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Wholesale Vs B2B Commerce

Is there a silver bullet as business buying becomes automated?

What's the difference?

The wholesale market has evolved in tandem with online consumer sales growth, automating wholesale purchasing became a more simpler process when conducted online. Specifically in apparel, a number of entrants have sprung up and have been hyper aggressive in signing up brands and independent designers, promising increased accessibility to a buyers marketplace alongside other useful resource planning systems that exist online. is perhaps the most infamous within the field and the first to build an open API to integrate with select partners, covering areas such as inventory management, ERP suites and Salesforce. They also boast a wealth of wholesale brands in fashion, lifestyle and furnishings and a wide array of retailers for their industry marketplace to flourish - in many ways it's a mini, niche Alibaba.

Naturally, they have many suiters in the same field, vying for top position.

Unfortunately, brands, retailers, agencies and co are at the mercy of the platform they're engaged to do business on, while it does consolidate a buyers market under one umbrella there is still that gnawing sense that it's a little chaotic (multiple competitors) and restrictive at the same time.

Enter B2B

B2B selling online is still very much in the dark ages - a quick look through electronics wholesale markets, or niche B2B markets in Gas/Oil, Agriculture, Medical/Dental and Pharmaceuticals throws up what eBay looked like, when it launched some 20 years ago.

This is nor convivial, hospitable or helpful for businesses that rely on wholesale markets to survive and prosper and neither is it satisfactory for the customers and retailers that are having to order off what are archaic websites. The wholesale solutions above are a start, opportunity seeking to ensure linesheets, SKUs, UPCs and Co are attractive, accessible and above all, well presented in a consumer fashion to entice sales and build brand advocacy.

Moving Forward

How do we solve the endemic rot at the base of B2B and wholesale selling? While Ecommerce, Omni-Channel fulfilment and consumer practises have evolved over the last 5 years, wholesale has remained stagnant and this is primarily down to the market being heavily underserved, underinvested and unsupported. The argument has always been that wholesale decisions require tangible contact with the product, require physical demonstrations and active test-runs with the product at hand; this still reigns true however there's no excuse to not automate the ordering process at tradeshows/exhibitions as well as support online replenishment and sales based ordering in the months after initial orders.

Both (now a Salesforce company) and (click to see their B2B overview) have identified the supplier side of the market as a colossal growth opportunity for their respective growth strategies. Open solutions promotes the possibility of embedding 3rd party software and cloud products and in a hyper-connected infrastructure within the domain of sales and retail on the consumer side, this is a much needed demand on the supplier side. And the two biggest players are not alone, commerce developer platforms such as are positioned well to capitalise on the B2B opportunity at hand - although this does require heavy investment from the supplier side and a move into dealing with commerce and design agencies to deliver a polished, robust product.

An investment many are not keen to undertake however they appear to be delaying the inevitable if they wish to remain competitive within their fields.

In Summary

Wholesale brands and suppliers need to understand they're selling to individuals - those same individuals have all shopped online at some stage as consumers and their demands are high, they have expectations that are not currently being met and unfortunately business is being left on the table. 

These are precarious times for suppliers and wholesalers, while needing to maintain their brand identity, it's also pertinent to continue moving forward, control the buyer base and ensure that purchasing is a connected, enjoyable experience for its customers. Those are elements that existing wholesale platforms and marketplaces cannot concretely deliver on.

If you're a supplier or wholesaler that is seeking to upgrade your existing solutions, or adopt a new front-facing strategy over the coming months, is available to discuss your next steps.

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