In the latest edition of its highly influential series, Facing the Forces of Change, The National Association of Wholesaler-Distributors (NAW) discusses many of the disruptions facing those in the Wholesale and Distribution industries. In a prior post, we took a macro-level view of the whole study. Here, we will look at technological changes that are having a major impact on the industry.

Digital Commerce

What It Is: Technology has worked its way into every aspect of our lives. Consumers expect information at their fingertips and the ability to act on that information in an instant. Business-to-business e-commerce mirrors these changes. Customers demand intuitive and easy-to-use experiences that are consistent, whether it be face-to-face salespeople, phone, mobile device, vending machine, website, fax, and counter sales.

What You Can Do: The ongoing battle to implement and upgrade your e-commerce activities has to be a part of an overall strategy. Consider gathering and analyzing website usage and traffic, and providing chat or phone connections for website visitors to your call center. Try to provide a seamless purchasing experience across all platforms.

Ask Yourself: Where are our customers physically located when they place orders with us? (At a desk? On the road? On a plant floor? In a field?) What type of devices are they using? (Phone? Desktop computer? Mobile device?) Is their experience consistent across these channels?

Analytics for the Wholesaler-Distributor

What It Is: The amount of type of data that can be gathered is nearly limitless. Overloading yourself with too much data can be counter-productive. However, choosing the right mix of relevant information can be game-changing.

What You Can Do: One application of data analytics is in pricing optimization. NAW’s research suggests that wholesale distributors are getting worse at this pivotal activity which creates competition disruption opportunities. Consider implementing pricing analytics to ensure you are not missing the mark on pricing strategy.

Ask Yourself: Do we have the information, both internal and external, to perform the necessary analytics? Do we have the proper skills and tools?

Cloud Computing for the Wholesaler-Distributor

What It Is: Cloud computing is the ability to use centralized data centers to deliver IT application for use over a network. These systems provide more access to better systems and programs, for small companies in particular.

What You Can Do: Utilizing cloud computing can generate economies of scale and make available efficient and effective IT services. Investigate how these services could improve both your internal operations, and the customer experience of your digital presence.

Ask Yourself: Is information such as price, inventory availability, terms, and conditions coming from a single source, or do we have multiple sources that require synchronization? How vulnerable are our critical data systems to unauthorized access?

The Internet of Things for the Wholesaler-Distributor

What It Is: The Internet of Things is a network of physical objects that are embedded with digital sensors and other electronic components that gather, store, and analyze data.

What You Can Do: The Internet of Things enables unique service offerings that can provide very powerful differentiation from competitors. These include: condition monitoring (temperature, humidity, etc.), performance-based maintenance, predictive maintenance, uptime guarantees, outcome-based equipment-as-a-service (payment for use of equipment based on amount of usage), and many more.

Ask Yourself: Where do we see the Internet of Things providing opportunities for customers in our line of trade? What actions should we take to secure a leadership position? What skills are required?

Technology will continue to be a source of constant change and disruption. Companies that take a leading role in actively seeking and implementing effective new technologies will lead the way in their industry. Finding new applications for these technologies to meet customers’ needs and expectations in novels ways will help you navigate through these “Seas of Disruption.”

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If you have any additional questions or would like to discuss the Facing the Forces of Change: the Constant Flow of Technology Disruption more in depth, please contact a Barnes Dennig Representative here.