Recent boom in wholesale accelerates digital adoption

Over recent years, wholesalers across the UK have applied significant technical, financial and marketing resources to migrate customers either away from telephone ordering or towards a more multi-channel approach. Whilst the cash and carry trade remains buoyant, the direction of travel within the wholesale market is certainly towards a delivered model, serviced by digital ordering, often coupled with top-up trips through bricks and mortar depots.

The progress has been steady and predictable. However, the last few weeks have seen dramatic changes in operator purchase behaviour, which we predict will have a seismic impact on the digitalisation of the wholesale sector.

From a short-term perspective, the impact of the coronavirus pandemic has impacted categories purchased in, perhaps, a more predictable way. We have seen a 1,371% increase in searches for ‘pasta’ and almost 5,000 unique searches for ‘germs’. In a market where brand-specific searches have historically dominated, keyword tagging has taken a change in direction. The household and non-food categories have grown their share of the top 100 search terms from 3% to 29% as retailers attempt to keep their shelves full of items which would previously not have made it anywhere near the Favourites list.

Alongside the changing dynamics in category search and conversion, we have seen record weeks for digital orders within retail-focussed wholesale, with the week commencing 15 March registering the highest level of app usage on record. A by-product of the current pandemic has been to accelerate trial and adoption of digital ordering, reaching new customers who were previously averse to these methods. Whilst digital was previously estimated to account for around 25% of wholesale transactions, this could be the catalyst to increase this to the majority.

To coincide with our 2020 E-Commerce Wholesale Report, this blog considers three areas which should be considered when writing or updating your digital strategy within the B2B channel.

NPD must jump out of the screen

46% of the time spent on a wholesaler app is spent on the homepage, which is a key page for media activity.  However, with baskets on apps typically built using the barcode scanner, rather than by browsing through category pages, NPD is easily overlooked.  Whilst retailers continue to listen to manufacturer reps and trade publications for category advice, websites and apps are increasingly offering such advice.  In addition to NPD focused adverts, dedicated pages on site and app should encourage retailers to add new products to their selection, offering range and merchandising advice, particularly targeted at price sensitive, risk averse retailers.

Take advantage of slow basket building to communicate your message

Retailers on web typically build baskets gradually – on average, baskets are built over the course of six sessions, up from five sessions last year.  With more sessions to reach retailers between transactions, there are opportunities to communicate promotions as well as non-transactional information such as category advice. As retailers browse between baskets, there is also the opportunity to target them with media.  To improve engagement with media activity, notifications should be optimised and personalisation is important.

Increased personalisation is available on web and app but remains a missed opportunity.

Targeting retailers with promotional activity based on customer profiling and previous purchases is under-utilised on wholesaler websites and apps. Personalised offers are an important way of building customer loyalty and driving engagement.  Personalisation, already used extensively in B2C online retail, will become increasingly advanced with innovation in AI, enabling wholesalers to build retailer profiles based on user behaviour and demographics. This will allow notifications and promotions to be shown only to retailers who are likely to engage with them.


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