Nikki Todd, Sales and Customer Experience Director at VOW Wholesale, spoke to Michelle Ryder about the value of wholesale during the COVID-19 pandemic. Faced with unprecedented demand across many categories and changing customer requirements, the PrintIT Awards Gold Sponsor rapidly rose to the challenge
It’s fair to say that Nikki is an industry stalwart, having worked for the business for 30 years. And it’s clear from talking to her that she is very passionate about her job. Right from the get go, Nikki pointed out that sales and customer experience go hand in hand and that she places equal importance on the pre-sale and post-sale processes. “It’s not just about getting involved upfront and making the sale,” she said, “It’s about seeing that sale all the way through from fulfilment, resolution and aftercare – the post-sales element is actually more important that the actual sale.”
VOW Wholesale transacts with in excess of 1,800 resellers, many of who are members of its enhanced partner accreditation programme VOW Venture. The programme which was launched a few years ago and which has three tiers – Venture Red, Venture Gold and Venture Diamond, was developed in order to better meet the changing needs of the industry.
VOW Venture encourages and facilitates two-way dialogue between VOW and its partners within each of the loyalty reward programme’s three tiers. It is this approach that enables VOW to drive engagement and deliver real value through tailored benefits, tools and services.
“Collaboration with our partners is key in shaping the tools and services of the future and the past few months has seen a rapid shift in terms of what our resellers need from us as a wholesaler,” Nikki said.
VOW has a long heritage in working with new suppliers to give VOW Venture partners even more added value to pass on to its customers. “We are currently working on evaluating and refreshing some of the services we offer through the VOW Venture programme, and will be adding new value-add services that are more relevant and which address customers’ requirements in this fast changing climate.” Nikki explained.
Quick to react
The UK’s lockdown saw an unprecedented spike in orders for printers, laptops, headsets etc. “We were able to react very quickly to end-user demand, we speak to our resellers every day and from those conversations, we can anticipate demand in certain categories and adjust our stock holding appropriately,” Nikki said, adding: “We saw a 28 per cent increase within a couple of weeks and we were well positioned to help our customers to meet that demand. Supply chains were strained across the market, but we have close and strong relationships with our vendors, we worked with Epson, Brother, Canon etc. to get the stock in as quickly as possible.”
Following the initial peak, the focus shifted to ergonomics, health and wellbeing. “Ergonomic mice, keyboards, wrist rests and monitors were very much in demand as more and more home workers required solutions to make work more comfortable. Interestingly we received lots of orders for houseplants too,” she added.
One of the key trends of the pandemic has been the resilience of the channel. Nikki said VOW’s resellers have proved their resilience ten-fold, many have diversified their core offer and modified their business models to meet the needs of the new normal. “We very quickly created new marketing materials and work from home kits for example, which our resellers took advantage of. The pressing need for PPE also opened up new opportunities which our resellers capitalised on,” she said.
Another huge step change is the provision of a ‘warehouse on wheels’ service. “Many of our customers had to close their warehouses, or furlough staff including delivery drivers, and came to us to provide a white label end-user delivery service. We are seeing more and more choose to use our distribution centre as a virtual warehouse and for us to provide the final mile delivery. That’s been a big change and one that looks likely to continue,” Nikki explained.
The pandemic has proven the value of wholesale. VOW is now focused on diversifying its offer to supply the products, solutions and services that its customers need today. “We are planning for the future and changing our business model to support our customers’ changing needs. We will be introducing new categories, for example PPE, formerly a small component of the FM category, has rapidly grown in importance which makes the need to increase the number of SKUs and expand the category a priority,” Nikki said. “We will ensure we have bigger stock and a bigger range so that we can ensure our resellers are able to continue business as usual,” she concluded.