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Omni-channel commerce and special delivery services often present major challenges for retailers. In order to provide ship-to-store, pick up in-store, and return in-store options, retailers first have to establish the necessary logistical processes and then set aside inventory for online customers.

Wholesalers can assist by assuming responsibility for the key logistical and service tasks, i.e., combining the available product range with intelligent logistics solutions (same-day delivery or delivery within a specific time window). Many wholesalers already provide retailers with the option of just-in-time delivery or delivery within 24 hours or less. This enables retailers to offer in-store pickup within a defined time window.

Another option available from some wholesalers is drop-shipping, i.e., direct delivery to the end consumer’s door. All drop-shipments carry the retailer’s own branding and the wholesaler charges the retailer for goods only when a customer places an order. Thus, the retailer can focus on its core product range while also offering items from the wholesaler’s catalog at no additional risk.

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Wholesalers can also leverage their strengths by addressing consumers directly, either through specially created B2C solutions or by affiliating with external retail marketplaces. In many cases, these B2C activities are run under a new company name. A number of wholesale companies are already demonstrating how this strategy can be implemented. By creating pure-play spin-offs with systematic digitalization of all transaction processes, they are reaching out directly to consumers with competitive offers and pricing.

Direct sales to small and mid-sized retailers and trade companies

Wholesalers who cater exclusively to larger enterprises and industrial corporations can expand their base by selling directly to small and mid-sized retailers and skilled trades, either under their existing brand or using a new company name. Usually, these wholesalers have complex and costly distribution processes that are tailored to the specific needs of their customers, e.g., master agreements and key accounts.

For this reason, they are usually unable to find cost-effective ways of selling to smaller companies—who typically place smaller orders consisting of lower-value items. Exceptions to this rule can be found in technical wholesaling, where smaller customers are served via new subsidiaries, which make effective use of e-commerce strategies to create online offerings tailored to this specific target group.

Learn about the benefits of digitalization in the wholesale sector!

Full-service provider for smaller specialist retailers and dealers

Multi-regional wholesalers and buying associations can help their customers and members compete more effectively by providing access to shared e-commerce platforms. Mid-sized specialty retailers and smaller commercial customers generally do not have the resources to create their own e-commerce solutions.

However, using these shared platforms, they can improve customer retention within their region and reach out to new clientele. IT distributors and the book wholesale industry are already demonstrating the value of this concept with their e-commerce services for specialty retailers and resellers.

Full-service provider for manufacturers

Given its traditional role with regard to manufacturers, the wholesale industry is ideally placed to offer full-service e-commerce solutions that enable partnered manufacturers to sell directly to consumers. Under this model, the wholesaler assumes complete responsibility for delivery of all services on behalf of the manufacturer, thus providing significant added value.

While manufacturers would have to create totally new structures in order to sell directly to consumers, wholesalers already have these assets in place and can easily make them available as a service. Manufacturers, retailers, and commercial customers can all benefit from the provision of integrated omni-channel services by wholesale companies.

If you are interested in the "big picture" of a wholesale-based B2B strategy, please visit: