Why the wholesale industry hasn’t really gone digital — yet

Wholesalers started using digital tools for internal processes back during the first internet boom. But the customer-facing ordering process didn’t make the digital leap.
Ayoub Assabban
Ayoub Assabban
July 1, 2022
mn. read

Wholesalers started using digital tools for internal processes back during the first internet boom. But the customer-facing ordering process didn’t make the digital leap.

Sticking with Nokia in a world of iPhones

In many ways, the title of this article is a bit misleading: the fact is, large parts of the wholesale industry have been vastly changed by digital technologies. But big chunks of the industry also got left behind in either the analog world or the early days of digital.

In the early 2000s, wholesalers were there alongside lots of other industries in making the shift from paper to digital solutions. They updated their accounting tools. They made the leap to new CRMs, new ERPs. They replaced reams of paper with Excel.

These updated processes had one key thing in common: they were internal tools used by employees and managers. The outside interactions that a wholesaler had with their clients — namely, everything having to do with the ordering process — didn’t progress any further than one-to-one communications via phone, fax, or email.

Order made at Assabban SA on June 25, 2020

For a long time, that was… fine. But as smartphones took over the world and e-commerce became the norm, the wholesale ordering experience became very antiquated, very fast. And good solutions were in short supply, because all of those internal digital tools that wholesalers were using weren’t made for the API-based world of mobile commerce.

That meant lots of time and money were spent over the past decade trying to build custom solutions that would connect a new ordering solution with the old internal tools.

What was really needed, though, wasn’t something that connected the two sides of client-facing ordering and internal processes. It was something that could make the two compatible.

The COVID-19 acceleration

When COVID-19 hit, what was once antiquated became a fatal flaw. Wholesalers and their clients had to adapt to a world of remote work and uncertain logistics, supply chain issues, rapidly shifting patterns of demand, and more.

Even several years after the surge of global lockdowns and stimulus packages, the world hasn’t returned to a state of affairs where wholesalers can keep putting off a full digital transition. New entrants, unburdened by 20-year-old processes and technologies, are coming into the market every day. For existing players, the situation is clear: either provide your customers, who are more and more likely to be digital natives, with what they expect, or those new entrants will take over.

Going fully digital used to be a nice-to-have, enjoyed only by the biggest whales in the wholesale sea. Now it’s a must-have for everyone, including SMB wholesalers moving between $5–15M in product per year.

Things have changed — permanently.

Wholesalers need:

  • To respond to changing customer demands, especially as more and more of their clients have grown up as digital natives who will only use digital solutions;
  • To completely change their ordering processes without throwing their back-office into disarray;
  • To not spend $$$$$$ for a tailor-made solution, especially when so many people in the industry are facing the same problem.

And they need it all today.

That’s why they need OrderCast.

— — —

OrderCast provides wholesalers with a turnkey ordering solution that converts their catalog into an e-commerce storefront letting customers browse, order, pay, and track their shipment online. Designed to be fully compatible with wholesalers’ existing back-office solutions, OrderCast can get your online shop up and running in a matter of days, if not hours. Get in touch to schedule a demo here.

Published by
Ayoub Assabban

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