Where do I go next? Today's 10 key trends in wholesale

The introduction and evolution of innovations is going faster than ever before. What do the latest round of technological advances mean for the wholesale sector? How can they be usefully applied to typical business operations? What does tomorrow’s wholesaler look like? All important questions that traders need to think carefully about. Not tomorrow, but today. Not sure where to begin? He we bring together the key for businesses ready to take the next step.

1. Internet of Things – SMAC

Het Internet of Things (IoT) has become an increasingly broad idea. It now encompasses ideas including digitalization, machine to machine (M2M), big data, drones, augmented reality, wearables (like smart glasses or watches), robotics and ‘SMAC’ (social, mobile, analytics and cloud). These technologies facilitate change and create opportunities. The internet of things is now really beginning, and the new patterns associated with it are becoming increasingly visible.

2. E-commerce

New generations are buying differently, living differently, and making different choices. The internet has changed the way we think, behave and communicate. Still, many of the old structures around working, living and shopping have stayed with us, albeit sometimes in somewhat awkward from. With problems in traditional shops and customer irritation as a consequence. E-commerce is forcing us toward other changes, and a new way of thinking in how we serve our customers’ changing expectations.

3. Changing supply chains

Even in the near future, the customer and the market are going to look drastically different. The customer orients and buys in new ways, changing the entire sales process as a result. This in turn affects the wholesaler. To survive, they are going to have to embrace these disruptive changes in behaviour. We see it already in trends like omnichanneling and the rise of business models like Alibaba’s. Here the consumer buys directly by the producer, reduced consumer prices (up to 90% lower in some cases) the result. By paying Alibaba, rather than the factory, the consumer is also guaranteed a level of security – the producer only receives the money once the customer is satisfied (28 days after the transaction). That certainly gives food for thought. What’s your supply chain going to look like in 5 years?

4. Globalisation

Traders are seeing their supply chains become increasingly international. Globalisation, new international business partners and offshore sourcing are inherently linked with the most exciting opportunities from now.

5. Smart Industry

During the Smart Industry kick-off in the Netherlands at the beginning of this year, minister Kamp produced some impressive figures on the improvements businesses can expect form the implementation of smart technology: 60% saving on energy costs, 80% on water usage, 90% on ink and chemicals, and salary expenses that can be reduced by as much as half. But what are the concrete applications for 2015? What can you expect to achieve this year by harnessing these innovations?

The recurring headlines focus on robotics, the Internet of Things and 3D-printing. Of the three, 3D-printing is absolutely beyond the hype phase. It is already significantly altering the supply chain, and moving ever closer to a scenario where it’s used for mass, rather than order-specific production.

6. Value added service

It’s certainly a challenge to remain competitive in today’s supply chains. Wholesalers need to prove that they add value and successfully avoid disintermediation (the removal of intermediary positions in the flow). More and more traders are offering value-adding services as a result. Think along the lines of: VMI (Vendor Managed Inventory), drop shipping, relabelling, assembly, improved online support, field service, turn-key installations, customer training and videos, consigned inventory, repackaging, location based services, logistic services and customer loyalty programmes.

7. Trade compliance

The logistic arena is seeing a strong rise in the number of relevant (international) standards, rules and legislative requirements. Whereas these frameworks previously tended to be the preserve of the food and pharmaceutical industries, a wider range of sectors are now placing importance in traceability, safety, EDI, hygiene, labelling and packaging. Is your organization busy with import and export? If so, you need to be up to speed with the variations across all the countries where you’re involved. Do you have the plans and procedures in place to ensure compliance?

8. Cloud computing and cloud services

The cloud means that software is not so much being sold, rather provided in subscription form. In the consumer sector the trend is going even faster. Think about businesses like Uber, or Greenwheels. You don’t buy a car any more, you buy a journey when you need it. It’s leading to a fundamental shift in how we think about ownership and how we spend our money.

9. Big data

By collecting and then analyzing your information in the right way, it’s possible to uncover hidden economies of scale and opportunities for growth. More data leads to more useable reporting that in turn leads to more effective decision making. The result? More operational efficiency, more cost reductions and more effective risk management. What’s happening right now in big data is the selective retention of data – it’s no longer about saving everything. It’s also more effective if analysis can take place during the operational phase, rather than after it. The best results are achieved by running analysis on combined data from multiple sources.

10. Sustainability

Working on sustainability involves both quality and innovation. Collaboration and acting in a genuinely future-focussed way. Being concerned about prosperity and well-being. Responsible entrepreneurship means looking further than the profit figures. It’s about finding the balance between people, planet and profit. These 3 Ps are now irreversibly interlinked with each other. Sustainability’s importance is growing for every business – whether under pressure from increasingly CSR oriented legislation, or consumer groups whose demand for responsible business practices continues to grow.

How do you become the wholesaler of the future? By following the most relevant trends with care, and attempting to grow in line with the possibilities where possible. Commit to looking in detail at what the latest developments could mean for your current business model, partner ecosystem and range of business processes. The businesses who remain successful will be the one’s flexible enough to make room for new opportunities as they occur.