A Coffee With...BigBuy: The unconventional wholesaler that conquered Europe!

March 9, 2023 by
Frank Calviño

BigBuy is an oddball, and with over 100 million euros in yearly turnover, a remarkably successful oddball, we might add. As a wholesaler, they handle over 200,000 different products but are also developing their own brands. And in only ten years, they have expanded into the entirety of Europe due to a combination of an extensive product catalog and even more extensive logistic expertise. 

To pinpoint BigBuy’s precise business model is difficult. As a wholesaler, it offers its customers the same reduced price for single units as for bulk products. It can run the whole fulfillment for its customers—including the warehouse logistics and last-mile delivery—and specializes in e-commerce, particularly inside the European market.

By all means, it’s not your traditional wholesaler, that’s for sure. And today, we have the opportunity to talk to Salvador Esteve, BigBuy co-founder and current CEO, to learn a bit more about the fantastic growth of this Spanish company. 

A hobby that sparked an idea 

Salvador, before we delve deeper into your cross-border strategy, let’s talk briefly about BigBuy. Because I understand it’s a pretty unique business model. 

“Yes, it is. We consider ourselves a wholesale platform specialized in supplying products, but also in offering logistic technology, business expansion support, and training to companies working in the online channel,” says Salvador 

“When we say that BigBuy is much more than a wholesale platform, it is because we have a lot of technology behind us, and we offer something broader than a traditional wholesaler. Normally, a wholesaler cannot offer the technical support we can offer at a logistics level besides the products. So yes, we do consider ourselves a bit of an odd wholesaler because of our broader spectrum of services and also because our retailers are solely and exclusively online.” 

How is that? Don’t you have any traditional brick-and-mortar stores as clients? 

“Honestly… I don’t think so. Our customers sell online. Whether using e-commerce, marketplaces, online platforms, social networks social media, or online catalog sale platforms, mostly linked to loyalty programs. But they all sell online.”

That’s a pretty niche way of doing wholesale. Is it working for you? 

“Not only is it working, but to be honest, I actually think that it is the key to our success! We are a different wholesaler because we are a wholesaler that specializes exclusively in supplying e-commerce. And that gives us an amazing competitive advantage.” 

What kind of business model do you offer to your customers? 

“There are two ways our customers buy from us. The first one is the Dropshipping service. This service allows our customers to ship directly to the final consumer without having to have stock, a warehouse, or having to negotiate with brands or anything like that,” explains Salvador

“The logistics and supply chain is handled by BigBuy. And all they have to do is sell to the final customer. This represents huge savings in time, resources, and money for our clients. This format, the dropshipping format, corresponds to more or less 80% of our turnover. The remaining 20% corresponds to companies that also sell online, but they buy wholesale from us in a traditional way.”

Can you tell us a bit about BigBuy’s history? 

“We started in Valencia, Spain, in 2010. My partner and I decided to launch an e-commerce gift shop as a hobby. At the time, we still had our day jobs. In the first year, we had a turnover of 100,000 euros. Then a million. Then we transformed it to B2B, and in 2012, we realized that there was a need in the market to create a wholesale platform with a wide catalog. And that this wide catalog platform could also be multi-brand and offer the option to small retail customers of a series of services such as synchronized stores, dropshipping service, integration APIs, localization technology, and translation into 24 languages.”

“That’s how we started, and to date, we offer synchronized stores, dropshipping service, integration APIs, and localization in the 24 main languages of the European Union. This Pan-European approach has allowed us to grow exponentially outside of Spain, and currently, 95% of our turnover comes precisely from outside Spain. We have over 100 million euros in turnover for the entire BigBuy group of companies.” 

Ten years to conquer Europe 

BigBuy expansion has been remarkably fast. In only ten years, the company has created a network of clients and customers that spans all over Europe, both as a region and as the European Union. And all the logistics are carried out from one single location, their main warehouses in Valencia, Spain. 

So, in just 10 years, you have expanded globally, correct?

“Yes. Well... mainly, we are very strong in Europe. We also have customers outside Europe. But our strength is in Europe and the European Union. And then outside Europe, we also sell, but the product outside Europe normally faces logistical problems and certification issues because these products are prepared for European regulations.” 

Which one would you say are the key factors to BigBuy’s successful business model? 

“Our business model is very simple: To offer the highest quality of service, product, and logistics technology to our customers. To achieve this, the first thing we have to have is a catalog of quality products that is also very broad, and we currently have almost 200,000 references from more than 5,000 brands.”

“That makes us the only wholesaler in Europe—and possibly in the world—that has the capacity to send you 200,000 references in a single shipment and pay a single freight charge. Because we have all references, absolutely all, in stock in our main warehouses of 20,000 square meters in Valencia, and that is another of BigBuy’s secrets: All orders and all merchandise depart from the same point with the same logistics.”

