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March 10 2023

Why a four-day week in wholesale isn’t as crazy as it sounds

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Digital efficiencies could provide the answer for any major business changes, says b2b.store CEO

As a business owner, the recent discussion about a four-day week hasn’t failed to grab my attention – and not just because running my own company makes the notion of a five-day week sound like a luxury.

For a lot of sectors, including wholesale, the idea of shaving a day off the working week just doesn’t seem feasible to a point that the conversation becomes a mere flight of fancy. Around-the-clock service is crucial; margins are so low, taking on extra cost isn’t possible; and any productivity gains are lost immediately if opening hours are reduced.

But there might be a way to make a four-day week more realistic for wholesalers. And it comes by embracing technology.

Efficiencies sit at the heart of any debate about cutting work time, and making gains across the entire company to ease the physical burden placed on employees is something that’s already in a wholesaler’s gift – whether it’s investing in warehouse automation, back-office tech or finding new ways to bring money into your business.

One of the areas our customers have found more time in their business is by adopting online ordering. The more cynical ones of you will think I’m bound to advocate this, but the efficiencies speak for themselves.

One customer told me online ordering has saved him two or three hours a day because orders are automatically in the system and ready to be picked when his team arrives to work in the morning, whereas previously they’d start the day inputting orders left on an answerphone before they could start picking.

This is a common issue wholesalers face that 24/7 online ordering solves. Having analysed 649,000 customer transactions, we know a large proportion of orders are completed outside of office hours, so adopting technology is an immediate time saver and bypasses a barrier to purchase.

There are also solutions that can further improve the sales order process. Some of the warehouse augmented reality may still seem like something from Back to the Future, although many wholesalers are using handheld scanners that will plot the most-efficient route for a picker to take around the warehouse.

There’s similar tech out there for logistical planning to cut down on the time – and cost – of making deliveries too. Working in unison, it’s easy to see how the aggregate efficiencies would make quite a dent on the time spent to fulfil an order.

There are affordable solutions for other business functions as well. At b2b.store, we’ve devised a use for our B2B WhatsApp module that will send automatic payment reminders to customers to cut down on the human time spent chasing account receivables – something anybody who’s ever done this task will know is very time-intensive.

B2B WhatsApp also offers the option to send marketing digitally, cutting down on the coordination, printers’ checks and fulfilment of physical collateral, while incremental revenues gained with digital advertising could be used to bring more cash into a business to fund the efficiencies. 

In short, look hard enough and you’ll find ways to cut down on the time needed in the business.

Theoretically, the effective deployment of digital solutions would be an extremely important component of a business offering a four-day week to staff by being able to reduce time and stagger schedules to fit. 

The reality, though, is a little different, especially in an industry like wholesale, yet the premise of the idea remains the same. 

Technology can create efficiencies throughout a business and that resulting time and cost saving make some of the ideas that initially seem impossible, more possible – whether that’s a four-day week or not.