3 Reasons Why the Digitization of B2B Wholesale Is Changing the Future of Retail B2C e-commerce is light years ahead of B2B. But things are changing, and here's why we, as consumers, should care.

By Bar Geron

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

Most people wouldn't think that wholesale has much to do with the buying experience we all know and love today. But wholesale is actually where the innovation should shart. The best way to understand why is to learn from somebody on the inside. In the 1990s, Kristin Savilia was introduced to the world of fashion as a buyer for Macy's.

Fast forward to over 20 years later, and she's returned to the fashion wholesale world. Except this time, she's in charge of the digitization of the entire buying and selling process. What does this have to do with the future of retail? There are three major trends that, thanks to technology and innovation, can teach us a lot about the downstream effects of digitization on the B2B side.

Related: The Future of the Digital Store in Retail Trade

Data is coming to the forefront

If you're a wholesaler and your product assortment is wrong, it doesn't matter how pretty your website is. Investing in digital transformation upstream brings better results on the consumer side. It enables you to go from working in a silo to connecting with brands from anywhere in the world. Just as consumers make better buying decisions when we can compare products across hundreds of brands by price, material, size options, etc., retailers need exactly the same thing to bring those very products in front of the end consumer.

Looking ahead, the successful companies will be the ones who have the strongest data to inform them on what exactly to carry on the selling floor. However, traveling from tradeshow to tradeshow, armed with nothing but a humble spreadsheet simply won't suffice.

Related: How to Use the Right Data to Make Effective Business Decisions

Transactional relationships are going out of fashion

Kristin and I both agreed that the stakes for succeeding online are changing. Today, making the sale is just the beginning. For long-lasting value, winning companies will have to get to the source of customers' demands. The industry is good at calling out problems — but the real challenge is solving the bigger issues.

For example, the increasing demand for sustainable products presents businesses with an opportunity to innovate and solve a problem that customers really care about. In the fiery rivalry between Adidas and Nike, sustainability is one distinction that stands out. Adidas, unlike Nike, has been recognized as an early mover in the area of sustainability, putting environmental responsibility as a key brand value. But how do you practically address something at this scale? So many brands and retailers promise to reduce carbon emissions and increase sustainable product offerings but how?

The only way to measure if you're on track or not is to know before the product hits your floor that it's sustainable. Once it's in your stores, it's too late. You need to understand what percent of your product offering is moving the needle as you're in the process of placing orders. Kristin has made it a priority at Joor to give B2B buyers visibility into the sustainability of their assortment and the ability to easily make adjustments to achieve their objectives.

Related: Success is Good, But Don't Forget to Embrace Sustainability

It's time to wave goodbye to silver bullets

E-commerce is only as good as how well you know your customers. You have to know where they want to be and how to get them there, in the easiest way possible. For some, that might look like "buy now pay later" at checkout. For others, it might mean delivery updates sent via SMS. And although it might not be one-size-fits-all, there is one thing that most likely will always be true: You'll need a little bit of everything.

By now, we've all seen e-commerce trends come and go. Direct-to-consumer (DTC) was supposed to replace B2B. We were all going to leave brick and mortar in the dust. But the truth is that the future is going to be hybrid. No buyer and no consumer shops exclusively digitally — they do it all. Kristin believes that a digital wholesale platform needs to do the same, providing solutions for both the in-person and virtual selling process with global customers. Why? Because whether it be a B2B buyer or the end consumer, the expectation going forward will be to offer flexibility and seamless connectivity to get in front of your audience, wherever they may be.

This hybrid approach can also be seen in the diversification brands are embracing in their distribution strategy. Brooklinen, a D2C brand, for example, recently launched a B2B collection, aimed at boutique hotels. Meanwhile, the CEO, Rich Fulop, told Retail Dive that the business needs a brick-and-mortar presence and is planning to open new retail stores in 2022.

That doesn't mean that e-commerce won't be important. But digitization is more about offering options to your customers, rather than a one-off fix.

Related: The Return to Brick and Mortar in 2022

Bar Geron

Entrepreneur Leadership Network® Contributor

Co-founder and CEO

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