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In the competitive landscape of food and drink wholesale, it’s more important than ever for businesses to ensure they provide a consistent, personalised and efficient customer experience across all touchpoints. For wholesalers, this includes customer interactions through online stores, mobile apps, sales representatives, and other contact points.  

Helping wholesalers achieve these unified customer experiences is Artificial Intelligence (AI). From chatbots to ChatGPT, AI tools are becoming the norm, and businesses already embracing the power of AI are demonstrating more streamlined operations.  

We spoke to Dave Shield, Solutions Architect at Oporteo, to explore how AI is impacting the wholesale industry, particularly in the realm of customer experience, and why wholesalers should harness its potential. 

Personalising The Path-To-Purchase 

For wholesalers, adapting swiftly to changing customer needs and market trends in real time is essential. According to Dave, using platforms with AI capabilities is vital to achieving this.  

“One of the most important powers of AI is its ability to provide data-driven insights into customer behaviours, preferences and order history at scale,” says Dave. “This enables businesses to create a personalised experience more easily across all touchpoints, whether it’s tailored product recommendations or cross-selling and upselling.” 

Personalisation, as we know, is crucial for optimising the customer experience by providing relevant and tailored content. It fosters stronger emotional connections, increases customer engagement and loyalty, and drives higher conversion rates by targeting the right audience at the right time with the right marketing.  

Oporteo has utilised AI technology in various ways across its platform to help wholesalers improve personalisation. Including AI-driven pricing mechanisms. “This allows businesses to create customer-specific pricing, discounts and promotional models,” says Dave. “As Oporteo is designed for food and drink wholesalers in particular, it also supports wholesale quantity mechanisms, such as case and splits,” he explains.  

Optimising The User Experience  

Platforms with integrated AI capabilities not only improve the customer experience through personalisation but also efficiency. “Wholesale customers are busy, so you need to make it as quick and easy for them to find what they need,” says Dave. “AI-powered search functionality is one way you can support this.” 

AI-powered search enhances the search experience, making it more intuitive, efficient, and effective. “It incorporates various AI techniques to understand user intent, provide more accurate results, and offer relevant search experiences,” explains Dave.  

Similarly, AI-powered visual search allows customers to upload images of products they seek. The system then identifies and displays matching or similar products from the inventory, simplifying the search process. 

Streamlining Operations for Positive Customer Fulfilment  

AI-driven solutions also play an essential role in optimising business efficiency, ultimately optimising the customer experience. “The volume of data that AI tools can analyse means that predicting demand based on historical data, market trends, and other variables reduces the risk of overstocking or stockouts, ensuring that products are available when customers need them,” explains Dave.  

Automating administrative tasks such as invoicing, order processing, and data entry can also speed up tasks and reduce errors. This provides an overall smoother fulfilment process and happier customers at the end of it.  

Challenges in AI Adoption 

While the potential benefits of AI in wholesale are undeniable, its successful adoption is not without challenges. “AI algorithms rely on accurate and comprehensive data to deliver meaningful insights and customer experience,” explains Dave. “Incomplete data sets spread across various legacy systems, and departments can limit its effectiveness.”  

Therefore, before AI can be capitalised on, Dave recommends that businesses upgrade to a digital-first platform. “Wholesalers need to ensure their systems and software are compatible with modern AI technologies and that their underlying IT infrastructure can handle increased data processing and storage requirements,” he says.  

What the Future Holds for AI in Wholesale  

AI holds tremendous promise for wholesalers across various functions. From demand forecasting and inventory optimisation to supply chain management and customer service, AI has the potential to revolutionise traditional processes and drive efficiency like never before. 

According to Dave, the future of AI in wholesale appears promising. “Emerging AI technologies, such as machine learning and natural language processing, hold the potential to enhance customer experiences further and streamline operations,” he says. “Moreover, as AI becomes more accessible and affordable, smaller wholesalers can leverage its benefits, levelling the playing field and driving competition.” 

About Oporteo 

Oporteo designs, develops and delivers a range of digital-first ecommerce and omnichannel solutions for food and drink wholesalers, helping them streamline their business operations and provide customers with a smooth and responsive online experience.  Contact us today to learn more.