November 02 2020

‘In the loop’ - The Digital Transformation, Consumer changes and the impact on the UK’s Wholesale Industry

With consumer trends having been forced to alter drastically under lockdown and government-enforced legislation, the Wholesale Industry has had to rapidly adapt to new preferences and demands.
Most notably, a huge rise in online shopping meant businesses, wholesale and otherwise, have to shift their focus towards tailoring their operations to this new route-to-market, which meant a reliance on digital systems to both reach new audiences and satisfy order demand.
In this article, we will elaborate on the various ways consumer habits have changed, and subsequently, how wholesalers followed suit.
During lockdown, Wholesalers have been confronted with various challenges, “from social distancing and hygiene measures, to delayed overseas supply chains. There’s also a new need to predict rapidly evolving consumer demands.”
COVID-19 has undoubtedly highlighted the critical need for digital systems, and whilst lockdown has accelerated the speed at which the digital transformation of the Industry has taken place, this change was being implemented beforehand by forward-thinking wholesalers looking to get ahead of the curve.
Regardless of this, a demand for simple, easy-to-use and easily maintained digital systems which assist with the ordering process, track-and-trace, financial records and proof-of-deliveries are in higher demand than ever before amongst wholesalers.
Broadening the context, outside of the coronavirus’ impacts, retailers have followed a trend of placing more frequent, but smaller orders from Wholesalers. This change is an attempt to reduce wastage and improve efficiency for retailers, but for Wholesalers, it means having competent ordering systems in place to handle this change in order frequency and demand of products. More accurate stock management has meant wholesalers can adapt quickly to the ever-changing needs and demands of their retail counterparts, while allowing them to continue swift and efficient internal processes to satisfy orders.
As we discovered last week, sustainability in the food and beverage industry is a rapidly growing trend, with consumers seeking out organic produce more than ever. This places a weight on wholesalers to predict consumer behaviour and change product lines accordingly to ensure the business keeps up to speed with current trends.
This change also relies on paying closer attention to short-shelf life produce, as fresh, organic, plant-based items continue to see a spike in demand, while research predicts the “number of vegans in the UK is set to increase by 327% in 2020”. (Caterforce, Gary Mullineux, interim managing director)
From a focus on environmentally-friendly packaging and plant-based products to reducing wastage and improving efficiency, the digital transformation lies at the heart of these adaptations, and as we have seen under lockdown, the Wholesale Industry is making the right steps and undergoing productive digital changes to meet the ever-changing needs of customers, aligning their developments with the retail Industry to predict and satisfy consumer demands.

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