A meeting more than a decade ago has spawned a relationship that continues to drive B2B innovation
Sometimes the most innocuous meetings can have the biggest impact. When two forces collide and the chemistry is right, the role kismet has played in bringing them together becomes a mere footnote.
That’s exactly the case for b2b.store (or RNF Digital as it was known) and Bestway Wholesale when they first crossed paths in 2012. A conversation about a prospective project transformed into a relationship lasting more than a decade that continues to push the boundaries of innovation in the wholesale sector.
Of course, that first meeting wasn’t purely down to chance. b2b.store had arranged an event to encourage businesses from a wide range of sectors to consider creating an app to boost their online sales and Bestway’s Head of Digital & eCommerce had come along to find out what that could mean for the wholesaler.
“We got chatting about what a Bestway app could look like and we struck up an immediate understanding,” recalls b2b.store CEO Rob Mannion. “Following that initial meeting, we worked with several members of the team, including Dawood Pervez [who is now Bestway’s Managing Director], to nail the brief.
“At that time, my knowledge of wholesale wasn’t that strong and our business had never worked on a solution before for this industry. But an app for Bestway’s customers just made perfect sense and opened our eyes to the size of the opportunity that existed in wholesale in general.”
While a pivot into a wholesale specialism was now written into b2b.store’s future, the first challenge was to make sure the Bestway solution was tailored to their exact needs. This was one of the UK’s biggest food and drink wholesalers, supplying thousands of convenience retail stores around the UK, so the heat was on to make sure their first voyage into the world of apps was a success.
A B2B ordering app had several requirements a consumer-facing platform didn’t need, including the abilities to offer payment on account, bulk ordering, and to buy by different units such as weight. Account management was also more important, as was the need to offer credit control functions.
The release of the completed app was a seminal moment – and not just for b2b.store and Bestway. In fact, the end result was such a success, some industry figures still talk about “the Bestway app” as the gold standard today.
“The app we created with Bestway was truly innovative, not just for wholesale but grocery as a whole,” says Rob. “At the time, we had a functionally stronger app than the big multiples like Tesco and Sainsbury’s, offering options such as barcode scanning and a full offline mode.
“The landscape was different back then and you couldn’t rely on having connection to the internet in the same way you can today, so we had to cover more bases than we would if we were starting a new app project today. In the end, it was those extras that made Bestway’s app stand out.
“Bestway were already industry leaders as one of the biggest and best cash and carry operators in convenience retail, now they were replicating that in the digital space with our app. The game was changing for wholesalers with the growth of online ordering and our solution was at the forefront of that.”
A decade on and there’s been no let-up in the quest for innovation since then. The app has continued to evolve, with various updates of different sizes keeping Bestway ahead of the curve. Among them, the advent of push notifications, in-app marketing and customer segmentation made the biggest impact.
But the innovations didn’t end there. Together, b2b.store and Bestway ran trials on the use of Bluetooth beacons in depots and a pilot for in-store navigation as the duo constantly explored what the next big thing in wholesale would be.
More recently, Bestway became the first to roll out b2b.store’s B2B WhatsApp solution across their estate to create a channel for more than 20,000 retailers to engage with marketing messages. The b2b.store and Bestway partnership are already building on that base to explore further developments, such as one-tap ordering within WhatsApp and a long list of other industry firsts.
“The relationship works so well because both sides are constantly bringing new ideas to the table and we can learn from each other – that ability to share with each other is key,” Rob adds.
“Personnel sometimes changes, but there’s now this culture and understanding that b2b.store and Bestway are on the same page and can always do something special when we put our heads together. As anyone who has been working in business for a long time knows, that’s rare.”
That special relationship now has deep roots. And they reach back to a meeting that could easily have passed by without significance. It must have been written in the stars.