How to Win at Wholesale E-Commerce

These tips make all the difference when it comes to retaining hard-won wholesale customers.

When you finally land that sale on your wholesale e-commerce site but never see the retailer again, it is quite frustrating. And, when it keeps happening, it greatly impacts your bottom line. This isn’t something any wholesaler wants. What you want is to retain your accounts and continually add new ones.

To find and acquire new merchants is a costly endeavor. Did you know it costs up to five times as much to attract a new merchant than to keep an existing one? You save time, cash, and resources, by holding onto the accounts you’ve already acquired.

In the heady world of wholesale e-commerce, there are literally millions of online distributors for retailers to choose from. From this perspective, building retailer loyalty might sound nearly impossible. The good news? It isn’t.

Retailers loathe wasting their time trying to find online wholesalers that have what they want. When they finally find an awesome distributor that treats them well and has everything they’re looking for, it’s a diamond in the rough; this is a company they’re going to stick with.

So, how do you become the e-com-enabled wholesaler people can’t get enough of? Here are six simple ways to retain and grow those retail accounts.

1. Make Sure Your Online Content Is Branded — All of It.

What is your logo? Essentially, it is the face of your brand. Your logo and brand colors visually represent your products and your company as a whole.

In an increasingly brand-less world (where many online merchants sell on global marketplaces and have no identity), retailers will find it hard to be loyal; this is primarily because they have no bond with a brand.

And that’s where branding comes in. If you begin to see your wholesale e-commerce site as a brand like Amazon, merchants will start to recognize you, remember you — and trust you.

Using your logo and consistent colors and fonts make your brand recognizable. Creating and using a branding kit — and then ensuring that everyone across your organization sticks to it — will make it so that retailers know whose communications they’re seeing, no matter where they appear (your website, emails, social media, etc.).

A retailer will likely see your brand message several times before they engage, let alone make a purchase from you. So you need to let them know that it’s you who is trying to communicate with them. You wouldn’t date from behind a curtain, so don’t engage with your retailers behind one either.

It all starts with a logo. If you’re not sure how to create one, look to Shopify’s logo maker tool to help you out. It’s free and you can use it to generate a branding kit in just a few minutes from your mobile device.

Be sure to create a branding kit that reflects who you are, what you have to offer, and what your values are. Once you’ve got your logo and branding kit, implement the guidelines on your website, your social media channels, and in your emails — plaster it everywhere.

2. Offer Plenty of Goodwill and Value via Content Marketing

Goodwill goes a long way on the Internet. If you can extend the arm of goodwill to your retailers via content, you’ve got a great chance of gaining their loyalty in return. But, what does “goodwill and value via content marketing” actually mean?

A content marketing strategy for wholesale e-commerce performs many functions, and one of them is to build a strong and lasting relationship with your retailers. You publish content that attracts new retailers, builds trust, and establishes your brand in the front of prospective merchants’ minds.

Let’s say a wholesale e-commerce website has no blog. It has no how-to videos and no podcast. It doesn’t even have an email newsletter. The website simply facilitates transactions. Clearly, all a distributor with a website like that cares about is the money — at least, this is how your potential merchants will see it.

Now, let’s say a rival site does have a blog — they’ve hired a group of freelancers to produce a series of how-to videos and work on a targeted email marketing campaign with segmented lists and autoresponders. As a result, the rival site looks less sales-focused and more value-focused. This other site uses its content to build a relationship with its merchants, answering their questions, helping them learn how to use their products, and altogether engaging with them.

Merchant loyalty is gained by giving your readers lots and lots of value and educating them about how you, your brand, and your products help solve issues they’re trying to overcome.

3. Launch an Email Marketing Campaign

Think of merchant acquisition as a fishing expedition. If someone makes a purchase from you, but you fail to get their email address, they’ve slipped through the net and you might never see them again. And in your case, there may or may not be as many fish in the sea as you expect.

The easiest way to retain merchants is to ask for their email address when they make their first purchase from you. Once they are on your email list, your retailers are all in one place — they’re in a tank. Now you have permission to contact them at any time.

But it takes time and care to build relationships. To win merchant loyalty, you need to feed your catches with an email nurturing campaign that offers plenty of value: Make the tank as appealing as possible and create an ecosystem where your retailers can thrive.

4. Reward Repeat Purchases with Loyalty Bonuses

When a merchant has made a number of purchases with you, reward them. Show them that you care by taking the time to let them know you appreciate their business.

For example, you could invite repeat merchants to test a new product for free. Or, you could offer them preferential service terms. After a time, you might waive minimum order quantities for repeat customers in order to increase their loyalty. Get creative with your reward system and stand out from your competitors.

The way a loyalty scheme works is really simple: The more a merchant shops with you, the more they are rewarded — and thus the more loyal they become.

Moreover, a loyalty scheme also lets you learn more about who your best distributors are. Once you have this information, you can tweak your marketing strategies to better target more of the same types of companies.

When Creating a Wholesale E-Commerce Loyalty Scheme, Ask Yourself These Questions:

  1. Which actions will I reward my merchants for? Do you want to reward your retailers for repeat orders, for sharing their experience with you on social media, or something else?
  2. How will my merchants redeem their rewards, and how will they use them? Will you use coupon codes, online vouchers, or another system? The key is to make the process of reward redemption as simple as possible.
  3. What kind of rewards will I offer them? Will you offer discounts, gift cards, free subscriptions?
  4. What will the rules of my loyalty scheme be? You need a well-laid-out structure for your loyalty program and a way to track and measure your participants. A loyalty platform can help.

5. Be Convenient

Today, retailers want a seamless, hassle-free, speedy shopping experience more than ever. If your wholesale e-commerce website is quick to load and easy to navigate, and if you’ve added chatbots to answer merchant queries in seconds, you’re on the path to becoming a winner.

You should know by now that merchants won’t stick around if your website takes too long to load, and a site that’s hard to navigate is a major turn-off. So make sure to check your page speed and optimize your website navigation. While doing so, keep in mind that many of your visitors will experience your site via their phones rather than desktop browsers, making it crucial to take a mobile-first approach to web design.

Additionally, merchants say that they want their questions answered in 60 minutes or less. When you can’t be around 24-7, technology provides a solution. Chatbots allow you to get back to merchants immediately, resolving their questions and allowing them to finish their shopping.

6. Communicate with Your Merchants

It should be obvious but it begs saying: If you are going to be successful at wholesale e-commerce, you need to communicate with — i.e., talk to — your merchants. Be active on social media and ask people what they want from you. Once you know what retailers expect, it’s much easier to provide it. Engage your customers directly to find out the answer to questions such as:

  • What product do retailers wish you sold?
  • What do they love and what do they dislike about your distribution processes?
  • What could you do better?

Seek feedback, listen to your merchants, and instigate the changes they want to see. Show people that you value them and want to do what’s best for them.

A Winning Approach to Wholesale E-Commerce Centers on the Customer

These six fundamentals for creating loyal merchants should be serious considerations for any online wholesaler since customers are so much more expensive to acquire than retain.

But the truth is, not every storeowner is going to be able to implement all of these programs. And that’s OK.

Whether or not you decide to implement any of these suggestions, make sure to keep in mind what all of these approaches have in common: They center on the customer and their experience. Whatever tactics you employ, the general principle to follow if you’re going to win at wholesale e-commerce is simple: Make it about them.


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