As the world tries to recover from the pandemic, it is now more important than ever for wholesale businesses to go online. Even before COVID-19, the industry was undergoing a huge digital revolution. As every other B2C seller was moving online, B2B sellers also needed to adapt. Thus, wholesale eCommerce was born.
Alas, traditional wisdom held that buying wholesale was too complex to conduct online, which is why so many suppliers have been slow to embrace eCommerce. In this article, we’re going to cover everything you need to know about the online wholesale business, including:
- Why you need to move your wholesale business online
- Its various benefits and advantages
- Some common problems you’ll face and their solutions
- How to shift your wholesale business online
Why you need to adopt digitalization
The term “Survival of the Fittest” isn’t just a way of describing the mechanism of natural selection. It perfectly applies to our cutthroat industry as well. Those who can’t adapt to sudden, gradual, or constant change get left behind. This means that you will fail if you can’t digitally transform your business.
Case in point, if we hadn’t been so slow in adopting eCommerce, the Coronavirus wouldn’t have been so devastating to us B2B sellers. Instead, we would have seen a major boost in sales just like online retailers. And don’t think you’re out of the woods just because COVID cases are decreasing worldwide.
Today’s B2B buyers are increasingly using online platforms to research and make purchases for their businesses. Research conducted by Bruce Eppinger, Forrester’s Senior Analyst for Digital Business, revealed that 68% of modern-day buyers prefer buying online rather than interacting with a sales representative. These customer demands, combined with the rise of digitalization, make it imperative that B2B sellers adapt.
Benefits of moving online
Simplifies the Buying Process
Many wholesalers avoid digitalization because it wouldn’t suit their complex buying process. Doubts over contract pricing, product exclusivity, and customers with special terms and conditions make digitalization look highly unattractive. But despite these valid concerns, the right wholesale platform can help businesses overcome these obstacles and grow.
To choose the right platform for your business, look for these parameters:
Look for B2B wholesale eCommerce platforms that can provide an option for:
- Creating a parent account: Make a primary account that has multiple secondary accounts. These secondary accounts should have some restrictions and limits involving credit limits, workflow, etc.
- Creating customer groups: Set attributes such as pricing and minimum order sizes pertaining to certain customer groups.
- Creating Advanced Search: Your customers should be able to find exactly what they need without being hindered by complex attributes.
- Sales Literature: Provide your customers with information such as product features, benefits, images, etc. Also, the platform should be able to support a variety of media formats like PDF, videos, images, etc.
- Different Price Levels: The platform should make it easy for you to set different prices for different customer groups, order quantities, order histories, and payment terms.
- Minimum Order Size: There should be an option to specify the minimum order quantity (at the group or product level) and order it (during the order placement).
- Configure Products: Customers should be able to configure products and update prices as needed.
- Quotation Process: It should be possible to create, modify, and approve online quotes.
- Order Approval Process: Only parent accounts can approve orders, while child accounts can only initiate them.
- Credit Limits, Payment Terms, Bill Pay: It should be possible to settle pending invoices (across accounts) with single or multiple payments.
- ERP Integration: You can ask for a seamless eCommerce and ERP integration. Both integrations streamline order fulfillment and enhance customer experience.
- Salesperson: Your salesperson can use a sales portal-like feature to answer customer queries, create orders, update orders, and review order status.
- Simplify Order Placement: Allows customers to save shopping carts and lists, which will make it easier for them to repeat previous orders.
- Support Multiple Warehouses: The platform should be able to handle fulfillment from more than one warehouse.
Helps Automate Wholesale Purchases
Today, one of the biggest benefits of selling wholesale is eCommerce automation. Throughout the sales cycle, you’ll spend less time managing orders over the phone/email and more time focusing on your business’s strategic goals.
The current eCommerce technology can help you:
- Price items or offer percentage discounts to specific customers or groups
- Automate the customer signup and review process
- Make it easy for customers to buy, track, and reorder products
- Ensure orders are reviewed before billing
- Optimize inventory and order management
- Improves the Buyer Experience
Today’s B2B wholesale buyers expect the same level of service as their B2C counterparts. They know how to conduct online searches and do not need to consult with sales representatives before making a purchase. In short, they want an easy onboarding and ordering process.
