Life as we knew it stopped in its tracks as the novel coronavirus spread across the world at the beginning of 2020.
Supply chains were derailed as factories, warehouses and distribution centers shut down and production of many goods ceased. Profits were lost and companies suffered.
Fortunately, many businesses took this disruption as an opportunity to explore new possibilities in strategies and practices. Despite all of the turmoil that wholesalers faced this year, there have still been some interesting trends in the industry.
In this post, we’ll cover the top 6 trends in the wholesale distribution industry in 2020, including omnichannel marketing, artificial intelligence and more.
Top 6 Trends in the Wholesale Distribution Industry
Although the pandemic has put many businesses in very tough positions throughout the year, many businesses got creative in order to keep their operations afloat.
The way many people look at business and trade has forever changed, and this directly applies to many facets of wholesaling.
Let’s take a look at six of the top trends in wholesale distribution in 2020.
1. Shifting Towards eCommerce
Online shopping has grown very popular among consumers in recent years, but retailers and wholesalers have taken a bit longer to settle into the online B2B marketplace.
eCommerce platforms for B2B are becoming more and more accessible to wholesalers and buyers alike.
Wholesale distributors used to send their past clients and mailing list physical catalogs. Making these catalogs available online opens up many possibilities and makes the experience more convenient for all parties involved.
For one, making an online order is so much more convenient. Retailers can easily add items to their cart in their selected qualities and know how much their order will cost.
On the other hand, distributors can reach audiences beyond their current list of contacts since many B2B eCommerce marketplaces are designed as search engines. That means buyers can easily connect with suppliers who offer what they need, even if they had never heard of them before.
Alibaba.com is a prime example of a B2B eCommerce marketplace that is expanding to further cater to the needs of wholesale distributors. Our platform connects buyers and sellers from around the world in a fashion that offers maximum flexibility for all parties involved.
For example, sellers can communicate with buyers and customize products or orders to best suit the buyers’ needs. Additionally, buyers can post a Request for Quotation (RFQ) that sellers can answer if they are able to fulfill the request.
2. Data-Driven Decision Making
Business has always been a number game, but state-of-the-art technology makes it possible for both wholesalers and retailers to make data-driven decisions in terms of how much inventory to hold, when to buy and what to buy.
Additionally, access to advanced analytics and detailed consumer behavior reports helps these types of businesses make decisions for marketing, sales and even internal operations.
Turning to data and analytics takes a lot of guesswork out of business, which makes it possible for businesses to finetune their strategies and allocate their funding for investments with more confidence.
3. Supply Chain Flexibility
Supply chain flexibility is another trend that has been useful in the wholesale distribution industry this year. Supply chain flexibility refers to the ability to adjust the use of raw materials, production and shipping to make the process most cost-effective and profitable.
This year came with so many unpredictable disruptions in supply and demand due to the global crisis. B2B retailers with no plan for supply chain flexibility had a hard time making it through.
The pandemic has taught wholesale distributors the importance of investing in supply chain flexibility1. Taking a more flexible approach can help build a resilient foundation to pull your business through times of economic distress.
4. Global Expansion and International Trade
Global trade has been on the rise for decades, but thanks to advanced technology geared towards enterprise use, this trend has made leaps and bounds in 2020.
Again, Alibaba.com is at the forefront of the global growth of wholesale distribution. Our platform offers unique tools that allow buyers and sellers to communicate with automatic translation.
That means you can communicate with whoever is on the other side of the screen no matter what language they speak.
Alibaba.com also offers shipping services via Alibaba.com Freight which further streamlines the process, since this service is equipped to navigate the rules and regulations that come with international trade.
Platforms with this full range of global B2B resources are making it easier for wholesale distributors to break into the global market.
5. Artificial Intelligence for Efficiency
Automation is key in scaling almost any business model. Wholesale distribution companies are calling on advanced technology and artificial intelligence to make their business processes more efficient.
Artificial intelligence has been developing for years, and many wholesale distributors are starting to benefit as advanced programs and technology become more easily accessible to businesses with smaller budgets.
Artificial intelligence in the wholesale distribution industry currently involves mostly programs geared towards automation in sales, billing, accounting and other administrative tasks.
However, many people are hopeful of a future where access to artificial intelligence that can take over warehouse operations—including packaging, labeling, shipping, etc.—and minimize the need for manpower.
This would give businesses the opportunity to focus on human intelligence and related resources on growth-centered tasks.
6. Omnichannel Marketing
Omnichannel marketing is a tactic used to provide buyers with a streamlined experience. The purpose of omnichannel marketing is to enhance customer experience and provide consistent customer satisfaction.
Omnichannel marketing is an advanced alternative to more dated practices where businesses outsource different departments and leave a disconnect between different parts of a buyer’s account.
How omnichannel marketing works is pretty straightforward, any customer-related departments are linked internally. This way customers are not bounced around from one customer representative to another in order to receive access to the information needed to solve the customer’s problem.
For example, if a buyer has an order fulfillment issue, the same representative should be able to access the information related to the initial order, the shipment, the delivery and the billing issue.
This minimizes the need to transfer a call to multiple departments if one representative has all of the information in front of them.
This past year has been full of ups and downs, but the wholesale distribution industry has exploded with positive trends.
Many of these trends were born out of a desperate need to fight through a time of economic distress. Fortunately, the lessons that were learned through this global crisis have set many businesses up for growth and expansion in the near future.
Technology and the internet are common denominators of many of these trends, and the duo seems to be the way of the future of wholesaling.
Alibaba.com is proud to be on the cutting edge of these industry-wide developments. With our variety of software, platforms and services, wholesalers can expand and grow with ease.
Want to know more about how Alibaba.com can help take your wholesale business to the next level? Speak to an expert now!