The Internet of Things (IoT) is the network of cloud-connected electronic devices that communicate and transfer data using RFID, QR codes, and other technology. Prevalent in consumer products like smart speakers, IoT also supports the wholesale marketplace. This technology gathers data, delivers insights, and automates processes like never before. In 2018, Verified Market Research valued the industrial IoT market at over $61 billion and projects it to reach $103 billion by 2026.
Andy Hoar, a leading authority on B2B eCommerce and founder of Paradigm B2B, sees IoT as a massive opportunity for wholesale distributors. “The data that is going to be collected and produced from IoT is probably going to be more valuable than the sale of the widget itself, in terms of higher margin services selling,” Hoar explains. (Watch video: Andy Hoar on the Role of IoT in the Wholesale Distribution Market)
It seems many B2B companies agree. When Unilog surveyed small to mid-sized wholesale distributors and manufacturers, more than 40% of respondents deemed IoT a critical capability.
“Many B2B companies understand the potential of IoT in the supply chain, especially when they couple sensor technology with data analytics and adoption of blockchain technology,” explains Scott Frymire, SVP of Marketing at Unilog. “IoT will likely disrupt current business models for many of our customers in the near future.”
Despite the disruption, IoT technology creates significant advantages for distributors:
- Inventory efficiencies: IoT eliminates time constraints and errors caused by manual product tracking. Using RFID tags and sensors on products, businesses can track incoming and outgoing stock. This information feeds an ERP system so they can keep their inventory replenished.
- Logistics transparency: IoT monitors a product through the supply chain, from the time it comes off the manufacturer’s production line to when it reaches the customer. IoT alerts businesses to detained shipments and provides real-time customer delivery information.
- Deeper customer relationships: IoT compiles more data to better understand customer behaviors and needs. This insight can help create an enhanced customer experience at every touchpoint – from pre-sale shopping and transactions, to post-sales interactions. Businesses can alert customers when they are running low on specific inventory, when their product warranty is about to expire, or when a product they buy often is on sale. Customers appreciate the personalized attention and efficiency they gain from these updates.
- Better data analytics: IoT provides reliable, real-time data to make more informed decisions for strategic goals and future success. Knowledge is power, which is why IoT is key to building an omnichannel business.
Emerging technologies like IoT are exciting tools that can help modernize the wholesale distribution market. However, Technology Futurist Jack Shaw says these tools will not work without a strong digital transformation strategy in place. “Digital transformation is not about force-fitting new technologies into your existing business model,” explains Shaw. “It’s about reimagining your business model and the entire business ecosystem.”