delays and fulfillment errors that occur when dependent on paper order forms and data entry. Orders can then be sent to the warehouse, picked and packed for shipment that day, and delivered the next.

With consumers continuing to demand increased speed and convenience, the need to streamline order fulfillment is more important than ever. By implementing logistical processes and B-to-B e-commerce technology, wholesalers are processing delivering retailer orders faster than ever. Wholesalers that help retailers deliver on the promise of the on-demand economy will gain a major competitive advantage.

This article originally appeared on Total Retail