Turning Specialty Retail into a Wholesale Channel

May 30, 2018 | Mark Troast


The 3 things to consider when you add independent retailer doors.

Independent and specialty retailers represent something of a conundrum for brands. In a time when many regional and national retailers are shuttering stores and filing for bankruptcy, many smaller retailers are actually experiencing something of a renaissance thanks to their loyal customers and local roots. What’s more, the nature of specialty retail is its biggest differentiator: it offers customers an experience instead of just a transaction.

However, the independence of these smaller retailers makes them each unique and, while that uniqueness is a quality that attracts customers, it also requires the brands they sell to treat them as individuals just like they do their own customers.

The challenge for brands, then, is to find a way to serve these retailers as unique “individuals” and still maintain a profit margin.

Here are the three main things to consider when working with a group of specialty retailers.

1. Marketing

Ultimately what drives specialty retailers’ success is relationships—with their customers, their local community, and the industries they serve. For your brand to succeed with these retailers, it needs to be forging and contributing to those relationships.

So how does your brand have meaningful, personalized engagement with so many unique partners and still stay profitable? The best solution uses 1) a mix of general business rules around things like regionality, market, business volume, etc. and 2) the personal touch of reps.

In-platform business rules help you automatically deliver the right content to your retailers. Translation? “I know who you are and here’s what you need to succeed.”

And all the while, your field reps are still connecting with your clients to ensure that the personal touch isn’t lost.

The right B2B platform should facilitate this process as both the tool to manage and deliver the content and as the way to measure that content’s effectiveness. That data will help a brand identify opportunities for growth and put more resources into enabling success for the brand and the retailers.

If this sounds like a “digital first” strategy, it’s because it is. Think of your B2B platform as the base from which multiple parts of your business stem, not some add-on that you use on the side. It’s a single content and commerce destination, customized to match the needs and wants of your individual retailers.

2. Order Capture

An effective marketing strategy is going to generate more orders. Having a standardized order capture is important, but if you’re only looking at your B2B as an order entry tool you are missing out on a huge opportunity. (After all, if all you wanted was an order entry tool, you could use Excel... as long as you’re okay with errors.)

Don’t limit your platform to being purely transactional. A modern B2B platform can offer deep insights into performance across products, customers, and regions, to name a few. Which products are moving, and which aren’t? Is a certain product performing better in a certain region? What are customers doing when they’re on your platform? How are they engaging with your content?

The answers to these questions—and many others—will inform future business decisions. You’ll know whether to use different pricing for different types of retailers, whether you need more CSRs, and whether you should offer customized assortments.

In other words, you can make intelligent decisions without having to guess at possible outcomes.

In the end, your buyers will feel the personal touch that you’re showing them, which will solidify your relationship and drive more business.

3. Flexible Logistics

Specialty retailers have very limited space; many don’t even have a stockroom. Retail space is expensive and it’s not ideal to waste any of it on backstock. Specialty retailers run lean on inventory, and they also need to be able to respond quickly (quicker than, say, Amazon) in order to retain their customers.

Having a fast and easy way to replenish at sell-through and drop-ship to customers is key to serving these customers. A modern B2B that is simple to shop on and can serve up ATS (available to sell) and drop-ship isn’t just a nice thing—it’s a must-have.

If your brand doesn’t take all of this into account and provide a solid logistics solution—one that is accessible 24/7—your retailers could stop ordering from you.

The Big Takeaway

Specialty retail is a huge growth opportunity for brands.

But in order for your brand to make it profitable you need to approach it like you would a unified wholesale channel, all while maintaining the relationships you’ve built with your retailers.

Using your B2B as the single destination for everyone in that channel creates efficiency and drives revenue for your retailers and your brand. In this way, your brand can scale its growth without neglecting the retail partners that helped you achieve it.

Your B2B platform isn’t just a handy tool. It’s a starting point for growth.

Mark Troast

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VP eCommerce Enablement

With 13 years of experience in solution enablement, Mark Troast uses his considerable experience to represent clients' interests while planning and executing the implementation of the Envoy platform.