The wholesale industry is many fantastic things, but technologically innovative isn’t usually seen as one of them. As a whole, our channel is quite traditional, sticking with what we know because that’s how we’ve always done it. And usually when change happens, it’s because one business has stuck their head above the parapet and others have slowly followed suit. But with Covid-19, many businesses are recognising that this could be a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to overhaul their digital strategy and become more data-led than ever before. (I spoke about this last week, you can take a look here.) 

To be truly innovative, wholesale operators can’t just look at what their peers and competitors are doing and copy that. As the world spends increasing amounts of time online, companies like Amazon, Deliveroo, and UberEats are all innovating and creating processes that consumers now expect on every channel.

One of the best examples I’ve seen of innovation recently has been Domino’s – yes, the pizza guys. Except, Domino’s is no longer a pizza making and delivery service. Domino’s is now an e-commerce company that makes and delivers pizza. Honestly..

A decade ago, Domino’s growth was slowing, driven by rising prices, rather than volume of purchases. They also had an image problem.

Many businesses go through a change process.  Domino’s was no different.  They overhauled their recipes, their toppings, and their ingredients. 

But their digital transformation was the most impactful change.

They achieved it by totally altering the company mindset.  This is one of the hardest things to change in a company – a culture is often deep rooted and people can be resistant or nervous of change. 

But under the leadership of Patrick Doyle, they managed to change tack, and take the entire company with them.  This is hard to achieve in any operation – but arguably harder to achieve in an operation where most of its outlets are franchisee owned. So Domino’s needed a plan which the franchisees bought into, not just Domino’s own employees.  

They delivered quick wins and tangible benefits from their online focus. Digital creates huge amounts of invaluable data.  Using forensic-style data analysis, staff drilled into what was selling, what was profitable, and what attracted customers. Then they did more of it.  This offset some setup costs and demonstrated success back to the board. That reinforced the internal messaging of seeing off threats and building a more successful, future-facing business.  

Finally, it moved to Domino’s AnyWare and heavily promoted it. Customers could now order pizza from any device; SMS, MMS, Apple TV, Google Home, Amazon TV, Twitter, Slack, and Facebook. While removing any barrier to ordering Domino’s, this also attracted some of the world’s top tech talent, who powered their transformation further.

So what can the wholesale industry learn from this? 

Have a culture of introducing tomorrow’s technology today

Chances are your competition are in the same boat as you. That means, doing what they do isn’t going to work. Look at companies that are innovating –  what are Amazon, Deliveroo, UberEats, and Domino’s doing with their tech? We’ve spoken before about Amazon’s “customers who bought this also bought” and Deliveroo and UberEats’ use of localised offers to show what’s popular with similar consumers.  

They’re not just thinking months ahead though, they’re looking years ahead. As we write this, Domino’s is testing out driverless cars in the States, delivering pizza without any human contact. People simply run out from their apartment, type in their pin, and out comes their pizza. Thinking further outside the box, they’ve also done a deal with an electric bike startup to help their franchisees replace their vehicles, reducing emissions, costs, and getting pizza to the customer faster.

Be obsessed about data

Is your data clean, organised, and well-presented? Can you easily glean insights from it? Gut feel no longer cuts it when it comes to making big business decisions and, like Domino’s, data is invaluable. Data lets you target specific customers with tailored offers, it tells you who your highest spenders are, and it can help you see how your customers want to use your service. 

Be obsessed with digital

Recently, we did a Digital Leadership series with Salih Sheikh (you can see it here) and the main takeaway was putting digital at the heart of everything you do. From embedding it into your company culture, to getting the whole workforce onboard, and putting digital at the heart of every business decision. Digital isn’t an “add-on” anymore, for more and more businesses, digital is how their company is going to survive and thrive in a post-Covid world. 

Be obsessed with customer experience 

What do your customers want? Think about the retailers’ experience. They might be trying to place orders on their while phone in their store, get distracted, go back to it later on on their laptop. They might have bought a product last winter that sold well that they can’t remember the name of. Perhaps they want to see new products that are selling well for inspiration. How can your business facilitate these needs? Price is no longer a differentiator and to make your business stand out, the experience you give your customer needs to be the best on the market.

Always look to the future 

It’s not just about future tech, but about future processes. Domino’s now delivers to places that don’t have physical addresses, using hot spots to find people in beaches, parks, and other areas they previously wouldn’t have delivered to. While no one is going to want a delivery of wholesale product to the middle of a park, this kind of thinking-outside-of-the-box is what sets them apart from their competitors.

Their approach has been an overwhelming success. It led to 28 consecutive quarters of positive comparable sales. They’re the number one pizza delivery company in the world, and have been there since 2018 when they overtook Pizza Hut. And, they did it all without using third-party delivery platforms, saving themselves 30% on commission charges.

They achieved this with a relentless focus on the future, digital, and data. While your business might not have such lofty ambitions, there’s a lot for wholesalers and retailers to take away from Domino’s success.

Written by: 

Tom Fender, Development Director, TWC
07802 336333
Twitter: @Tomhfender. @TWCGroup

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