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Taking stock: overcoming wholesale challenges during peak periods

Mike Doman
Technology Journalist

Mike Doman is a technology, lifestyle, industrial and education writer

Mike Doman
Technology Journalist

Mike Doman is a technology, lifestyle, industrial and education writer

Christmas can be a demanding time of year for wholesalers. So how do you ensure your peak periods are your profitable ones?

A MYOB whitepaper, Defining the challenges to a wholesale business, states that “Changing customer requirements [are putting] put stress on existing order processes, market forecasting and business development”. 

These changing requirements make the industry extremely challenging. More and more, retailers are attempting to cut wholesalers out of the supply chain. Coupled with reducing profit margins, slow growth and rising costs – particularly in busy seasons such as Christmas –finding efficiencies or competitive advantages has never been more important.

It means maintaining a positive relationship with suppliers and customers has never been more critical to success, but differentiating yourself from your competitors can take a number of forms.

At Telstra’s Vantage conference in September held at the Melbourne Conference and Exhibition Centre, Principal Consultant for Telstra, Tony Clement, stated that there are three areas businesses build their market value proposition from: Customer intimacy, operational excellence and product leadership.

With the challenges being faced by wholesalers, two of these – customer intimacy and operational excellence – have never been more important.

So as the silly season approaches, how can wholesalers build their capabilities in these two areas?

a warehouse with a lot of stock on the shelves with two male workers stacking up a big stack of stock in the middle

Use data

The customer has never been so important. Business of 20 years ago was about what value a customer could bring to the business. With increased competition and the prevalence of data driving customer interactions, there’s been a fundamental shift where businesses now need to look at what value they can deliver to their customers.

To do this, understanding where valuable data exists and what process or structure can be put around it is integral. Taking advantage of data in a customer context varies hugely in sophistication, from ringing a customer to check in when they’re not in their usual sales rhythm to predictive datasets that can suggest future products for retailers or customers.

Additionally, historical data can be used alongside early orders to predict demand volumes over peak periods. Running the numbers now can save significant headaches when it comes to dealing with over or understocking items, and prevent customers and partners from feeling the pinch.

Follow orders

Having real-time visibility over orders can also have significant benefits over busy periods. Retailers want to deliver a good customer experience. To deliver that, they need to put product in the hands of the customers. To make that happen, they need to know where stock is.

For a wholesaler looking to grow their market share or build relationships with customers, being able to provide real-time (or close to real-time) updates is of fundamental importance. Developments in telemetrics and M2M are making this more accessible than ever, increasing visibility at a batch, truck or even individual order level.

(Don’t) play risk

The other side of the coin when it comes to busy periods is managing risk. Being able to deliver on what you’ve promised, ensuring you’re not overinvested in stock levels and removing margins for error all play a critical role in a successful peak period. The MYOB report states that “many wholesalers still rely heavily on paper-based systems for stock taking, order processing or invoicing. And those systems are, by their very nature, prone to error.”

The idea of going paperless has been discussed for decades, but its importance is growing as margins reduce – less errors mean less money required to fix errors, which can bolster bottom lines and foster operational excellence.

Looking at cloud solutions that take as many processes off paper and into the digital ecosystem can make a significant difference when it comes to minimising mistakes, forecasting stock levels and mitigating as much as risk as possible.

Find your flexibility

During busy periods, scalability can be the difference between making hay while the sun shines and stressing your way through the silly season. Finding ways to build scalability – with staff, technology or processes – into the business structure can help manage periods where stress is placed on the operation.

This can be found in a multitude of ways. Cloud solutions exist that allow for enterprise level quality and staff without the costs of building and maintaining infrastructure, for example. Network services such as Telstra’s Dynamic Network can also have benefits for wholesalers, allowing bandwidth to be optimised in real time, ensuring applications perform when they really need to.

By moving applications such as forecasting, stock management and operations to the cloud, you can enable greater visibility of stock to suppliers and customers, meet changing customer demands and build relationships with retailers and customers. When there’s fluctuating demand for products and services, having the right infrastructure or software-as-services in place can be the difference between boon and bust.

Looking for more great ways to integrate the cloud into your operations?

Read about how PB Seeds changed the way they did business with tech.

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