Wholesale and e-commerce are a perfect match. For holders of online platforms, the B2B sector means potentially more marginal clients who are inclined to long-term cooperation. Online wholesale is very promising and will grow at an explosive rate in the coming years.
Today, the leading brands are launching their B2B platforms that allow you to make bulk purchases in a couple of clicks on your smartphone. Among them are Swarovski, Gucci, Armani. Even industrial supergiants like Boeing are adopting this practice.
But not all suppliers keep up with the pace of the transition to digital. Often digitalization is implemented pointwise or without proper qualifications. Some companies work according to the precepts of the nineties: sales managers call customers, manually send out price lists and collect applications.
Everything will change in the coming years. The B2B market is transforming, and wholesale buyers have new needs. In the digital world, the very logic of contacts and procurement is changing. Those who ignore the advantages of new technologies will sooner or later give way to more advanced competitors.
On offhand, B2B sales have processes that are automatable without any problems. Let's analyze them in detail.
B2B sales automation - where to start
The digitalization of wholesales lags far behind the level of digitalization in retail. In retail, the competition is always high, and sellers 'chase' the client's needs, but here in B2B, innovations come slowly.
Managers continue to do many things manually: looking for customer contacts, sending emails, processing applications. It does not have to be that way.
A sales pipeline is an array of data on the movement of customer orders through the stages of a sales funnel.
Analyzing this data is crucial for businesses because it helps find weaknesses in the company processes and increases sales. Of course, manually maintaining customer data is an insane task, even for a relatively small business.
Today, the sales process and data maintenance can be automated using CRM systems. There are many ready-made solutions on the market. But for some unusual tasks, a custom product is a must.
CRM is easy enough to integrate with the site admin panel and digital services of the company. It will help automate customer search and mailing, simplify the work with data for analytics.
Contact search and lead-generation
Modern solutions save managers from the need to independently search for contacts, at times showing ingenuity wonders when checking data.
So, there are tools that can automatically collect information from profiles on social networks and validate them (for example, Phantombuster on LinkedIn). There are even services that can analyze potential leads for maturity. Their goal is to highlight those who are more likely to cooperate.
Cold calls are also automatable. Voice bot services today are not worse than humans at this task. NLU technologies enable them to understand human speech and maintain a conversation. A robot can call several dozen people in 10 minutes and effectively segment customers. The manager would have to spend several hours doing the same.
Building relationships with customers
It seems that this area requires the maximum involvement of people. But already today, AI-based solutions can take over part of the work with customers.
Such a 'robot' can automatically carry out a personalized mailing to a vast database of contacts. It even can select the preferred tone of voice for letters for a particular client.
Integration with CRM data opens up tremendous opportunities in this direction. The algorithm can, for example, analyze the pipeline for each client and generate personalized offers for everyone.
Finally, the buyer can place an order himself and complete the purchase through the B2B platform, bypassing the manager. Nowadays, wholesalers want to make large purchases for businesses as simply as buying sneakers from their favorite online store.
It is crucial that the online wholesale platform fully meets the following expectations: it is available on any device, provides a flexible personal account, electronic document management capabilities, quick access to order history, and essential information.
The buying process should be simple and close to the user, even when purchasing a batch of industrial equipment or chemicals.
How digital boosts B2B sales
'Digital' solves a lot of problems in wholesale: relieves managers, provides new opportunities for lead generation, analytics, and conversion. But the best part is that IT helps to avoid obvious mistakes and the human factor.
Combining customer databases from 1C, CRM, and some spreadsheets will save managers time and speed up order processing.
CRM will eliminate situations when the manager gets confused about order numbers, does not have time, or forgets to call the client. The system can carry out typical tasks such as forming an invoice or sending service letters automatically.
Finally, automated mailing and dialing services offer productivity that a human can only hope to reach. The robot will not only make more calls, but it also segments the customer base much faster and more efficiently than a live employee. Here simple statistics come into play - the more leads, the more profit.
B2B Sales Challenges
In the online wholesale business, things are not going as smoothly as we would like. According to a Sana Commerce survey, 37% of B2B consumers regularly experience problems with online ordering (at least once a week).
The most common problems are errors in tracking and delivering orders, the complexity of communication with the supplier, insufficient visibility on the platform of product characteristics and payment terms, and the complexity of ordering in general. Half of B2B e-commerce sites do not fully meet audience expectations.
It means that in terms of organizing online sales, wholesale suppliers have room to grow: introduce better tools, hone processes, and eliminate shortcomings in logistics.
Despite the challenges, B2B e-commerce is growing at a tremendous pace. More than half of the companies in the Sana Commerce survey said they frequently use online platforms. In 2019, there were only 28% of such companies.
The advantages of online trading are evident, although this segment is still in its infancy. Vendors that tackle digitalization faster than others can outrun competitors by several years.