AI, Meet My Best Friend, Data - Modern Distribution Management

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AI, Meet My Best Friend, Data

AI is already fueling next-gen sales models, but data analytics are the foundation to better engage, sell and service customer needs. Here’s the growth roadmap MDM is exploring at our Data Analytics Summit.
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Flying monkeys still scare me. But I also have fond memories this time of year thinking about the first time I saw the Wizard of Oz (a perennial go-to holiday film). I’m feeling the same way about AI nowadays. 

MDM is hosting our final event of the year this week, our virtual Data Analytics Summit, this Wednesday, Dec. 6. And while AI is not the main event (watch for more on our virtual AI Summit Feb. 7), I know it will be part of the conversation as our focus across three modules and five-plus hours of presentation and distributor-manufacturer panels (we’re devoting more time to hear from practitioners than presenters). View the agenda and save a seat now. It’s live and on-demand; sessions are available for the next 60 days. MDM Premium Members and SHIFT conference attendees receive complimentary registration. 

We’re in this early phase of the AI hype cycle where we’ve got this wizard behind the curtain, pulling levers to create thunder and lightning, an incredible show that also has the potential to spin out some destructive tornados. Then we have Toto, I mean data, that pulls back the curtain to reveal… a different side of the wizard. 

I’m fracturing a fairy tale here, to be sure. AI is already embedded in highly productive ways across every part of the supply chain today. Distributors have leveraged machine learning to optimize customer service, pricing strategy, sales and marketing, logistics and more. More often now a conversation about AI today includes a version of this: “I don’t know if it’s machine learning or AI we’re using, and I’m not sure it really makes a difference, but we’re improving our (fill in the blank).”

Our conference covers best practice on the strategic and tactical use of data analytics to fuel growth: customer retention and wallet expansion as well as market growth. Modules include customer stratification and cost-to-serve; supplier stratification and channel optimization; market development and wallet-share analytics. 

We are also highlighting Fastenal’s formula for profitable growth in my conversation with Fastenal CFO Holden Lewis. No other publicly traded distributor has a stronger track record of organic growth over the past ten years. We’ll explore the data-driven strategy, execution and culture that’s produced that level of sustained revenue and profit performance. 

Editor’s note: Lewis has been in his role with Fastenal for about seven of the 10 years of their transformation journey. Read this Fastenal three-part analysis by John Gunderson recently in MDM that highlights the key transformation pivots they made to fuel their growth; register for the Data Analytics Summit for deeper commentary.

Data Strategy Drives Stronger Growth

Data analytics are not as sexy as AI. But without a clear data strategy, you won’t be able to leverage AI as well as competitors with a cleaner and healthier data infrastructure. You’ll also be at higher risk of garbage-in, garbage-out nightmares, like flying-monkey chatbots for example.

Every company’s data are messy – that’s the nature of a portfolio of legacy databases that have been modified, bolted onto and rewired multiple times. As you’ll hear from more than one panelist or speaker at the summit, it’s time to move from talking about data to elevating and implementing. 

My special thanks to the data champion panelists sharing their expertise Wednesday from the following leaders in data analytics: Gibson Engineering, Mansfield Service Partners, McNaughton-McKay Electric Company, PRESSCO Electrical Agency, Schneider Electric, Torrco, and Turtle. And to our session leaders from ACTVantage, Dorn Group and Profit Optics. Please join us or register to access the recorded sessions.

With sales channels more complex than ever, data analytics are now the competitive differentiator for customer retention and revenue expansion. It’s not a wizard behind a curtain flipping an AI switch. AI is a turbocharger, a powerful tool. No matter where you are on your data analytics path, the insights and discussions by leading data analytics practitioners sharing their experience at our Data Analytics Summit can help you strengthen your data strategy and tactics.

I firmly believe in the potential of AI as a yellow-brick road; those pretty pavers are data.

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