Wholesale commerce has always been a competitive market, and with the rise of e-commerce, that isn’t going to change anytime soon. In fact, B2B e-commerce is predicted to hit $1.8 trillion by 2023, accounting for 17 percent of all B2B sales in the country. While that does provide wholesalers with plenty of opportunities to grow, it also breeds competition and makes it more difficult to increase, or even maintain, your sales.
As a wholesaler in the e-commerce space, you’ll likely have to take a multi-faceted approach to boost your sales in this competitive market. Wholesalers must do what they can to appeal to their buyers, offering not only great discounts and deals, but also exceptional customer service, incentives that are too good to pass up, and an uncomplicated purchasing experience.
You may be in the habit of providing discounts to your customers, but you should try to take things to the next level by offering a variety of different deals. Include bulk deals for high-volume buyers, coupons for first-time customers, an incentivizing coupon for return customers, or even a small but notable discount for your frequent, regular customers. Don’t hesitate to try special promotions or seasonal sales. Get creative with your discounts, and do whatever works well for your business.
Keep in mind that you’ll have to adjust your inventory based on the deals you plan to offer. You don’t want to run out of stock because you didn’t plan properly, but you don’t want to overstock, either. Base your supply off of careful data analysis of your stock, and consider using material inventory software to ensure your supplier provides a steady flow of materials and products. This way, you’ll be able to avoid both over- and under-stocking your inventory.
Make the entire ordering process, from start to finish, as smooth and painless as possible. Research indicates that you should keep things simple in order to keep your customers — this means not bombarding them with marketing messages, not making it hard to find the information they want about those products, and not making it difficult to make a purchase. Shopping, ordering, delivery, and billing should all be easy, because that’s what will encourage your customers to come back.
A B2B e-commerce platform integrated with an inventory management solution will be a great help in streamlining this process. Not only do they offer direct retail support for your inventory, but the right platform or software solution will also make it easy for you to provide your customers with the best shopping experience you have to offer.
In an age of same-day shipping, fast shipping is a necessity. You should make an effort to simplify your own internal processes to ensure you can get products out as quickly as possible. It’s fairly simple: if your warehouse is running smoothly, you’ll be able to get more products out more quickly.
Inventory management software that provides a distribution solution and effective warehouse management best practices is crucial to streamlining the shipping process. Set your warehouse up for success, and place high-volume items in strategic locations for easy access and fast shipping. This will make it easier to move products out of your warehouse. Employ demand forecasting to improve your stock-on-hand, so you’re never out of a given product and can get it to your customers immediately.
Just like fast shipping, excellent customer service is a business necessity. A great product or simple ordering process isn’t enough to secure success, and a recent survey reported that US customers are willing to spend up to 17 percent more at businesses with great customer service. In the hyper-competitive wholesale e-commerce market, you’ll have to provide top-of-the-line customer service to increase your sales.
Have as many touchpoints for your customers as possible. You’ll need sales staff, both at your place of business and available on the phone. Consider employing a dedicated customer service staff just to handle any customer issues, like returns or incorrectly filled orders. Technology is another useful way to supplement your customer service; your e-commerce platform, social media profiles, and website are ways your customers should be able to reach you with any questions, comments, or complaints. Remember to monitor each touchpoint that you have available so you can respond to customers quickly.
Along similar lines of making it easy for customers to order and receive your products, you should also make it easy for them to find the products they’re looking for. Many people rely on businesses to help them find the solution they want or need. While you may be happy to help them personally, that isn’t an option when it comes to wholesale e-commerce.
That’s where product recommendation engines come in. Also called predictive offers or next best offers, these recommendation engines use customer data — such as their purchase history, personal preferences, and even direct feedback — to make personalized and accurate product recommendations. They’re highly effective and will help increase your sales; as a matter of fact, it’s estimated that 35 percent of Amazon’s revenue comes directly from their product recommendations. While you may not see such high returns from a product recommendation engine, it can provide an extra boost to your sales, especially in comparison to your competitors.
Marketing is important for any business for a variety of reasons, but it’s particularly useful for generating awareness for your business. After all, the more people who know about you and your products, the more potential customers you have, and the more likely you are to make a sale.
In the digital age, though, you need to do multichannel marketing to create as much awareness for your business as you can. You can explore traditional mediums — such as print, television, direct mail, radio, and mail-order catalogs — but you can also turn to technology, which is only natural for an e-commerce business, to reach even more people. Different marketing channels to pursue include your business’s website, various social media profiles, email, search engines, and mobile apps.
Finally, ask your customers to refer your business to their peers. 92 percent of customers trust recommendations from their friends and family members more than any other form of advertising, making referrals a powerful tool to increase your sales. Unfortunately, asking your customers to make referrals likely isn’t enough motivation for them to actually do it. Incentivizing your customers with a referral program, though, is a great way to encourage them to tell their peers. By offering special or additional rewards to customers who make referrals, you can increase your chances of earning word-of-mouth sales.
Increasing your sales as a wholesale e-commerce business isn’t necessarily easy, and using these strategies doesn’t guarantee success, but it’s a goal well worth the extra time and effort. There’s simply too much opportunity to grow that you can take advantage of in the rapidly expanding B2B e-commerce space. Take these strategies, tailor them to suit your needs, and make them work for you and your business.