Vori, the digital B2B operating system optimizing the grocery supply chain, is a venture-funded startup, originally launched in 2019 out of East Palo Alto, Calif., by Stanford alumni. Its technology platform and digital marketplace replaces pen-and-paper and other fragmented and labor-intensive ordering processes, making it easier than ever for grocery retailers to communicate and transact with suppliers to replenish store inventory across their entire supply chain network.
The inspiration for Vori came from the parents of Vori co-founder and CEO Brandon Hill, who spent their careers in the grocery and consumer packaged goods (CPG) industry. They knew first-hand how these verticals lagged in digital transformation, and how traditional, manual and analog processes held back independent and natural grocers and SMB suppliers trying to compete with industry titans. “Vori is a marketplace and platform that provides the tools needed to unlock digital transformation within the grocery industry,” says Robert Pinkerton, Vori co-founder and CTO. “We make it possible for grocery store department buyers or managers to simply walk their shelves, scan an item, and know which vendor they ordered it from in the past. If the item is out of stock our app helps them discover alternatives at the time of inventory purchase—reducing the time it takes to replenish inventory by up to 80% and improving fill rates.”
“We also make it easy for grocers to receive products and reconcile orders from their suppliers within their back-office systems,” Pinkerton adds. “This helps unlock data insights about what products are trending and supports wall-to-wall inventory management and forecasting as you reorder.”
Enabling connectivity and automation
How does TrueCommerce connectivity and integration expertise support Vori’s mission to become “the modern operating system for the global food supply chain?” “We had two needs in a partner. First, we needed a way to provide EDI communication. Second, we needed production quality ERP API integrations between our retailers and suppliers. These two things allow us to facilitate robust, secure and automated transactions like purchase orders, catalog and inventory updates as well as invoices between retailers and suppliers on the Vori platform, so that both parties can get the most accurate information,” Pinkerton says.
TrueCommerce not only gives Vori end-to-end EDI capability, but also EDI integrations compatible with an exceptional range of ERP/accounting systems that are popular within the grocery supply chain, as well as leading digital marketplaces and e-commerce platforms.
With TrueCommerce technology under the hood, Vori offers its customers full-featured collaboration and automation using integrated EDI to connect their business systems.
Moving at startup velocity
Before choosing TrueCommerce as its integration and connectivity partner, Vori’s executive team evaluated all major EDI players. “We were looking for a partner that could move at an early-stage, venture-backed startup’s velocity,” Pinkerton shares. “TrueCommerce was willing and able to help us onboard new suppliers and retailers within weeks as opposed to months, and to create this novel web of integrations.”
“Typically, an EDI vendor provides a one-to-one connection between retailers and suppliers,” says Pinkerton. “With Vori, it’s a multiplex connection where we sit in the middle and facilitate communication between any retailer and any supplier.”
This transformation has been happening at startup speed.
“TrueCommerce helped us roll out this novel solution in record time,” Pinkerton adds. “They were willing to adapt to the needs of our users’ journeys, where Vori owns the customer relationship and TrueCommerce is the integration provider and facilitator. The result has been valuable to our user base.”
Better visibility reduces out of stocks
By facilitating automated, accurate communication, Vori solves multiple problems for grocery retailers and suppliers.
“Many grocery retailers previously had no access to this world of EDI communication,” says Pinkerton. “Vori gives them a level of order visibility that they didn’t have in the past. Now they can quickly get answers to questions like, ‘What did I order from that supplier last time?’ ‘What on my order was left off?’ ‘What mis-picks were in my order?’”
Vori also lets grocers see what’s in stock in the supplier’s warehouse, lets them pick alternative products from their preferred suppliers when needed, and discover new products through Vori’s universal search. That means more stock on the shelves, leading to increased sales.
“Previously this all would require manual processes like uploading and parsing a flat file or exchanging emails, which we all know is not efficient and is often an action taken long after the supplier loses the sale.” Pinkerton adds. “The overall better visibility, traceability and communication in a digital world that you get with Vori and TrueCommerce is the key benefit here.”
