E Fundamentals is making a splash

E Fundamentals’ CEO John Maltman on why wholesalers need to aim higher than they are

Q: Many people in the wholesale sector won’t know you or E Fundamentals. Tell us more.

A: I’m quite unusual in that I became an entrepreneur towards the end of my career. My career was in corporate, working with the likes of P&G, Coca-Cola and Pepsico. I’ve always been interested in how technology can help managers do their jobs more effectively and I came up with the idea for E Fundamentals after talking to people about if they’re winning in e-commerce. They’ll always tell you they’re growing, but I’m not sure that means that their e-commerce channel is growing faster than their physical sales. It struck me that there weren’t any fundamental measures for success in e-commerce, so we built them for retail to answer how brands can sell and market themselves more effectively through online retailers.

Q: Why did you decide to expand into the wholesale industry?

A: I looked at two things: what do Amazon do to get business in the wholesale sector and what would I do if I was a wholesaler to win online business. It struck me that Amazon hasn’t given it much attention yet and what the bigger wholesalers are doing online is a decent job of putting their catalogue online, but that’s not a winning e-commerce proposition because that approach doesn’t make anything easier for customers. It’s pretty much the same information that’s offered to shoppers, which is great, but not what I need to know as a retailer. There’s an amazing opportunity to think about how to deliver great service to shops, building in the knowledge of what and why people are buying things, what’s right for particular locations and deliver it through an online offer. Because you’re delivering that insight, you’re the natural place to buy the product as well. Pricing is an open book, so added value is key. We can help by providing the insight into what’s good performance and what’s poor performance.

Q: Why do you think there hasn’t been a big focus on this previously?

A: There are a lot of brands that see wholesale as extremely important and those are businesses that understand being available locally is really important. The trouble is, they haven’t got the tools to have the conversation with. Many wholesalers’ websites are also very basic first attempts when you compare them to the more state-of-the-art stuff and there’s some way to go.

Q: One of the big issues with e-commerce in wholesale is the need to share sensitive data. How will you sidestep that?

A: If you start with the bricks-and-clicks world of retail, it’s evolved over time because they’ve seen bigger benefits of collaboration against the risk of sharing information. Collaboration tends to be pretty carefully selected, so brands are working with retailers they trust because they can see quite high-value returns on that. For wholesale, it’s necessary to know how to build a collaborative approach. But if you focus on one thing that’s easy to fix – such as what convenience store owners need to know in the product descriptions to help them buy – that’s relatively risk free. If data sharing is a bridge too far, then maybe you’d employ an intermediary to work on the data. For some, it will be too far, so they’ll either find a way around it or they’ll miss the opportunity.

Q: Despite this collaboration, how can you make sure that some of the added value a wholesaler offers to its customers isn’t lost online?

A: In today’s world, it’s the wrong strategy to guard your expertise because you build loyalty and get interest in your business by sharing what you’re good at and what you know. Folks have to take a view that the industry will evolve and test the water for a more progressive and open approach. There are big cultural changes needed to do that, but they’re exactly the same shifts that major retailers had to go through.

Q: Why is now the right time to launch this?

A: If we tried to launch this two years ago, we’d have been pushing it uphill, but there are enough brand owners saying they want the wholesale sector to do well. People are seeing the returns they’re getting for their investment in retail and can see an opportunity in wholesale, while recognising the value of first-mover advantage. The very best companies are saying ‘we’re good at this and if we can get talking to the right people and do the right things, we can make some sales gains’. It’s also good for people in the wholesale sector to get a tool that’s as sophisticated as the ones being used in the retail sector.

Q: What do you think will happen to wholesalers that don’t embrace it?

A: The share of business in online wholesale will go up. Services alongside simply the catalogue will start to differentiate and the winning services will be a blend of great catalogue, great distribution and additional insights and support. Not engaging with that might not be a disaster if you’re servicing a very loyal group of retailers and entrepreneurs. But if you’re running a wholesale organisation that covers the country, I can’t imagine not being part of something like that. As an industry, folks need to be aiming higher than they currently are.

WHAT CAN E FUNDAMENTALS DO FOR YOU?

E Fundamentals Wholesale is a new e-commerce insights service that helps drive online sales and profits through the wholesale channel. The platform intuitively allows brands to optimise the performance of their portfolio by providing powerful and actionable insights into product performance online. This makes it simple for brands to collaborate easily with wholesalers to grow customers and mutual profit.

FIND OUT MORE

You can drop John and the E Fundamentals team an email at [email protected] or visit ef.uk.com for more information.

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E Fundamentals e-commerce John Maltman