As we near the end of Q2 for 2022, it’s important to take a look at what’s been going on the past few months within your industry and around the world. The covid-19 pandemic caused businesses to quickly find alternatives to efficiency processes over the past two years and public safety has been concern #1. Small-medium-sized wholesale distribution businesses need to keep up with the ever-changing environment so employees and customers remain happy. There are a few trends that have arisen over the past few months that I believe wholesale distribution businesses must keep in mind to remain successful.
4 Wholesale Distribution Trends to Watch Out for in 2022:
- Online and Offline Sales – eCommerce Management
- Strategic Inventory Management
- People First Values
Online and Offline Sales – eCommerce Management
The advantageous online community only grew during the pandemic and having a solid online presence is essential to a successful business. An omnichannel experience is now expected by customers, whether they interact with a business by phone, online or through a marketplace, the overall experience should be seamless, and the data should be easily shared amongst the selling channels. eCommerce ERP software can integrate with all your selling channels and help you provide a smooth shopping experience.
If you sell B2B primarily, an online order portal allows your customer to place orders at any given time and gives your salespeople an accurate view of inventory when inputting orders. Believe it or not, a coherent eCommerce business plan can further aid in your employee’s work-life balance, which we’ll get to later in this post.
Strategic Inventory Management
2022 is all about delivery. eCommerce sales sat at $870 billion in the US for 2021, a 14.2% increase over 2020 and a 50.5% increase over 2019. With that amount of online sales surging, companies need to stay on top of purchases and sales to ensure they have enough stock to maintain delivery expectations. The supply chain and delivery industry took a major hit but distributors themselves can implement certain automations to maintain ideal stock levels. Since ERP software is an all-in-one solution, it’s the best software to give you insight into real-time data. As soon as products are scanned into the warehouse, Blue Link ERP updates for everyone. The salespeople, customers, and management are all able to see accurate inventory levels. To take it one step further use available reports to your advantage. Some can tell you which products are most popular during certain times of the year so that you can strategize on when to purchase more. With SQL Reporting, you can create a report anytime you want. Check out how SQL Reports are used within Blue Link ERP in the video below.
In addition to the software you have in place, maintaining high levels of communication with both suppliers and customers can help avoid these supply chain disruptions. SMBs have multiple ways they can implement automation including barcode scanning to speed up the shipping process or the option of integrating with a Transportation Management Solution that makes shipping information transparent for the customer. When thinking of managing a warehouse, you might automatically think you need a separate WMS system. But an ERP with robust inventory management and lite WMS functionality is all you need to manage your warehouse and inventory movement.
People First Values
The people-first movement is rooted in the philosophy that values people over profits. When employees feel they are a valued team member working in a communicative culture, they are often more productive and innovative, producing a more profitable company. The Covid-19 Pandemic found some companies closing their doors for a few weeks or increasing public safety measures. Employees expect to feel safe while they work especially in the warehouse of a distribution center and it all starts with “human” leadership.
Mentioned above is the idea that eCommerce plays a role in employee work-life balance, and it does. With automated data entry, sales orders and shipping integrations, a solid eCommerce platform that integrates with your back-end system allows your team to focus their time on what matters most – relationship building.
For customers, the pandemic resulted in supply chain halts and disruptions which led businesses to offer empathetic service to keep their loyal customers. Communicating with customers about delays and realistic delivery times can help them understand why some products may take so long to arrive.
Sustainability hasn’t always been on the top of mind for wholesale distributors in the past. But sustainability isn’t just a trend, it’s a lifestyle that goes far beyond small businesses. Many SMBs are now adopting the triple bottom line as a way to understand a business’s sustainability efforts which looks at managing profits, people and the planet. Yes, your profits are important, but if you put as much effort into people and the planet as you do your profits, then the success of your company will stem from much more than profits.
“As Harvard Business School Professor Rebecca Henderson notes in the online course Sustainable Business Strategy, you can't use business to do good in the world if you're not doing well financially. Doing well and doing good are intertwined, and successful business strategies include both.”
To be truly sustainable your business will have to undergo a full digital transformation which includes the digitalization of all areas of the business. Process and organizational changes are required for a full digital transformation. You can start with sustainable sourcing and packaging, ensuring your environmental impact is low. ERP software can also help you with sustainability by integrating with automation tools such as DocuWare to get rid of file cabinets and barcode scanners to eliminate paper in the warehouse. The right vendor can further help you with digitalization should you require it, just ask what they can do!