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5 trends for 2023 that merchants need to know about

Updated: Sep 14, 2023

The secrets of your success: 5 trends to give merchants a competitive advantage in 2023

The world has been in upheaval for the last few years and that makes the business landscape pretty challenging for most businesses. Merchanting is no exception; rising operational costs, volatile material pricing in the market, availability issues, sustainability and even recruitment all providing their own unique issues, merchants have a lot to deal with.

But among the challenges there are lots of opportunities, and that’s what we’re here to talk about. We’ve put together a list of 5 top trends for merchants to be aware of in 2023 to help them thrive.

5 top trends for merchants in 2023

1. Sustainability

A vital topic for every organisation, and every individual, this one is growing in both importance and urgency for merchants.

Firstly, there is an intensifying focus on the need for more sustainable materials and methods in the construction industry as a whole. Reaching the net zero carbon neutrality goal is essential to keep in line with government targets but it’s also becoming increasingly important to customers (both trade and domestic) That means responsible and ethical sourcing, more recycling, more efficient materials, as well as plumbing and heating systems – the list goes on. It’s a complex and rapidly evolving subject but one in which we all have the most deeply invested interests.

Secondly, with the rising costs of operations and utilities, merchants must focus on their own sustainability. Keeping overheads low, processes efficient and systems choices future-fit are all vital components. After all, sustaining the business is your number one aim, and without being able to be competitive in all areas will make that more of a challenge.

2. Agility

Another broad category but also an essential one. In a commercial landscape where everything upon everything is constantly changing, merchants need the right tools to allow them to respond quickly to changing conditions. It’s vital that the back office system is able to keep up with these changes and give the flexibility and freedom for merchants to react fast, as well as the visibility to guide them in where to focus first.

Choose a system that puts the information you need right in front of you, that makes it easier to spot the gaps and issues as well as the opportunities, and which helps you to make every process throughout your entire operation more efficient. Let the tech do the heavy lifting to free up your people to focus where they can make the biggest difference.

For example, with routes to market diversifying at a dizzying rate, it’s important that merchants have the flexibility to take advantage of new technologies. That means opting for a highly interoperable cloud system which can link up with whatever best-in-class solutions you choose to deploy. So when you have the chance to tap into local buyers with services like NearSt, you're in a position to jump on it.

It also means being able to monitor changes in the market, like pricing, and rapidly respond, while using automated safety nets like margin and credit controls to remain profitable despite pricing fluctuations. When selecting your ERP system make sure you discuss capabilities like this to ensure your system is working as hard for you as it possibly can.

3. Humanity

No, we’re not going all Planet of the Apes on you. But it’s so important to remember that at the core of every successful business is its people. Technology is a vital and hugely powerful tool, but the way it is used it equally as important – to improve service, communication and connection. Even consumer giants like Samsung have singled out "humanity" as a core focus for the future so it would probably pay to pay attention.

Convenience is mighty powerful but there is still, or perhaps even a greater, need for great service. What that means, however, is shifting. Customers now have easier access to product information, price comparison and sourcing data than ever before, yet service will continue to set one merchant apart from another. Reliability, availability, fair pricing, considerate behaviour and effort will always be vital components of customer loyalty, and with online reviews more prevalent than ever, great customer service will still sit near the top of most merchant priority lists – because it’s at the top of their customers’.

New generations entering the “consumer” world are demonstrating that human values are not simply a set of CSR-friendly statements written on a website and forgotten about. The customers of tomorrow care about the ethics of the companies they buy from, and they expect to see valued lived, not merely spoken. That goes for sustainability just as much as it does for how businesses treat their people – while it may not be true for everyone, this is a movement to be ignored at your peril.

Customers aren’t the only people merchants need to be thinking about. Looking after their own people is just as vital. It’s been amazing to see how many merchants have been stepping up to help their staff in recent years, with the cost of living crisis particularly pertinent, but throughout the Covid crisis and beyond. Employees who feel valued, rewarded, heard and seen will always give more back than those who feel sidelined or undervalued.

In a world increasingly dominated by technology, by quick fixes and questionable facts, we believe that humanity – or human-ness – will be a key characteristic of the most successful businesses of the future.

4. Diversity

In all its glorious breadth, diversity is something to be embraced by merchants.

On the one hand, this encompasses the human interpretation, creating inclusive and equitable workplaces which cater for every person, no matter their age, ethnicity, religion, class, background, gender, sexuality or physical ability. It means pre-empting the differing needs of a diverse workforce and customer base, taking into account neurodiverse communities, and providing information and routes to market which do not exclude any sector or demographic. This is not easy and it’s worth investing in expert guidance and help to ensure your premises, website and all other areas of your business are as safe, inviting and accessible as possible to all. It also means embracing diverse thoughts and ideas, giving everyone a voice and an opportunity to use it.

Diversity also represents the diversifying options available to merchants; not just in terms of the stock profile or sectors you operate in, but also the routes to market, the options available in all areas of your business. Habit can be dangerous so if the go-to answer is "Because we've always done it that way" then it's probably time to hold up that mirror and start reflecting.

5. Technology

It would be totally remiss of us not to talk about technology, especially as it’s what underpins our entire offering. And while it can be vilified at times, when used right, technology has enormous power to do good for organisations, people and the environment. AI doesn't have to be the evil superpower taking our jobs - it can also be the brilliant sidekick helping us to do them even better.

Merchanting has something of a reputation for being old-fashioned in its adoption of technology. Clipboards and paper trails, trade desk conversations and word of mouth all have their place, the pandemic massively accelerated the need for, and adoption of, digital transformation. To be competitive and fully embrace the range of opportunities available to them, merchants need to be future-ready.

That doesn’t just mean having a snazzy website (though that can help!) It means choosing a future-fit, Cloud-based ERP system to keep all your business processes efficient and well-integrated. A system capable of evolution and agility, which can link up with emerging technologies and platforms to give you best-in-class options across every part of your business from finance to CRM to eCommerce to marketplace or social selling to analytics. It means choosing a system that can run on a mobile or tablet as easily as a desk-bound PC, a system that enables your people to work from where they are and keep the information up to date and synced.

There are so many new and emerging options for merchants it can be hard to keep up. From the “endless aisle” concepts of platforms like VirtualStock to the local market selling tools like NearSt, it will pay for merchants to keep a finger on the pulse of new tech.

Of course, technology is about more than online too, and there are loads of new ways for merchants to enhance the in-branch experience too. Product-browsing kiosks, mobile and handheld technology, integrated in-branch/online purchasing, 3D design modelling and sustainability calculation - it’s a very exciting space to be.

With an increasing reliance on digital platforms, the world of business is rushing forward into the future and merchants who are not prepared for the changes ahead will have a lot more challenges on their hands than those who proactively embrace the opportunities that technology has to offer.

A last note before you go

If you’re not 100% happy with your current system, are considering a digital system for the first time or would like to supplement the stock and trading capacities in your financials platform, Merchanter might be a great fit for your business.

To have an informal chat, or to register for our free online demo system, just fill out the contact form here and we’ll be in touch to help.


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