Consumer expectations have never been higher. They want simple shopping experiences on their mobile devices, online and in person — whatever is most convenient at any point in time. Most of all, consumers want to be able to purchase the exact item they’re looking for, and they want it delivered fast.
In the last decade, retailers have been adapting rapidly by rolling out omnichannel strategies to address these on-demand requirements. To better support and service these retailers, wholesalers have also begun to change their processes and implement technology to increase the speed and ease of ordering and fulfillment.
Manufacturers and distributors looking to speed up delivery times often start with the workflows in their warehouses and distribution centers. However, these changes should be complemented by improvements in order processing time, in particular, how orders are captured, submitted and transferred for shipping. B-to-B e-commerce solutions put the latest technology in the hands of buyers and integrate with manufacturers and distributors’ core back-office systems, driving operational efficiencies to reduce fulfillment times and helping retailers better meet consumer demand.
Provide Instant Ordering Processes for Retail Employees
To ensure rapid processes, many manufacturers are adopting B-to-B e-commerce solutions like mobile applications and websites. These solutions provide retailers with online product catalogs that are customized with their specific products and pricing. The product catalog also includes HD images, enabling the retailer to visually confirm what they're ordering and easily present colors or styles to consumers that might not be in stock, but easily ordered.
These solutions and processes provide store employees with a simple, self-service B-to-C-like ordering experience eliminating the time it takes to fax, email or call in orders. Instead, retail staff can write orders and submit them directly to suppliers from the sales floor, starting the order fulfillment process early to ensure faster delivery.
Eliminate Order Management Inefficiencies
Once the order is written, B-to-B e-commerce solutions provide the ability to sync that order to the manufacturer or distributor’s back-office systems. Digitizing order writing and automating the submission process offers suppliers a seamless, error-free process that removes the delays and fulfillment errors that occur when dependent on paper order forms and data entry. Orders can then be sent to the warehouse and packed for shipment the same day and delivered the next.
Set Up Lean and Responsive Delivery Logistics
For many retailers (especially independents), carrying enough inventory to meet the needs of consumers can be expensive and fraught with risk. Since manufacturers and distributors sell to many retailers, this risk is spread out across their customer base.
By offering short turnaround drop-ship terms for small orders either to the store or to the end consumer, wholesalers enable retailers to showcase the full range of their products and deliver the on-demand promise without taking on the additional inventory risk. Even if wholesalers don’t go this far, they're reworking their processes and adopting technology to simplify reordering and get products onto store shelves faster.
With consumers continuing to demand increased speed and convenience, the need to streamline order fulfillment is becoming extremely important. By implementing responsive logistics and B-to-B e-commerce technology, manufacturers and distributors not only make ordering easier than ever but also shorten delivery times. Manufacturers and distributors that help retailers deliver on the promise of the on-demand economy will increase loyalty and gain a major competitive advantage.
Michael Elmgreen is the chief revenue officer at Handshake, a company that provides a B-to-B commerce platform for manufacturers and distributors.