Last updated: Wholesale e-commerce trends: Study reveals must-know data for 2022

Wholesale e-commerce trends: Study reveals must-know data for 2022


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Benjamin Franklin once said, “out of adversity comes great opportunity.” The pandemic sparked a frenzy of distributors exploring e-commerce and marketplace options to grow top-line revenue and expand their customer base. Amid the uncertainty of the past two years, many companies believed they didn’t have the time or resources to add these capabilities, but wholesale e-commerce trends and data tell a different story.

Whether the pandemic fades away or lingers, e-commerce remains table stakes for all distributors.

Wholesale e-commerce trends: Top survey findings

Modern Distribution Management (MDM) partnered with SAP and Mirakl for an exhaustive look at how distributors view digital sales channels, which resulted in an eye-opening report.

Some key findings around wholesale e-commerce include:

  1. Distributors still have a ways to go before reaching e-commerce maturity, but there’s progress in the right direction
  2. The percentage of revenue generated from e-commerce is significant and continues to grow year over year
  3. The percentage of distributors reporting little revenue generated from e-commerce is shrinking dramatically
  4. Many distributors plan to make investments in their online store, especially to improve search capabilities
  5. The pandemic has resulted in significant revenue growth for distributors that already had an e-commerce strategy
  6. Boosting efficiency, productivity, and brand awareness are the top e-commerce goals for distributors

The cumulative result of the study: Distributors that had an e-commerce presence pre-pandemic saw their online revenue grow significantly.

Having a wholesale e-commerce platform already established helped those orgs thrive during the early days of the pandemic – and beyond.

This trend is unlikely to reverse itself, making it imperative for distributors to have a robust e-commerce strategy. Those that do will fare better with customer satisfaction, reduce operational costs, and gain a competitive advantage.

The distributors who continue to prioritize e-commerce have and will continue to emerge as leaders in the space.

B2B marketplaces gain popularity among distributors

In the process of surveying distributors, we learned that some companies are making progress on their e-commerce capabilities, but many are still in their infancy. And when it comes to marketplaces, some distributors have created their own marketplace or are still looking into it, but industry-wide adoption has yet to be embraced.

According to a recent  B2B Buyer’s Survey from Digital Commerce 360, 40% of B2B buyers purchase at least 50% of their company’s purchases on marketplaces.

One state of e-commerce survey participant described their secret sauce to increase market share as “being a leader in the implementation of a marketplace strategy.”

Robust wholesale e-commerce strategies can help distributors prosper

Nearly 21% of distributors reported that e-commerce sales now account for 20% to 30% of total revenues. Conversely, the percentage of distributors that said little of their revenue comes from e-commerce activity shrank dramatically.

In 2021, 33% of distributors said that e-commerce accounted for less than 10% of their total sales. Looking back to 2020, 42% of distributors said that e-commerce accounted for less than 10% of their total sales.

Survey data shows that from 2011 to 2017 the number of distributors experiencing 10% or less of their revenue from e-commerce fluctuated from 65% to 79% each year.

This trend makes it imperative that wholesale distributors have a robust e-commerce strategy.

Can you see me now: Search functionality improvements gain focus

A top focus area and trend for wholesale e-commerce distributors is search functionality, with more than 40% planning to invest in AI-powered search for personalized results.

In addition, search engine optimization (SEO) is considered an important investment area for organic search results.

SEO is not only an instrument to attract new customers, but it also raises brand awareness. Even if the online store isn’t the main sales channel (yet), it will be a key instrument for product and services sales in the not-too-distant future.

As more and more B2B buyers prefer buying online and seek the same personalized customer experience that they enjoy on B2C sites, having an e-commerce site is essential.

Online sales are a competitive differentiator for whole distributors

The impact of COVID-19 on e-commerce investments by distributors in 2020 and 2021 cannot be understated.

Think ya got e-commerce game? Get competitive and find out in this 60 second quiz!

Digitally driven purchases are the new normal in most industries and a robust e-commerce program will be a key differentiator for any distributor wishing to remain competitive or be an industry leader. Those that don’t will be laggards, doomed to a fate of constantly trying to catch up.

The gap between wholesale distributors that will thrive or fail is widening at a startling pace.
Learn more HERE. 👀

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