The Ultimate Guide for Wholesale Distributors

Surya SK
November 18, 2021

Buyers want to study your products and get answers through trusted search mediums or social platforms. For example, B2B buyers tend to conduct online searches before making a purchase from a specific brand.

While other B2B wholesale distributors are making moves toward eCommerce, you do not want to be left alone. This blog will help you navigate the prime considerations and blueprint required as a wholesale distributor to grow your business through eCommerce. 

Table of contents

Who is a wholesale distributor?

Who is a wholesale distributor

An authorized wholesale distributor is an entity or company that is responsible for managing the shipping of wholesale shipping orders; they move the products from the manufacturers to the retailer or even ship them directly to the customers. They possess a warehouse or a distribution center to store the products that are ready to be sold to buyers. It is always recommended to reach out to authorized distributors to get original wholesale prices that are at a reasonable price point. 

Why eCommerce for distributors?

A research stated that 73% of B2B buyers are Millennials at the moment, and a massive amount of 60% of millennials say they are loyal to brands that offer a one-of-a-kind shopping experience.

So why is this correlated? As tech-centered people, they aren't essentially invested in the need for demos or sales meetings. Instead, they expect instant search results about the product so that they can evaluate and buy the products they want instantly. 

As for wholesale distributors, targeting and setting up a powerful eCommerce platform gives rise to a multitude of growth opportunities. Given a larger pool of potential customers and a comparatively easy way to attract them, B2B distributors land a unique chance to scale beyond traditional means of sales channels. It is said that 41% of B2B buyers draw in more towards businesses that provide a self-service experience online. This allows distributors to even save on operating costs.

Common challenges faced by Wholesale distributors

Although there is evidence that supports the advantage and benefits of wholesale's changeover to online, few distributors have to live up to the customers' quest for supreme digital shopping experiences. So, what are the challenges they face?

B2B business hardships

Certain B2B businesses believe that an online platform is not their cup of tea due to the mere complexity of the buying procedure and the diverse multitude of the customer base it comes with. Few of the most repeatedly faced issues by distributors include customers with their custom terms and conditions, contract pricing, exclusive product production, and the difference in shipping costs to various locations. While these conditions pertain, distributors forget that they are issues that are meant to be discussed with your eCommerce vendor and are not necessarily challenges of your Ecommerce business. Wholesale distributors have to understand that with the apt eCommerce platform, these challenges can be easily negated.

Overall team skills

Beginning an eCommerce medium might seem tasky, and it sure does require some resources. If your entire team is finding it difficult to manage their existing responsibilities, it can be a struggle to take care of the new eCommerce initiative. Sales representatives might feel vulnerable due to the new self-service buying event. Your IT dept might be worried about the new site creating more workload and crashing the customers' buying process. Adapting to changes and transcending will need the entire team's commitment. But if you're thinking about your business's long-term growth and success, it's absolutely worth it. 

B2B purchasing

B2B sellers have specific technical requirements to fulfill, and some of them are:

  • A punchout solution integrated with the buyer's ERP system is essential.
  • Payment requests to pay through orders.
  • Approval of internal manager to place orders with you

An eCommerce platform can handle all of these purchasing scenarios, given the library integrations it possesses and the forum on the whole. 

Advantages of adopting eCommerce for wholesale distributors

The benefits and advantages of a robust eCommerce medium outweigh the challenges of adopting one. Here are a few advantages to attest to that:

Room for scalability

Wholesale distributors depended heavily on trade shows events, ads in publications, and salespeople were getting in contact with buyers in person. The ability to personalize makes it easy for distributors to tap into a new market space with the help of eCommerce. Just by adding product descriptions in multiple languages or categorizing products based on cultural preferences, distributors put themselves in a position to be globally accessible. They are making it viable for distributors to tap into markets around the globe without huge risks. 

Limitless innovation

Your business can be running without a hassle. You don't have to go behind every new trend in the market, but adding additional digital tools to your product is necessary. Businesses will have to consider having their eCommerce channel set up if they choose to stay relevant. More customers are invested in their mobile devices, and accessing an eCommerce store is much easier than ever. Customers check and compare products on the internet before making a purchase decision, not the sales rep. Adding an eCommerce medium will help you adapt to the changing buyer habits and stay in the moment.

Enhanced efficiency

While an eCommerce platform may seem like it is going to cost you more. In reality, it'll help you rationalize and cut down costs of operations via automation. Once your eCommerce platform is in full swing, you can implement digital tools for analytics, tracking of inventory, and others to make profit-making decisions. In addition, as your operations become enhanced, your customer's overall shopping experience is also improved, thus developing a type of brand loyalty and trust for long-term sales. 

Requirements needed for distributor eCommerce

Wholesale distributors are experiencing intense disruption. An average consumer's tendencies and expectations tend to shift; as a result, wholesalers and distributors tend to share inevitable interruptions. Therefore, B2B eCommerce owners must bring in a different mode of approach to selling products online and focus on bringing in personalized shopping experiences that will draw in customers for long-term success.

Advanced search capabilities

Distributors tend to possess thousands of Stock keeping units, making product discovery a challenge. The success of a wholesale distributor's eCommerce strategy relies on the user experience they offer. Therefore, equipping users with an advanced search functionality like faceted search tends to improve customer experience and leads to a higher number of engaged buyers, which ultimately generates a higher number of sales. 

Customer-based pricing

Pricing is generally tricky for wholesale distributors as they have to think about many factors before getting to a conclusion about pricing. The pricing plans can be perplexing when you are put in place to tailor pricing to custom customers. Taking into consideration that certain products will be available only to some customers only and shipping costs and delivery availability will vary based on the location. Wholesale distributors have to understand that they need an eCommerce platform, specially B2B that takes all these factors into consideration and should be able to support it. The perfect tech should allow wholesale distributors to update and personalize pricing based on the customer's contract or history of purchase. 