More distributor options, thanks to EDI
Besides improving visibility and traceability for ordering, Vori’s EDI component opens the door to new business relationships within the grocery supply chain. “National distributors that require EDI connections won’t work with you unless you can speak their language,” Pinkerton says. “Through TrueCommerce, we enable our customers to speak that language. Our ability to now bring mainline vendors and distributors onto the Vori platform makes us a full-store solution for ordering.”
“Additionally, many small businesses in the grocery industry have long wanted access to EDI, but for cost or technical reasons it wasn’t on their roadmap,” Pinkerton notes. “Vori now makes EDI easy, simple and achievable for them.”
Labor cost savings for vendors and distributors
By automating previously ad hoc tasks, the Vori/TrueCommerce solution streamlines order management for vendors and distributors as well as grocery retailers.
“While it’s painful for grocery retailers to order products from hundreds of discrete suppliers, it’s also painful for the suppliers to receive orders and payments from hundreds of retailers that are not communicating by digital means,” adds Pinkerton. “They’re sending emails and faxes, calling the order desk, texting sales reps…the list goes on and on.”
With the partnership, the process changes drastically. “Now a distributor can say, ‘Hey, all my retailers, get on Vori,’ and they can communicate over a single pipe that’s effectively automated,” Pinkerton says. “This really reduces the workload.”
Helping mom-and-pop shops rise up
Independent local grocers and other small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs) in the grocery supply chain face an uphill competitive fight in the era of major omnichannel grocery retailers like Amazon’s Whole Foods. Many don’t have the margins to invest in cutting-edge IT—if any tools are even available to meet their unique needs. With Vori comes a technology solution that was not only created especially for the grocery industry, but also has its roots in that same industry.
“Vori is a low-cost, easy-to-use, streamlined way for independent and local grocery stores to improve their capabilities,” Pinkerton says. “We’re a facilitator for innovation. Now grocery retailers can have better eCommerce offerings through deeper understanding of inventory within their stores. They can have the best selection of unique local and regional products that their communities love and thrive on. They can now do the most with their labor force, which is very difficult in this industry.”
The data insights in Vori help SMBs find new ways to drive sales and improve margins.
Building the business
By expanding their offering to include integrated EDI, Vori is already realizing a notable revenue increase, which will only grow along with the platform’s transaction volume. Currently, about 20% of the total order volume on the Vori platform is transacted via TrueCommerce. This percentage is expected to increase significantly over time.
“Several dozens” of Vori users are utilizing TrueCommerce-based services today, according to Pinkerton. These include independent retailers like Berkeley Bowl Marketplace, Rocky’s Market and Woodlands Markets, as well as vendors and distributors like KeHE, Sunridge Farms, SF Naturals, and Rock Island Refrigerated Distributors.
Partnership with TrueCommerce, whose global network includes over 160,000 pre-connected retailers, distributors, and logistics service providers, means more than revenue gains for Vori and the communities they serve.
“These connections help unlock the future of Vori and the food supply chain,” says Pinkerton. “As we’re scaling out right now, as we’re onboarding these larger distributors, as we’re becoming the full-store solution for a lot of our retailers—all this is achievable for us as an early-stage startup because of the TrueCommerce relationship.”
The partnership ROI has been both fast and tangible.
“Our investment in TrueCommerce paid for itself as soon as it was live in production and we were able to onboard new customers like KeHE and other suppliers and retailers,” Pinkerton adds. “They’ve certainly done a great job for us.”
The partnership is also helping both Vori and TrueCommerce expand their food industry ecosystem footprint.
“People want to be able to trust their providers,” Pinkerton says. “When you’re giving over responsibility for something so foundational as communication with your grocery retail customers and your order flow, you need to have a steadfast partner there. Because that is your business at the end of the day.”