Retailers and suppliers alike report favourably on Nextrade, the number one digital order platform, where a single login gives access to numerous shops in the Home and Living sector. Personal contacts with others are another valued feature, one which was accessible even during the coronavirus lockdown. We spoke to the first wave of users about their experiences with this innovative data and ordering platform, about their love of virtual window shopping, and why touching the goods is sometimes more important than seeing them.
Closeness across the miles
Just a few clicks, and your orders are on their way – it’s quick and straightforward. Nextrade means high-street retailers can take a vital step towards the future of their business. It allows digital shopping for well-known brands at hundreds of suppliers, without wholesalers or intermediaries. Retailers can sense ever more clearly how the market is restructuring itself. It’s something which Hannes Versloot, owner of the shop Versloot-Versloot.nl in Terneuzen, Netherlands, has noticed: “The supply market has developed into a demand market. This means the retailer is not the one who determines what they offer – it’s the customer who determines what they want. Retailers can’t hold stocks of all the products customers would like. So, in order to perform effectively despite this, a retailer must respond competently and immediately, communicating the availability, price and varieties of products. Customers have a need to shop in-store, they enjoy the element of preselection we perform and the advice we give; as retailers we need to reward them for this loyalty.” Hannes Versloot sees one of the key benefits of Nextrade as combining multiple streams of information, which he is keen to exploit: “Our shop is a good 250 sqm, and we order from well over 100 suppliers. Some still want handwritten orders, others want digital. This eats into our time. Nextrade’s digital route really enhances our everyday processes and enables us to work more effectively.”
As early as the pilot phase last year and during Nextrade’s European rollout, registered retailers realised what makes the platform’s data and order management so unique – and has now made it such a worldwide success. It is the easiest ever platform to use, and the shopping cart function is really handy. Something which really comes into its own due to the coronavirus restrictions is that you’re working with a system that can access all the new products and marketing materials from all your suppliers. The drop shipping function, which can dispatch goods directly from the supplier to the retailer’s end customer, is very popular – as is the improved usability following the website relaunch. Retailer Bernd Keiber from gift company Stoll, based in Kandel near Karlsruhe, adds a small but important detail: “Plus, you only need one password to access Nextrade. Before, we needed to set up and maintain countless passwords for all our suppliers’ online portals, so we’re saving time.” Ulrich Dinkel, the owner of traditional porcelain manufacturer Dinkel Porzellan in Tübingen’s old town, took it as a point of honour to be among the first retailers registering for this portal. After all, his forebears also had a ‘nose’ for taking groundbreaking entrepreneurial steps – this specialist glass, porcelain, home and kitchenware retailer has been family-owned since 1883.
How do you use Nextrade, Mr Dinkel?
“Almost every day, we select products to put in the cart, and get information using the catalogue function. It’s so straightforward anyone can use it. Usually, we then dispatch the orders using the shopping carts once a month. We are currently in contact with 15 suppliers via Nextrade.”
How about the coronavirus: how was lockdown for you? In many cases consumers spent more time on the internet searching for lovely things, is that what you experienced?
“Yes, definitely. In those weeks we benefited from our own online shop. After we reopened, our customer numbers were even better than before and we quickly made up the shortfall.”
Hannes Versloot had a similar experience. Regular customers, who would normally come and visit the shop, instead ordered what they wanted in his online outlet. This meant that for every physical purchase lost, the retailer could make up ground. Versloot is clear about this: “Our ‘shop window’ can come to the customer – even appearing on their iPad. All serious high-street retailers have a responsibility to present their offerings online too. Even though it can entail a huge effort on top of our already long working hours.” He therefore found Nextrade to be a great relief: “I wouldn’t like to be without this model, with its central point of contact. It needs to be the industry standard. It’s also brilliant that we’ve discovered some new, interesting suppliers on there who are a great fit for us.”
