Agility and responsiveness have always been key ingredients for business success – but the events of the past few months have made them more important than ever before – particularly for the food and drink wholesale industry who are now moving into the online grocery market.
Amidst the widespread closure of pubs and restaurants, cafes and bars, many such wholesalers have found themselves without their normal customer base – but with plenty of hungry and thirsty people sitting at home and keen to place online orders. Little wonder, then, that a range of food and drink wholesalers have been seeking ways of moving into the online grocery market – if only temporarily.
However, making such a move requires a delicate balancing act – between the agility and responsiveness required to do so quickly and efficiently – and a careful understanding of the particular challenges of selling groceries directly to customers online. Whilst larger wholesalers are likely to already have a B2B e-commerce site in place, medium sized businesses are more likely to rely on phone orders, simple online forms or even not have an online presence at all.
Moving into the online grocery market
Food and drink wholesalers in this position, then, need to rapidly deploy new e-commerce functionality – but crucially, functionality which meets the nuances of a very different business model to the one they normally maintain.
This means switching from corporate accounts and possibly selling on credit, to implementing online payment processing via credit and debit card. It means thinking about the functionality required to sell goods online by weight rather than just number, and potentially ending with a slightly different weight of goods on delivery to those ordered by the customer. And it means upending the picking process from one designed to meet the bulk needs of wholesale customers, to one designed to meet the much smaller needs of households.
The importance of grocery commerce expertise
The quickest way for wholesale food and drink businesses to start providing grocery services to the public online is to work with a software specialist with experience in this area.
When it comes to selling groceries online, a range of complex operations must be considered and supported by the e-commerce platform chosen.
While it might be tempting to use “off-the-shelf” e-commerce solutions, it is important that your provider has a platform that can handle a range of challenges specific to online grocery, either as part of their basic version or as options which can be customised. For example, at Emporix we offer a standardised platform capable of supporting quick online grocery set-up, which can also be further customised to a particular grocery operation’s needs.
As mentioned, this includes the ability to list and sell products by weight in addition to quantity and the ability to handle complex orders and invoicing that might contain multiple line items and change at the point the final delivery is prepared. It also requires the capability of supporting delivery operations that need to take account of fresh produce while also picking multiple orders efficiently, especially given the small profit margins in the sector.
How the Emporix back office system supports online grocery commerce
An example of this in action is the Emporix back office system, a core part of our overall offering, which has been developed using over 10 years’ experience of managing grocery commerce and uses this to handle complex pick, pack and ship applications and operations across the grocery industry. As the software is also used by B2B retail businesses, including those in the wholesale sector, it provides a solid platform for the those moving into the online grocery market.
It is also worth considering the type of e-commerce software you are choosing. While this might not seem a priority now, it can have a significant impact on your ability to develop or change your offering in the future. Headless commerce, which essentially means the front end of the e-commerce platform (such as your website) is separated from the back end, can allow you to change the offering your customers see far more easily.
At Emporix, we also combine a headless commerce approach with a platform that consists of a range of separate ‘micro-services’, each controlling a certain aspect of the e-commerce process.
These micro-services, which are linked and share their information via APIs, each contain their own in-built logic, and while this might sound an unnecessarily technical detail, it means elements of the online commerce process can be changed quickly and cost-effectively without having to worry about complex, knock-on effects - something which will be crucial to wholesalers who might be looking to alter their business models again once lockdown is lifted.
Moving into the online grocery market requires speed and consideration
While wholesalers must act quickly in order to capture the opportunity that a shift to online grocery presents, they must also pause briefly to consider whether their choice of e-commerce software is one that will work for the unique requirements of the grocery sector.
Indeed, considering this factor now will be the key to ensuring agility in the future!
Are you a wholesaler looking to set up an online grocery service? Speak to a member of the Emporix team on how to get started