Content tech specs and resources

To compete with the top eCommerce platforms, B2B distributors will need to provide more than the basic shopping cart functionality. We know that one of the prime ways to build customer loyalty is by delivering user-centered experiences that add value along the buying process. Besides technical information about the product, your customers may expect other sources of content that allow them to judge the product better and understand how it can be of use. To keep all your product communications up-to-date, you'll need a simple way to edit and share the content through a platform. Choosing a user-friendly eCommerce platform will help you integrate your online sales and give out great user experiences.

Customized product recommendations

A research suggests that about 50% of B2B buyers look for improved personalization as a prime element when looking out for online suppliers to build business relationships with. Indulging product recommendations is a great way to make the experience of purchasing efficient and straightforward for buyers while trying out cross-selling and upselling opportunities. As customers switch from offline purchases to online, cross-promotion gives buyers better awareness of the wholesale distributor's products. When developed with the apt tech, eCommerce platforms tend to offer highly customized experiences like Product page optimization with relatable items, homepage development with customized featured items, and shopping cart optimization with similar items.

Customized product recommendations

Account-level controls

A requirement that customers look out for in a B2B eCommerce medium is access to account-level controls. When dealing with a business, you are more likely to juggle multiple stakeholders, various domains, and even different geographical locations. This means having various people from the same company sign in to check order history or to track down other data. Adding to  that, an apt B2B eCommerce platform will allow you to provide different payment terms and support account-level controls to give the user the best user experience.

Space for innovation

When choosing to work with an eCommerce portal, immediately think beyond what you require. Days are gone where it's enough to sell products online. Research says that 45% of B2B buyers expect customized portal content, 44% expect a user-friendly ROI calculator, and about 38% seek AR options. 

Wholesale distributors must link with wholesalers and think about how they can accustom a better online experience that meets customer requirements and keep the customers intact with the online shop. 

Steps for distributors building an eCommerce site

So now that you know how eCommerce can be beneficial to your wholesale distribution business, let's take a brief insight at the steps involved in setting it up:

1. Develop project requirements

Analyze your competitors. See how and what they sell? Please search for the products you sell on various eCommerce platforms and compare your business with them. Compare how your product stands out from others online, and regulate your added value proposition. It would be best if you also found a way to structure your products so that customers find it easy to find your products. To boost fulfillment, integrate your eCommerce platform with ERP. Look for a platform that will suffice multiple payment gateways for a flawless user experience. 

2. Identify hassles

Like any other type of venture, there will be initial hits and hassles to overcome. Every business has its way of functioning, and one eCommerce platform can't necessarily cater to all types of domains. But there are a few factors you can keep in mind to prepare in advance that'll make the switch better. 

  • Account creation: Ensure your team is ready to tackle scenarios where internal review processes limit buyers from completing orders automatically. 
  • Shipping costs: Certain times, the cost of shipping is calculated post order placement, which means customers don't necessarily know the total cost of the order until they reach the checkout stage. 
  • Regulations: There can be specific government-industry regulations that can affect how your products are being purchased or shipped. If you have any issues, list them beforehand in your requirements, as they should be focused on during the implementation procedure of your website.

3. Develop goals

Your business, your eCommerce platform, your website should have a purpose. Look out for how your new eCommerce solution will bring the best out of your customers and sales team's lives. Begin with an essential revenue target. A definite ROI target will help you to evaluate the success of your eCommerce medium. Always explore for any room for improvements and evaluate your fulfillment speed, see if you're providing what the customer expects, and act on it swiftly. 

4. Form your team

Experience matters! You'll need people who have launched an eCommerce website before and have dealt with it before. Their experience will help you move with confidence to take action. However, if you don't have an experienced team, you can always outsource these roles to an agency partner to help you with this process. If you decide to accept a project, you'll at least need a project manager, a developer, and a digital marketer, to make sure you're all set to face the eCommerce business. 

5. Choose your eCommerce platform

Probably the essential part, Choosing the right eCommerce solution is critical to the process. Give yourself enough time to analyze and compare multiple platforms and see how they can add value to your business.

  • Cost evaluation: See how much it would cost for your business to set up on the platform and to run it? Do look out for integrations that can save you some money in the long run. 
  • Maintenance: Is it convenient enough to maintain and manage your eCommerce site? Will you have to work security and updates all by yourself? 
  • Hosting: Check if it is a hosted or a self-hosted solution. 
  • CMS: Does it include a CRM, or do you have to integrate it with one?
  • B2B features: Check if your eCommerce platform comes with the B2B features you need and require. The best solution would be to go for a B2B eCommerce platform.
  • Updates: Check if your eCommerce platform constantly keeps up with the marketplace trends and updates to keep up with the competition. This is essential.

There are 'N' number of aspects to take into consideration when it comes to committing to a B2B eCommerce platform, therefore, take your time to educate yourself, analyze and find the best fit for your business.

Conclusion

The growth of the B2B commerce market does not seem to slow down anytime soon. Therefore, this is a fantastic period for wholesale distributors to capitalize on an effective sales medium to draw in customers and provide value-based service to their current clients.

Understand that the risk of not meeting buyer expectations and being left behind in your domain is much more significant and has a higher possibility than venturing out into a new field. However, if you're thinking about scaling and operating your wholesale distribution business for the long run with growth, adding an eCommerce platform to help you out is definitely a game-changer and something that you must seriously consider working with. Good luck!