“And we have everything so well connected that we can link the intra-logistics part of our warehouse with the services we offer to customers. For example, we can integrate the entire network of couriers and transport agencies that we use for the benefit of our clients. That’s why we say we are a technology wholesaler as well.”

How does this work? Could you please elaborate a bit, with an example, perhaps? 

“Sure. For example, when a customer of ours is making a sale in Stockholm with DHL, to mention one logistic company, and has a problem with the delivery, in less than 15 minutes, a notification appears in the BigBuy dashboard so that we can immediately address the problem with the final customer.”

A wholesaler that provides the logistic and market know-how  

BigBuy’s defining characteristic is to offer a wholesome solution for any e-commerce. It’s a combination of a wholesaler, a fulfillment center, a last-mile delivery company, and a sort of advisory to properly localize or sell products into new markets. This mix-match service and product combination is the competitive advantage of BigBuy, and Salvador flaunts it with understandable pride. 

So, as a wholesaler of products, you are kind of a logistics company in disguise? Is that right? 

“Yes, that’s true! One of the most important things about BigBuy is the technology part. And that technological part goes from A to Z. It’s the whole process of selling online. Starting with the creation of the product and its localization, continuing through the storage logistics, the packaging and delivery, and on to the final step: the tracking services that we offer to the final consumer. Custom-developed technology in which we have everything under control. We have complete tracking of where our packages go, from the start of the chain to the final customer. And also, all of that information is available in the BigBuy dashboard.”

If I were a small entrepreneur setting up my own e-commerce, why should I choose BigBuy? What is your competitive advantage? 

“One thing we haven’t mentioned is that in terms of opening new markets, we know in which countries we have to disconnect which things—from a logistic perspective—and in which countries some things can be done and what other things cannot. We not only give you the product, but we also offer you the technology and the know-how.”

But, if I’m a small entrepreneur, does it make sense for me to go with a wholesaler like you? 

“We are an atypical wholesale platform because we offer wholesale prices even in single units. If an entrepreneur wants to dropship with us, they can buy a single unit, and we would give them the wholesale price and the dropshipping service.”

Being an expert on the European market, I can hardly pass the opportunity of asking you what your honest opinion is concerning the EU and European market integration as a whole. Is it true that Europe is a cohesive market? 

“Not at all. Europe is totally fragmented. In the European community, there are 26 cultures, and 26 fiscal and commercial directions that are trying to unite, but they are not really cohesive. You can’t think of Europe as a single unified market. That’s not true. Even when we do use—mostly—the same currency: the Euro. But legislations are different, logistic infrastructure is different, and obviously, language and culture are wide and different, sometimes even inside the same country,” Salvador explains.

What would you say is the key element to control if you wish to succeed in Europe? 

“I think it would be localization. To sell a product in Slovakia, you need to have your e-commerce in Slovak, and you need to be able to explain, interact and communicate with your potential customers in Slovakia using both their language and their culture. That’s the reason why we spend over 300,000 euros yearly on native translations of our product catalog. To guarantee an effective localization of our products and services.” 

Aiming for new regions, new products, and new services

In the near future, BigBuy aims to achieve three different milestones. First, to develop itself into new regions: South America, the USA, and Asia seem to be their next targets. Secondly, Salvador also wants to turn into a sort of “product-package,” their combination of wholesale, logistics, and know-how. And sell it as a standardized service of BigBuy. And lastly, BigBuy has launched its own brand of products, InnovaGoods. 

We know that you have launched an entirely new brand, InnovaGoods. Can you tell us a little bit about this? 

“We have our own brand named InnovaGoods, and that allows us to go directly to the manufacturers and get very competitive costs. This has given us the opportunity to position ourselves at very competitive prices in the market while keeping good quality. Currently, we are entering several physical retail chains like Carrefour, Aldi, and a lot of European physical retail chains. It’s also great for attracting customers who start by buying InnovaGoods from us and then see the full catalog and go on to buy other products as well.”

What plans do you have for BigBuy’s future? 

“The first thing we are going to do is to take advantage of all the know-how we have developed. Everything we know about logistics and e-commerce. We want to use all this to offer a B2C complete service to brands that want to expand in Europe, brands that only sell on Amazon but want to expand into other channels, or brands that are in a single country but want to reach all of Europe.” 

“On the other hand, we are also going to expand to other continents, taking advantage of the same technology and what we have developed in Europe. Our focus is on Latin America, the United States, and Asia.”

Any words of advice for an entrepreneur that perhaps is reading this?

“I would like to say that when we started, about ten or eleven years ago, it was relatively easy, if you knew the basics, to create e-commerce that could be successful. But, since the rise of Amazon—which has managed to be a retail producer and distributor at the same time—online commerce has been transformed. And traditional brick-and-mortar retailers were forced to start selling to the end consumer online.”

“Today, everyone sells online. And that demands that those who want to be successful be very flexible to learn and adapt super fast to a super competitive market. So yes, be efficient, be flexible, and learn fast. That would be my advice.” 

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