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Virtual showrooms have become paramount in fashion. The concept Tommy Hilfiger pioneered, the pandemic made mainstream. Every B2B Sales platform has a virtual showroom now, yet not enough has been said about what makes a digital/virtual showroom apt for fashion. In this race to digitize wholesale, fashion shouldn’t forget about the other side of a sales meeting: wholesale buyers. So let's dive into what wholesale buyers find important, according to Zalando buyers. From the way buyers buy, to in-showroom or remote, and content. 

A sales tool is not a sales experience

Digital wholesale platforms have changed how sales teams work and that means wholesale buying has changed too. The benefits of digital aren’t foreign to buyers. Efficiency, speed and cost reduction are clear for brands. While brands worry about their own sales experience, buyers always face a very fragmented buying process and digitization hasn’t necessarily changed that. The quality of the buying experience shapes the type of relationship you build with your wholesale buyers. 

As wholesale races towards recovery in 2022, brands are restructuring their P&L to eliminate unnecessary costs to serve customers. During this exercise brands must realize that not all customers bring the same value to them. The sales experience should match the different ways of buying across your customer portfolio and more often than not, one solution does not fit all. We asked wholesale buyers from leading European platform for fashion and lifestyle Zalando what it takes to have a great buying experience. This is what they said.

#1 All Sales meetings may look the same, but each buyers buys differently. 

Most wholesale buyers follow a similar process during a buying session: they start with numbers and past performance, then check the new collection and make a selection before placing an order. While this is true for the majority of sales meetings, how buyers make selections can be vastly different. Some buyers like to see the whole picture while others may prefer to get immersed in a brand’s seasonal story. Some may want to see everything by category while others may want to see everything broken down by price ranges. Some may want to do all of the above. 

A good buying experience should account for these differences. Sales people should have tools to create an experience that balances the needs of both the brand and buyers. By style, category or price, a good salesperson (and a good sales platform) should allow different buying styles without removing the brand from the equation.

One solution cannot fit all. 

Story-based vs. category-based

#2 In-showroom or remote? In-showroom and remote! 

One year in, the sentiment across buyers is that brands are facing a big challenge to adapt to new remote/hybrid realities and can do a few things to improve the experience for buyers. At the same time, buyers agree that for bigger, more complex buys, nothing beats having a face to face conversation. While we may be reaching the end of travel restrictions this year, McKinsey predicts business travel has a long recovery ahead, with hardest-hit sectors taking even longer to recover. The benefits of remote sales are also becoming increasingly prominent for many overseas buyers. Hybrid sales are becoming the new way of selling. 

A good sales experience should enable the conversation between salespeople and buyers. Not everyone needs to be guided, though it may be crucial for some in order to make the right decisions. Brands that offer this option in both in-showroom and remote will be preferred by buyers. 

Choosing to buy in-showroom or remotely should not be a matter of compromise, but one of preference for wholesale buyers. 

"I like to physically move the products around so I can visualize how I want to build up the range and do the quantities. If I just have a few sheets with multiple styles on that makes it really difficult".
- Amy, Zalando Wholesale Buyer

Remote-first vs. remote-last

#3 Content is king, but where is the content?

If digital buying is gaining traction, everyone agrees content will become the key to win the game in the digital world. For platforms like Zalando, buying digitally resembles how their consumers interface with their product and how a product is represented digitally needs to be as close as possible to how their consumers will shop.

For buyers the challenges with content can be broken down in 3 categories:

Data: Brands often miss to indicate certain key aspects of products, making it hard for buyers to understand the true potential of an item. If buyers can’t touch the product, they need to have enough information to understand elements such as fabrics, weight, additional features, etc.
  • Imagery and videos: Buyers often find it difficult to understand a product simply because there’s not enough content (or the right content) to visualize it. Front and back are basic, but not enough to buy digitally, at least with confidence. Detail shots on the fabric or on model images and videos win the game in digital buying
  • Color: “It happens all the time that we order something which looks blue and it comes and it is purple” says Amy. Color accuracy is a big topic for buyers and the move to remote sales has made this a bigger challenge. Sharing your screen, while useful, isn’t built with this specific use case in mind. If content is important, so is the medium where it’s placed. 

Quality Difference VC Providers

"If we're buying for a digital channel, we need to be able to do the buying via digital as well, because that's how our consumers interface with the product. The closer the collection is presented to how the consumer would see it, the better for making decisions".
- Sven, Zalando Wholesale Buyer

If brands want to turn wholesale around, retailers have something to say if you listen to them. Ironically enough, wholesale buyers and consumers share the same challenges when buying from brands digitally. If wholesale buyers understand your brand, their customers (aka your consumers) will understand it too. At the end of the day your wholesale buyers are your customers too, so shouldn’t they be treated as such?