2. Connect with suppliers online
While online ordering and fulfillment is almost second nature to suppliers and consumers, a handful of outliers still rely on phone calls, checklists and — gasp — fax machines. In the restaurant industry, for example, many suppliers — farmers, fishermen, linen companies — take weekly orders by phone or fax.
Bluecart hopes to upend this model. “The two founders were in graduate school working with a major restaurant group in the DC area,” explains Dennis Tze, Bluecart chief commercial officer. “They saw chefs using clipboards with paper and pencil and calling suppliers at midnight to get the specials for the next day. There were lots of errors in orders. It was ripe for disruption.” Bluecart built a platform that, for a flat monthly fee, allowed suppliers to put inventories online and update delivery cutoff times and minimum quantities in real time.
For many, the ROI results justify the access fee. “Our suppliers have higher retention rates, faster processing times and over 10% increase in order size because now restaurants can see a supplier’s full product line-up — sometimes, for example, chefs didn’t know a supplier sold XYZ,” Tze says. “And there are better relationships because fewer errors are happening.”
Similar platforms are now rolling out to help small hardware and lumber companies better supply local contractors and small textile companies and furniture makers to connect with interior designers. Buyers may wistfully recall the days of chatting with suppliers over the phone, but no one will miss botched orders and upset customers.