Wholesale distributors face a myriad of challenges, even in today’s recovering economy. For starters, customers have significantly higher expectations, and if they’re not being met, there are plenty of suppliers out there who can meet them. This allows buyers to have more negotiating power – demanding better service, lower prices and faster delivery. To remain relevant and competitive, wholesale distributors need to stay on top of the latest innovations and technology developments while maintaining the strongest reputation possible.
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Here are three tips to get ahead of the competition:
- Make better informed business decisions with data – first, consider automating your processes – a simple practice that frees up huge amounts of time to focus on growing your wholesale business. Automation provides the kind of operational insight needed to easily report on important business and customer data, saving significant time on data entry and eliminating the need to manually look up the latest stats on sales margins, cash flow, stock positions, stock aging analyses, outstanding items and revenue. Once automation is in full swing, businesses are able to collect all the critical data in the process, enabling an up-to-the-minute view into the business. For example, invoices can be sent electronically, digitally via email or via post. Bank payments can be imported and matched to outstanding items, and depending on the bank, statements can be automatically reconciled with payments. This allows wholesale distributors to not only make better business decisions, but also respond more effectively to customer expectations.
- Outsmart the competition with cold hard facts – make delivering on-time, all the time, a top priority to stay ahead of the competition. This might seem pretty straightforward, but bottlenecks can bring everything to a standstill. Use business data insights to manage expectations by keeping customers up-to-date from the minute they place the order to the minute they receive it. Wholesale distributors are part of a complex ecosystem that stretches far beyond the four walls of a warehouse. It’s a sprawling world of interdependent partnerships, collaboration, and outsourcing – both horizontally and vertically. Invest the time and resources into accessing business data from all the stakeholders in the supply chain to have visibility into every moving part that contributes to a customer order. Additionally, it’s important to keep that business data on-hand at all times via any Internet-enabled device to improve success with both prospects and customers. The ability to answer questions about item prices, stock positions and delivery date during a face-to-face meeting can make all the difference between winning a new account and losing an opportunity. Take the “warehouse” to every meeting and provide the responsive, informed service that keeps customers loyal.
- Use technology to get more done with fewer resources – optimize stock handling by defining storage locations, helping pickers choose the most efficient route and getting more done in less time. This speeds up delivery to the customers in the process. Second, eliminate duplication by integrating different online business systems, including financial applications and delivery software, entering data only once and making it available anywhere for anyone who needs it in the company. Finally, make the most out of the organization’s accountant by giving them secure online access to the necessary business data so they can make informed decisions and offer strategic advice throughout the entire year, not just when closing the books at year end.
With the economic recovery underway, simply surviving isn’t enough anymore. It’s time to start driving the business forward, and in this new economy, the pressure is on. It comes in the shape of more complex product ranges than ever before, global standards, tighter delivery times, environmental and social legislation and squeezed margins. At the same time, businesses need to find ways to cut costs to remain as competitive as possible. It sounds like mission impossible, but the wholesalers who take advantage of opportunities to automate and gain a 360 degree view into their business will be the ones who thrive today and into the future.
Kae Williams is General Manager of Exact U.S. Cloud Solutions