From Traditional Wholesale to Data-Driven eCommerce: A Step-By-Step Plan

April 18, 2023

Do you want to be successful as a wholesaler? Then standing out with a personalized customer journey is the answer. This adds value for the customer and boosts conversion and customer loyalty. Artificial Intelligence (AI) is the way to achieve this. With AI, you can always serve each unique customer anytime, anywhere, according to their individual needs, wishes, or desires. Perhaps this sounds like a transition that is miles away from your organization. After all, old systems, cultural shifts, and complex agreements are perceived to be too much for AI. In this article, we prove otherwise and show that every wholesaler can make steps towards data-driven eCommerce.

In previous articles of this series, we discussed why personalization is relevant for B2B shopping, and what lessons can be learned from the B2C market. One of the conclusions was that the transition to (online) personalization in B2B is much less daunting, because this market has always put the customer at the center of attention. Furthermore, wholesalers already have a lot of customer data in-house thanks to the use of customer passes and account managers.

We’d also like to stress that the shift to online personalization in the entire customer journey does not have to be made all at once. Starting with existing channels and flows is the way to go. This will demonstrate the effect of personalization for both the wholesaler and the customer, while also creating support within the organization.

The next question is, where do you start? And are you able to start with somewhat outdated systems and a company culture that may not immediately embrace innovation? The answer is a resounding yes! Every wholesaler can start today with personalization. In the following step-by-step plan, you can read all about it.

  1. Start With the Data and Systems Already Being in Place.

Starting today? This is now possible for every wholesaler. No matter how outdated or closed a system is, it is no longer a hindrance. There are various possibilities in the market to get started in the existing IT infrastructure, such as an AI decision-making engine that is simply clicked on top of the systems.

With the wealth of data that every wholesaler already has, the perfect use case possibilities are endless. It’s just a matter of mining that gold as soon as possible, and using it in such a way that both the business and the customer benefit from it. Within the B2B market, there are many specific and sometimes complex agreements with suppliers. Think of price agreements, which need to take into account when increasing the Share of Wallet by providing personal offers. An AI decisioning engine can help you to prevent you from sharing a personal promotion being lower than the price agreement, while sharing other relevant offers.

The Success Story of Sligro

The story of Sligro shows how a wholesaler can start with step-by-step personalization, and be very successful at it. This company started from existing channels. They did not use AI in real-time right away, but used it by running reports at a certain frequency. This way, they maintained control over the process. The effect? A 43% increase in conversion and 11% more visits to physical stores due to personalized offers. You can read the full case here >>


2. Create a Small Business Case (in Terms of Investment Impact)

Getting started with personalization and AI requires something from the organization, especially in B2B, which is traditionally a conservative market.

Innovation was never necessary: by using customer passes and account managers, customers remained loyal to the store. Why change the approach if the current one works well? This mentality makes change difficult.

Now that change is necessary, not everyone is equally enthusiastic about it. In this case, starting with a small business case that has relatively little impact can be helpful. The costs are low, and the customer group involved in the case is small. For example, using an existing newsletter for a well-defined customer group or a landing page for a very specific product category in the webshop. This provides the opportunity to test the effect on a small scale with a small team, without causing further “trouble” for the organization.

3. Make the Organization Excited About the Results From the Business Case

How do you create ambassadors for personalization in the organization? Simple: make sure that the results of successful pilots reach the right people. Thanks to these ambassadors, the new approach will spread through the organization like wildfire.

In wholesales, millennials and other digital natives are increasingly taking the lead. They are more likely to embrace change than those who have been with the company for a longer time. Share the results first with these front runners, and by expanding the number of use cases, ensure that the success is increasingly shared throughout the organization.

4. Build the Strategy Step By Step, Continuously Expanding

Personalization means that every customer receives the right message, always and everywhere, at scale, omnichannel,and on-demand. To achieve this ideal scenario, expansion to all channels is ultimately necessary. Emails, the eCommerce environment, paper folders, and what you offer in the offline store. In short, the entire customer journey: everything should optimally align with what this specific customer needs at that moment.

The transition to a data-driven eCommerce is a step-by-step process, for example with the help of an AI decisioning engine. Such a tool is easy to click on top of existing systems and runs on more and more channels. The next step after a mailing could be optimizing your webshop, where you help customers find their products even more easily and quickly. And the good thing is: that there is a lot to gain with AI for B2B, partly because customers often return (very) regularly to a webshop. You can help customers find products faster, inspire them with new products, point out relevant products, proactively suggest the best seasonal products, and so on. It is a continuous process of understanding the customer and responding to their needs and expectations, preferably proactively. And an AI decisioning engine is the perfect tool to help you achieve that. Let’s strive for truly data-driven eCommerce that puts the customer first, always and everywhere!

Not starting is not an option, because digitalization in B2B is happening as we speak. To successfully capitalize on this, you need to take action today! Starting right away with a simple, small business case is the way to go.

Try out what works with a small number of customers, fine-tune, and try again. You will discover the effect of personalization through experience. This way, you can lead your organization, step-by-step, from a traditional wholesaler to a successful, customer-centric, and data-driven eCommerce business.

Inspired and want to start with an AI decisioning engine?

Are you also curious about how your data can be used for a personalized customer journey? Find out more in our product guide. Prefer to get in touch with one of our experts immediately to see what the possibilities are for your organization? Request a no-obligation demo.