When people think wholesale and distribution, they think about companies that buy and sell inventory, operate one or multiple warehouse locations and serve primarily a B2B market of customers – selling products to other businesses such as retail stores, other distributors and manufacturing companies. However, the world of wholesale and distribution has been evolving for quite some time now and will continue to do so in 2020 and beyond. The dividing lines between wholesale, retail and eCommerce continues to blur and we are experiencing a disruption of business models, distribution channels and consumer expectations, known by some as Flux Commerce. In today’s world, wholesale distributors do more than just buy and sell inventory to B2B customers – they also provide service and repair, do light manufacturing and sell through eCommerce and retail channels, targeting B2B customers and the end-consumer. This means that wholesale software to manage these types of businesses is also evolving to provide additional tools for point-of-sale, eCommerce and marketplace integration, service and repair functionality and more. Below we’ve outlined some specific tools that Blue Link offers that are important to the ever-changing wholesale distribution industry.
For the most part, there are 3 different options when it comes to eCommerce. Selling directly to the general public through your own website built on platforms like Shopify, selling B2C through marketplaces such as Amazon and selling to B2B customers through a secure online order portal. It’s not unusual nowadays to find wholesale distributors who sell through all 3 channels. This makes it important to find wholesale software that can manage these online sales channels in addition to traditional methods of selling by phone, email, EDI and via outside sales reps. Blue Link wholesale software includes eCommerce integration which allows for the bi-directional flow of data between each online platform. When a customer places an order online, this information automatically populates in Blue Link allowing your team to review and prioritize in conjunction with all other order types. An employee can first review the order, or the system can automatically send the order to the warehouse for pick, pack and ship based on specific system criteria. When an employee ships an order or receives new inventory into your warehouse and updates Blue Link, the information also populates online so that customers always have insight into available inventory and can easily track order status and shipment information.
Although some wholesale distributors operate brick and mortar retail stores, many others provide retail environments through cash and carry business models, front-counter operations or utilize POS functionality selling product at tradeshows. No matter the situation, this makes it important to find a wholesale solution with POS functionality for managing these different types of customer interactions. If the volume of onsite transactions is high, Blue Link provides traditional point-of-sale software with barcode scanners, cash drawers and receipt/tape printers. Blue Link POS functionality also works offline which allows you to continue to process transactions even if you lose an internet connection or when selling to customers offsite and at tradeshows.
Service and Repair
For businesses who sell inventory items with a warranty, providing service and repair on those products is a value-added service that keeps customers coming back to buy more. For true wholesale distributors, this aspect of the company is likely only a small portion of overall operations, but it’s still important to find a solution with the right tools to manage this requirement. Blue Link includes the following features for managing all service and repair requests, both on-site and in-house.
- Ability to track multiple service requests per order
- Assign service requests against specific equipment items
- Track parts and labor against service requests as well as other non-inventory items
- Service and appointment scheduling with automated communication (appointment and maintenance reminders)
- Job/project costing and integrated quoting
Many companies who identify as a manufacturing business are actually wholesale distributors with some kitting, assembly and simple BOM needs. Therefore, wholesale software is still an appropriate solution as long as it includes these additional features. When managing inventory, it’s important to be able to account for individual units and finished goods as well as those required to form a kit. Blue Link provides these light manufacturing tools in addition to functionality for production control, product configurator and more.