A new online sales and marketing platform for wholesalers – with no capital set-up costs – has been launched by a Fife technology company with financial backing from a fast-growing foodservice wholesaler.
Helicopter pilot, snowboarder and obsessed with Artificial Intelligence since graduating with a degree in AI-based Computer Science in 1994, Jason says he hates technology but is a serial tech entrepreneur, wrote regular tech business features for Better Wholesaling magazine and developed most of the code for wholesaler P&H’s first e‑commerce platform. He is now an official mentor to the Women in Wholesale organisation and has helped many High Street retailers and brands as diverse as Apple Education, Lotus Cars, English National Ballet and Toshiba Europe to get online.
Mike has around 20 years’ operational and general management foodservice experience, encompassing wholesale giants Bidvest and Brakes, and world-class distribution companies Martin Brower and Weddel Swift. Prior to joining the Board of Savona, where Mike is responsible for the entire Oxford operation, delivering right across the south of England, his most notable previous leadership role was during the contract for the supply of food to the 2012 Olympic Games for 3663. Despite having a wife and two children, he still finds time to shoot clay pigeons and travel.
A new online sales and marketing platform for wholesalers – with no capital set-up costs – has been launched by a Fife technology company with financial backing from Oxfordshire-based foodservice supplier, Savona Foodservice.
Industry stalwart Jason Finch, who set up one of Europe's early web development and internet consultancy firms over 20 years ago and launched one of the world's first wholesale e-commerce platforms in 1999, has established Scottish tech start-up 443 AI to pioneer disruptive online technology in a sector still struggling with basic e-commerce. "What we are doing is offering a truly modern and accessible wholesale online platform based around true personalisation in sales and understanding of customers," he said.
"With the wholesale industry evolving and customers' needs changing it is important for companies to have an effective online platform that operators can use to engage with their customers and drive sales."
"Wholesalers not prepared to embrace the online opportunity know that they will be left behind but for many the capital cost of set-up is the biggest barrier – and that is why we've devised a financial programme that strips out that initial outlay and can significantly reduce the ongoing charges while the wholesaler builds online trade."
Typical set-up costs for an online platform run to tens of thousands of pounds but Finch has built a grant programme that will write off those costs for all but the largest wholesalers. The businesses are also not penalised for promoting online ordering as the fixed fee Finch offers does not change as more sales and larger orders are made online.
Set-up includes integration with the wholesaler's ERP (enterprise resource planning) to automate order placement, stock checking and customer-specific pricing, enabling wholesalers to have a live bespoke online ordering platform in weeks.
"Online sales to wholesale customers have so far largely involved trying to make retail online platforms work in a wholesale market or focus on 'native' apps rather than modern web apps that are equally fast and have so many additional benefits for the wholesaler," explained Finch, managing director of 443 AI. "Products like Magento and Shopify can be spectacular retail platforms, but users can find it hard to turn these into efficient platforms that work in the wholesale environment."
443 AI's platform allows wholesalers to take advantage of:
"Wholesale is fundamentally different to retail in many ways and our platform recognises those differences," said Finch. "It has been built from scratch based on years of experience in both the wholesale and e-commerce sectors. Wholesalers who have grasped the thorny issue of e-commerce are still seeing fairly basic platforms and apps as innovative, despite the fact they're sometimes five to ten years behind in the grander scheme of things."
"There is so much opportunity in this sector but the margins are wafer-thin so investment in new ordering channels is simply not happening, but wholesalers are starting to wake up to the fact that new competitors, including Amazon, are emerging."
Finch, who helped Palmer & Harvey process billions of pounds in electronic sales with his previous company Port80, said that while 443 AI was initially targeting foodservice wholesalers, the platform could be tailored to any sector – electrical, plumbing, kitchens or beauty supplies, for example.
Backed by first client Savona Foodservice, an independent supplier with an expanding customer base covering most of southern England and the Midlands and member of the Country Range foodservice group, 443 AI's aim is to solve problems for all wholesalers who want to have a viable, meaningful digital relationship with their customers.
"Web-based technologies for wholesalers and distribution companies are still very much in their infancy and we see tremendous scope for forward-thinking companies that are serious about growing their businesses."