3 Macro Trends Transforming Wholesale Sales

Wholesale sales is changing, and there are 3 major trends to watch out for. Read on to find out what those trends are, and how your business should adapt.

Glen Coates
April 6, 2015

Wholesale businesses today are operating in a very different environment than they were just a few years ago. Technological innovation is pressing forward at an exponential rate, and our own habits, behaviors, and expectations are adjusting just as quickly. In the wholesale sales landscape, that fact is becoming increasingly more apparent, and that means change is coming to the way brands sell to their customers. Let’s talk about three of the macro trends that are driving those changes and what to do about them.

Wholesale Sales: 3 Macro Trends

1. Customer Expectations Are Shifting

The lines between B2C and B2B are more blurred than ever, and customer expectations are shifting fast. As consumers in a world transformed by mobile, we’ve grown accustomed to the simplicity, interactivity and personalization that comes along with shopping on Amazon, getting from point A to point B with Google maps, or watching your favorite TV show on Netflix. Those experiences in our consumer lives are raising expectations in the B2B world. More and more people are bringing their own mobile devices to work, and this cross-pollination of our personal and business technology is fueling a dramatic shift upwards in the user experiences we want and demand at work. According to Accenture, two thirds of B2B suppliers acknowledge that shifting customer expectations are driving their technology investments. The crisis here is that wholesalers who aren’t making those investments are falling behind their competitors. The flip-side is that the opportunity exists to be the company your customers love to buy from, because the purchasing experience feels consumer-grade––because it feels “best in class.” Think about it this way: In the early days of B2C eCommerce, there was a transitional period where brands were struggling to get their eCommerce sites up and running, and the early implementers had a major leg up in terms of accessing a greater market. The same phenomenon is happening now in B2B eCommerce, where buyers are preferring to do business with brands that allow them to purchase in a way that feels comparable with a modern consumer eCommerce experience.

2. Information Drives More Business

When your customers agree to take an appointment with one of your sales reps, or they call your customer service team, they want more than just someone to punch in their order, show them a canned presentation, or tell them what’s in stock. They want insights. They want real value that they can’t get from their own data. With always-on mobile and web technology and increased access to both macro analytics and customer-specific data, sales reps now have no excuse to come to sales conversations unprepared with real insights that can drive customer-specific value. In the past, sales reps have had a more transactional role, but the current market demands something more strategic. When a sales rep walks into a meeting, she is expected to deliver value to the customer, whether it’s providing market intelligence, presentations that address the customer’s biggest pain points, or more informed selling based on access to customer order history or inventory data. Customers welcome and are beginning to demand the insight that will help them make better purchase decisions. 50% B2B buyers are looking for improved personalized product or service recommendations. Customers want a deeper, more insightful buying experience, and the best brands are working hard to deliver just that.

3. Efficiency Is Everything

Customer patience is at an all-time low. Part of your customer wanting a B2B user experience that mirrors their consumer life is a sense of immediacy and speed. Amazon ships product over-night, but your customers are waiting on the delivery from your brand for weeks. 54% of B2B companies are seeking to implement omni-channel initiatives in order to drive efficiency. What this really means is that companies are trying to find multiple ways to serve their customers through technology that will reduce time-to-value and satisfy the ever-increasing expectation of instant, always-on service. If you can leverage mobile and the web to supplement the human-powered responsiveness of your sales & service teams, you can create a step-function in both the actual and perceived efficiency of the interaction between your brand and your customers. This drives the competitive edge between you and your competitors, as your customers prefer to work with brands that offer the best possible experience at all times. Getting what they want, when they want it is becoming table-stakes in the current wholesale environment. With all of this in mind, the challenges ahead for wholesale brands lie in recognizing the implications of these trends and the deficiencies in your current way of doing things, taking action, and getting buy-in from those at the executive level. It’s not really a matter of “if,” but “when.” Those who start today will have a leg up on the competition, and the rest will eventually follow. Questions about these trends, or experiences to share from your own business? Let us know in the comments below.