The consumer retail industry has become a good barometer for wholesalers in recent years. Known for being on the forefront of trends and innovations, B2C retailers have learned to evolve their strategies, technology and offerings to meet changing consumer needs. As a result, the retail evolution has given B2Bs a glimpse into changes they may have to consider in their own developing marketplace.
Take, for instance, when large retailers – those whose success was built on brick-and-mortar stores – began entering the eCommerce marketplace. While it’s true they created online storefronts to compete against eCommerce giants like Amazon, they also strived to provide an easier means for their customers to shop with them. By offering both physical storefronts and online shopping, many big-box retailers thought they created the perfect balance to meet customer needs. Instead, they’re seeing the scales tip as online shopping is continuing to gain popularity while in-store sales are stagnant.
Companies like Kohl’s, Macy’s and even Walmart are feeling the effects. With a lack of in-store customers, retailers are forced to close stores and put a stop to new store construction. Last October, Walmart CEO Doug McMillon told investors that instead of building supercenters to drive growth, the company will focus on investing even more heavily in eCommerce. The multinational retailer feels by having a better digital commerce offering, it will bring more shoppers into its existing stores. McMillon said Walmart plans to spend more of their annual capital investing in eCommerce technology and in-store customer service to boost online sales and improve the customer experience across all its sales channels.
So how does this current retail dilemma affect wholesalers? If studies are any indication, it will have a major impact on the B2B marketplace. Experts tell us 80% of B2B companies that implement an eCommerce platform believe their customer expectations have changed directly because of B2C practices. With online sales skyrocketing in the consumer retail industry, they stand to do the same in the wholesale world. Like their retail counterparts, manufacturers and distributors need to adapt and invest in eCommerce before it’s too late.
With today’s consumers owning several devices like a smartphones, tablet and computer, they expect to shop from them all – anywhere, anytime. But these expectations are not just applicable to retail shoppers; they also relate to those purchasing products and services for businesses. The fact is where there once was a clear line in the sand separating consumer and wholesale customer behavior, it’s now a blur.
As a wholesaler, it’s not enough to have a brick-and-mortar store, and it’s certainly not enough to have a basic online presence. Your customers are digitally savvy and expect an intuitive and user-friendly shopping experience that includes:
- Sophisticated search tools that offer buyers many ways to search and find products
- Great content, including robust product descriptions, specifications, images and other digital assets that help inform buyers
- Product relationships to help buyers find replacement parts and accessories, and offer additional or alternate product options
- Customer log-in functionality that displays products and pricing specific to each customer and includes account information like order status and purchase history
Learn from your consumer counterparts: evolve and embrace digital commerce to meet buyer expectations. A truly successful online storefront provides a wide selection of products, a wealth of information, and advanced functionality that makes it easy for buyers to navigate and find what they need.