Can’t replace face-to-face
Does the digital marketplace Nextrade, with all its efficient processes and measurable benefits, make visiting trade fairs redundant? All our retailers agree: “No way!”. Personal contacts, conversation and a tactile experience of new products and developments are far too important. With over two decades’ experience, Bernd Keiber explains: “Our range focuses on jewellery and leather bags. I need to stand in front of our orders in real life and touch them, a picture alone can’t deliver that.” For initial orders in particular, retailers rely on face-to-face meetings during a trade fair. They say nothing can replace the emotional experience you get there. They’re convinced that “you need to experience the whole universe of goods on offer.” Ulrich Dinkel says: “It’s still important for me to visit trade fairs, because I can see where the crowds are headed – and it’s on those stands that I’ll find the trends which will sell well in our shop.”
We use Nextrade to win new customers and process orders.
Benjamin Aufderbeck, Head of Sales, Blomus
Acquiring and increasing potential sales
Benjamin Aufderbeck, Head of Sales at interiors specialist Blomus, explains why he was an early adopter: “Nextrade’s vision is to become the world’s largest B2B platform, and that interested us right from the start.” His company now uses Nextrade for many different functions: “Firstly, the platform allows us to win new customers – retailers can come across our brand and get to know us. Nextrade is also an acquisition tool for us. If a retailer shows an interest in our brand, we can contact them.”
On Nextrade, each supplier has their own shop, with all shops structured and functioning the same way. We asked Mr Aufderbeck how buyers approach him.
“Like any supplier, we create our brand experience on Nextrade by displaying our products through images and information. Some users want to browse first, others approach us for contact details or an appointment. Since Blomus has had a presence on Nextrade, we’ve had many enquiries, mainly from German-speaking countries but also from elsewhere in Europe, for example France.”
Are there product groups which often go together in a Nextrade shopping cart?
“We have noticed large shopping carts with a wide range of different items. During the weeks of lockdown, we saw an unusually large number of orders for our new outdoor furniture range. It seems everyone was looking forward to summer coming, and planning a holiday at home. We benefited from that.”
How should Nextrade develop in future?
“Our company is hoping to continue internationalising, so that even smaller retailers in countries where we’re not yet strongly represented and have no sales agents on the ground will contact us via Nextrade. Wherever you are, the days are gone when a sales agent would go and meet the retailer for a small order like five carafes. It’s something the retailer can take care of themselves using Nextrade. This saves valuable time for both parties, which can be used for more important and decisive questions.”
Nextrade’s recipe for success
“Nextrade’s data and order management is the logical extension of the build-up and follow-up to a trade fair. Experience shows that trade fairs are no longer mere order fairs for big brands, their importance as discussion and contact platform is growing strongly,” says Stefan Richard, Sales Manager Retail at Zieher, which stands for exclusive design in the tabletop and buffet area. He explains that his company regularly receives contact requests via Nextrade: “Retailers who didn’t know us now do a search, and find us on there. These are contacts we might not have received otherwise, or only if we attended a trade fair. They are often gift or porcelain shops which focus on home and tableware.”
Mr Richard, Zieher’s designs have mainly had success in top-end gastronomy, on dream yachts and in luxury resorts. Has your target market changed now?
“90% of our sales are still outside Germany, in high-end hotels and restaurants. We don’t currently use Nextrade for these customers. However, Nextrade is turning out to be the ideal medium to find contacts in the reseller sector, as well as department stores and specialist retail outlets. Nextrade gives us even greater reach.”
On Nextrade, your range contains around 80 items. That seems comparatively few.
“We very deliberately focus on these. They are products which those target markets are interested in, for example our unusual wine glasses. For us, it’s about communication, about getting to know our range – not about everyday order processing. The initial contact is made when users view our commercial data, without one of our sales agents immediately arriving in their shop. My impression, and our priority, is that Nextrade extends an invitation to browse. Users can have a first look at what we’ve got, at what could be exciting for their shop. The next step is to establish individual purchasing conditions and unique value propositions.”
The future is within reach
Total control: suppliers retain their independence on Nextrade. They authorise access to their own shop and range individually. This also allows them to offer retailers bespoke terms and conditions, which suppliers see as a further advantage. Nextrade lets buyers access the source directly. Both suppliers and retailers see this fresh platform as a tool with enormous potential worldwide on all levels, promising more effective order processing and data management in real time.
Thank you for the interview!