According to research from Demand Gen Report, 67% of B2B buyers prefer easy access to wholesale pricing. Furthermore, 64% of respondents wanted content that they could easily access without signing up, while a striking 66% sought websites that addressed their specific industry needs.
Increases Sales While Lowering Spend
The fastest way to boost business growth is to sell wholesale online. Selling in bulk can help manufacturers increase product volume and lower cost-per-unit, which in turn increases their profit margins. Furthermore, shipping bulk products to fewer customers can also lower fulfillment costs.
For example, let’s say you have 100 units.
As a wholesaler, you’ll most likely sell these 100 units as a single purchase. That means that you’ll only have to prepare one lot of packing, one lot of shipping and you’ll have just one customer (retailer/wholesaler) to deal with.
Now, add the time and effort saved by the online ordering model and it’s easy to see why sales will increase exponentially.
Helps Enter New Markets
The logistics of moving into a new country or territory are challenging. You’ll be trying to sell to an entirely new audience that may not be familiar with your brand. If your wholesale business partners with an established retailer, you can benefit from its supply chain to reduce setup costs and risks.
The wholesaler can also save money on marketing by connecting with the retailer’s current customer base.
What you need to know before shifting online
To get the maximum benefit out of wholesale eCommerce, there are a couple of things you need to look out for.
Many wholesalers don’t want to shift online for fear of being scammed. Looking for reliable distributors is hard enough as it is. Doing it online is even more difficult. Who to trust when investing your money? And who are the distributors that will secure you the biggest net profit?
Some steps you can take to protect yourself include:
- Verifying the address and phone number provided.
- Asking for evidence such as a certificate of incorporation and a tax or business ID number.
- Asking for a bank reference.
- Asking for customer references.
- Getting a sample first before committing to a larger order.
Businesses and their clients are at risk when they use a web-based business model. Companies that operate all-access online portals carry the risk of revealing their pricing to competitors who can use it to boost their own sales.
On the client side, there may be a concern that buying online can expose their sensitive data to security breaches. You can address these issues by investing in strong online security measures that protect against data leaks and encrypt clients’ data. Some tips to make your wholesale eCommerce platform more secure include:
- Choosing a secure web host and eCommerce platform
An optimal level of protection needs a secure platform and web host. The majority of eCommerce website builders do offer a certain level of security. However, not all platforms and hosts are the same.
It’s best to shop around and compare platforms and hosts to find the one that’s right for your business and your customers. Look for a host and platform combination that offers complete protection against common threats such as malware and SQL injections.
Also, get an SSL certificate.
It encrypts the data between your website and the user’s browser, making it almost impossible for hackers to read the data.
- Performing regular SQL checks
Depending on your wholesale eCommerce platform, you can use several software options to monitor and protect against harmful SQL injections. You can also use free site scanners to perform the same task. Just make sure to read the reviews first and download from a trusted source.
For optimal security, set the scanner to run daily security checks on your website. It will help identify and secure vulnerabilities before someone takes advantage of them.
- Leaving payment and data processing to the experts
In order to avoid losing customer data, don’t keep any! Keep your customers’ private data away from your website unless absolutely necessary. Process payments through third-party, encrypted checkout tunnels.
Most popular payment gateways are completely safe and have a successful track record. Pick a payment platform that works well with your eCommerce host and platform. You don’t want to cut corners in this case so opt for the most effective fraud prevention and identity theft protection.
- Using a website application firewall
You can exponentially increase the security of your wholesale eCommerce website by implementing a Website Application Firewall (WAF).
It will keep you safe from XSS, SQL injections, and forgery requests. Also, it offers protection against hacking attacks, including brute force and DoS or DDoS attacks. There are a lot of excellent web application firewall providers out there.
Choose one that fulfills your requirements, fits your budget and is trusted by the wholesale eCommerce community.
- Regularly backing up your website data
Data backups won’t stop security threats, but they can lower the damage done. Imagine your data being lost, corrupted, or held hostage. Sounds like a nightmare, right? To prevent this hellish scenario, back up your website as often as possible.
Whenever you update your website, make a backup. We recommend doing it once per day. To save time and make life easier, set up automatic back-ups. Also, choose a website builder or host that offers backups as a built-in feature.
