Wholesale and Foodservice: the next big opportunity in eCommerce

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The UK wholesale market is worth around £30bn. IGD report on the Tesco/Booker merger says Booker Group sales now 22% online.

The reasons for eCommerce growing in wholesale and foodservice mirror the shopper needs we see in retail;  business owners all want to save time, control costs and conveniently order when it suits them.  Our thriving convenience sector is pushing this online number north at a tremendous pace. We see clients excited by the opportunity to engage with wholesale and foodservice partners to grow sales, but they’re finding that the tools and insight they rely on in retail don’t exist for wholesale. We’ve set out to fix that.

Wholesale and Foodservice just got a whole lot smarter.

On 13th Feb 2019, we launched a new, game changing service for ambitious brands looking to capitalise on their Wholesale and Foodservice opportunity. Find out everything you need to know here.

The rise of eCommerce has changed shopper’s behaviour and driven a key trend in retail; convenience. Instead of wheeling a trolley down supermarket aisles, people order large grocery deliveries online. As a result of people needing smaller top-up-shops in between their large planned online orders, the convenience stores have experienced a knock-on effect on growth, as more people pop-out to pick up essentials. As the supplier to this growing sector consisting of businesses buyers and food services, wholesale is next in line to boom.

What if the wholesale sector could double-down on this impact by also focusing on online sales? The ease of online shopping in retail has been the driving force behind the major changes in retail. Improving the wholesale online shopping experience will spark the same growth.

Brands that jump first into this emerging market will have a significant advantage over companies that follow.

A overview of the component parts of the wholesale sector and their values in 2016 by  IGD

A overview of the component parts of the wholesale sector and their values in 2016 by IGD


The future of wholesale and foodservice

Wholesale and Foodservice might be a £30 billion industry in the UK but has so far seen very little investment in data and technology.

The world's most powerful brands highly value the industry and are passionate about bringing it up to speed with recent digital innovation to generate mutual profit.

We’ve spoken to many global players who are excited and ready to take their wholesale and foodservice portfolio further but there’s no one leading the way for it in eCommerce. Brands who sell through retail focus on improving the customer experience whilst the wholesale industry still very old fashioned. The drastic difference is evident when you compare the product listings between wholesale and retail websites.

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Monster retail listing.png

The wholesale product page is missing:

  • Image

  • Description

  • Promotion

  • Pack size

...All the basics of increasing online sales.

In contrast, the retailer provides a wealth of relevant information to convince their shopper to complete the purchase.

“Wholesalers are also notorious for having poorly designed '90s-style websites. So while a quality site may indicate a good supplier in some cases, many legitimate wholesalers have cringe-worthy homepages.”

Bringing eCommerce expertise to wholesale and foodservice

Currently wholesale eCommerce is a £4.6 billion market and is predicted to rise by 6% in the next two years.

89% of retailers and food service operators already use delivery as their main shop and it’s rapidly growing with 22% year-on-year growth.

However, according to Booker Group, only 22% of these orders are placed online, due to the poor eCommerce infrastructure. The remainder are still going through traditional journeys of walking through the depot, completing paper order forms or telephone ordering  - some of which are slow, manual and gruelling processes. 

This is the tipping-point. Wholesale and foodservice needs ambitious brand partners to make the same shift online as retail has achieved. Companies who take the lead by using tools to effectively promote their products on wholesale and foodservice websites, will benefit from mutual profit driven by seamless shopping experiences for their B2B customers.

“We’ve seen an investment in digital, especially within the ordering platforms for retailers. There’s been a significant increase in independents ordering digitally instead of going into depots to order. As a result, digital platforms need to be updated, relevant and user-friendly.”

- Ayman Nasreldin, Customer Development Director at Mars Wrigley Confectionery

Three areas of focus for a competitive edge in wholesale

1. Get the content right:

Fix the basics to have a strong foundation to build upon. It may sound simple to make sure that every product listing has the basics covered, but for brands and wholesalers alike it is a frustratingly common issue. Fixing the Basics means ensuring that the product listing has: the correct name, the correct pack size, an image of the product, and in the instance of wholesale, the Profit on Return (recommended retail price minus the wholesale price).

The product descriptions targeting business owners who shop in wholesale websites have different requirements to product descriptions that target shoppers through retail. Wholesale customers want to know information such as the POR for the item and if the range is supported by advertising campaigns. If this key information is clearly presented then the shoppers can immediately see the benefits to them and it significantly reduces barriers to purchase.

2. Price and promote effectively:

Wholesale websites can offer promotions to their customers to drive sales of new products or core SKUs. Having insight into the promotions happening across your category, will ensure you’re able to compile effective strategies to trade up your buyers so they purchase more.

3. Range it and make it visible:

Make your products easy to find and easy to buy. A crucial part of getting the content right is to make sure your products show up on the first page of search for their keywords.

The future opportunity

“Today, 74 percent of B2B buyers research at least one-half of their work purchases online. Combined with cost savings gained by the self-serve ecommerce environment, more businesses are expected to move online in the next few years.”

Once wholesale has taken strides to catch up with online retail, the sector can move beyond the basics and start identifying and unlocking opportunities uniquely placed for them. This will open up a lot of possibilities for growing category ranges across sectors like convenience stores or catering services, through upselling and cross selling of related SKUs, to create a wider distribution of a brand’s expanded range across the country.

Wholesale is about to get a whole lot more exciting.

Ready to lead the eCommerce agenda for wholesale?

Get in touch with us today to talk about how you can increase your online sales from wholesale.


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James McLaughlin