Wholesalers must help their retail and foodservice customers embrace online technology and social networking to grow their businesses, according to a major researcher.
Tara Benjamin, client director at him! Research and Consulting told delegates at the Federation of Wholesale Distributors (FWD) annual conference that increasing numbers of cash and carry customers were visiting wholesaler’s websites, but added that there was still relatively low technology use by retailers because of a lack of knowledge about how a social media presence can help them to grow their sales.
Technology uptake by independent retailers was still low, she said, with the him! research finding that more than 50% of retailers surveyed did not use social media, have a website or a social media presence. And it was a lack of knowledge that was holding them back, said Benjamin. Less than 10% believed a website or Facebook page could help them to grow sales with the percentages even lower for mobile phone advertising and Twitter.
Caterers were more likely to engage with customers via social media, with nearly 20% saying they had a Facebook page and website. But compared to the rapid take-up of social networking by consumers, the figures were still low, she pointed out.
However, Benjamin pointed out that while there was a lack of knowledge, there was no lack of will: wholesale customers did want to engage with new technology. The him! research, which examined a mix of cash and carry and delivered businesses and their customers, showed that one in five customers had visited their wholesaler’s website in the past three months. It also showed that online ordering was growing with nearly 60% of delivered retailers ordering online.
Benjamin stressed that fully transactional websites could leverage the online sales opportunity still further and create more dynamic relationships between wholesalers and their customers. Twenty-four hour ordering and easy price and promotional comparisons made life easier for customers, she said, also pointing to the “click and collect revolution” being employed by retailers that could “so easily be adapted” by wholesalers for their customers.
Jill Livesey, him! shopper insight and research director told Wholesale News that it was important for wholesalers to remember that their customers were very different to the “shoppers” in supermarkets such as Tesco.
“Wholesalers’ customers are commercially sharp, they know that they have to deliver customer satisfaction and availability in their restaurants, pubs, cafes and shops and do it profitably. Wholesalers have to aim to communicate in the most effective way, whether that’s by telesales, text, online, mailings or leaflets.”
She added that wholesalers were developing their websites, and putting resource behind developing social media. “And if you review these sites they rightly focus on helping their customers make informed decisions on range and value – not to win a holiday!
“Of course, there are challenges – technology is expensive, and this can be a traditional channel, where ways of doing things are passed on from generation to generation so maybe some are a little risk averse.”