Long-term customers often ask for or expect preferential treatment, such as discounts on purchases. These types of requests are pretty hard to manage even when negotiating face-to-face. Trying to handle them through an eCommerce platform can make the situation even more difficult.
Long-term clients may also require lengthy conversations or emails, which can negate the convenience of an eCommerce business model.
To avoid these issues, we recommend creating or joining a wholesale eCommerce website that can also act as a social media platform for you and other wholesalers.
It is quite common for people to feel, touch, and use goods before buying them. B2B customers are no different! Especially if they plan to purchase in bulk. However, you can’t physically examine goods on an eCommerce platform.
And wholesale customers wouldn’t feel comfortable buying goods online based solely on the seller’s reputation. Plus, if the goods don’t satisfy the purchaser, the business may have to face expensive after-sales disputes that could damage its reputation.
The best way to avoid these scenarios is by improving the client browsing experience. You can do this by posting high-quality images, improving product descriptions, and providing video demonstrations. We also recommend offering free samples so that the buyer can accurately judge the quality.
How to shift your wholesale business online
If you’ve reached this point, it’s safe to say you probably have a strong interest in B2B wholesale eCommerce and want to know how to build an effective website.
Here’s how to do it in four simple steps:
Step 1: Prepare crucial data
Drawing up necessary data before starting a B2B wholesale eCommerce website is crucial as you’re bound to face challenges due to limited experience and resources.
Own enough resources to support the growth of your B2B eCommerce website development. Creating an effective website requires a lot of resources, both internal and external, so be prepared.
Ambition is great, but you still need to keep your website within your budget. Planning ahead will help you avoid unnecessary fees.
A smart budget, as well as an investment in robust online tools, will allow you to:
- Increase sales
- Ensure ROIs
- Grow your business
As Sun Tzu once said, “If you know the enemy and know yourself, you need not fear the result of a hundred battles.”A competitive environment like this requires you to reduce the gap between your business and your competitors. Analyze your rivals’ websites to uncover their brand voice, customer engagements, marketing strategies, sales events, etc.
We recommend using trusted tools such as SEMrush, Ahrefs, Ubersuggest, etc. Besides following their strengths, you can also learn from their shortcomings and imperfections. These tools will not only help highlight your competitors’ strengths but their weaknesses as well.
Step 2: Define your target customers
The question, “Who are my target customers?” should be addressed first before asking, “How to create a B2B wholesale eCommerce website?”. Starting your B2B eCommerce website in a field where you have experience is a huge advantage.
Nevertheless, taking steps to understand them more deeply doesn’t hurt.
To create an exact B2B wholesale buyer persona, start by asking questions like:
- What are their goals?
- What problems are they trying to solve?
- How does your product meet their needs?
- Is it a large or small company?
- Do they also refer to your competitors?
By making a well-researched buyer persona, you can create a B2B wholesale website that delivers a personalized experience to your customers.
Step 3: Pick a suitable online platform
There is a wide range of platforms on the market, each with different capabilities and prices. Below are some famous eCommerce platforms being used by a lot of wholesalers owners around the world.
Many B2B business owners prefer Magento due to its commercial capabilities and security. While its Open Source edition lacks some features specific to wholesalers, it offers a lot of customization to integrate important Magento 2 B2B extensions.
WordPress & WooCommerce
While WordPress allows you to design your website, WooCommerce allows you to handle payments. It’s preferred by many users thanks to its versatility. However, it lacks some much-needed features when it comes to B2B wholesale eCommerce.
Corporate clients expect a professional, yet personalized purchase process. But certain aspects of WordPress do not meet these requirements.
Step 4: Other essentials
Developing a B2B wholesale website is more difficult than creating a basic website or blog. Simply getting a domain name and hosting server isn’t enough. To satisfy customers and simplify business operations, you need to use more online tools and software that simplify the purchase process, negotiations, data management, etc.
A standard B2B wholesale eCommerce website development procedure includes:
- Domain and hosting server selection
- Website developer hiring
- Theme selection
- B2B features integration
- Marketing practices
- Maintenance and support
We wrote this article to clear up a few misconceptions about online wholesale businesses so you can move your business online. Having been in wholesale for over 20 years, we at SeeBiz have a lot more knowledge and value to share with the community.
Stay tuned for more.