Cloud technology is taking over the world, helping one sector after another, and wholesale and distribution (W&D) is no exception to that trend. Businesses in the W&D sector operate on low margins in a very competitive market, so it’s no wonder they are looking to the cloud, not only to provide a more cost-effective platform for managing inventory, billing and communications from anywhere in the world, but to keep up with the latest developments to enable them to grow with their customers.

A study conducted by International Data Corporation demonstrated that 35 per cent of wholesalers were already in the cloud and 50 per cent had plans to move to the cloud imminently. That was two years ago. The appetite for scalable technology will only continue to grow as we sweep into 2016.

So why should you join the W&D cloud revolution?

Keeping customers happy

When it comes to distribution, having a competitive pricing structure isn’t the only thing that will keep customers smiling. Having an easy ordering system and great customer service is key, and real-time visibility of inventory trends, delivery metrics and stock levels means distributors can answer queries as soon as they come in. Cloud based distribution software integrates logistics, inventory management, CRM and accounting. This efficiency and transparency, for you and your customers, can improve satisfaction rates and customer retention.

Ensuring warehouse operatives are on the ball

With next-day—or even same-day­—delivery becoming increasingly important for the millennials in the workplace, distributors are under increasing pressure to deliver quickly and not make any mistakes along the way. Bottlenecks and inaccuracies can destroy margins and inflate delivery times, making warehouse management one of the most important business areas for any wholesale distributor. Cloud technology can offer sophisticated warehouse management systems (WMS) accessible to even the smallest of wholesale companies, increasing picking efficiency and decreasing labour costs.

Around-the-clock communication

When time is of the essence, quick and effective communication plays a major role in the success of a distribution business. By automating messaging, communication is simple and error free at every stage of the supply chain, and the most up-to-date information is accessible from anywhere and at any time. Not only does this improve customer relationships, it helps operators to maintain optimal stock levels so that ‘just-in-time’ purchases reach customers in time.

Joined-up processes, actionable business intelligence

As operations can become more complex, due to outsourcing and diversification, real-time insight into all parts of the business becomes more difficult. The right cloud software will tell you your bank inventory, orders, KPIs and costs whilst you are running between meetings or are out of the office. Gaining a holistic view of your business is pivotal to its success. Even better, you can view inconsistencies, budget overruns and exceptions at the same time to quickly identify and solve issues.

Crossing borders

Exporting is no longer exclusive to multinational corporations. Businesses of any size can export their products, but they need to have instant communication channels and a system capable of managing multiple legislations, currencies and tax systems. With cloud technology you can run your global business from your local mobile phone.

2016 is the year for the W&D sector to truly embrace the functionality and scalability that the cloud can offer and move away from ageing, on-site solutions. The cloud is easy to implement, requires no capital expenditure and you can see from this list that the benefits are great. Cloud technology is continually being updated, often automatically, so you can make sure your business does not fall behind. It offers a cost-effective solution that can improve efficiencies across the board. Even more than this, the cloud is proving to be a democratising force, allowing small businesses to finally compete with multinationals.

Erik van der Meijden, CEO, Exact