Fear of the unknown is common. As humans, we can be hardwired to avoid new things, whether that’s bungee jumping, trying out a new skill or tasting new food — simply because it’s easier to stay back in a safer, known space.
When it comes to technology, I’ve seen the same. Companies can get complacent, reluctant to invest in new technology because what they’ve currently got has worked for them thus far. So, why change?
It’s the old adage of not fixing what isn’t broken.
But what if it’s not necessarily that something is broken, but that what you currently have is holding you back? That the technology isn’t allowing you to jump on new opportunities as quickly as you should, isn’t providing the insights that would help you serve customers better, and is putting you farther behind your competitors?
Complacent thinkers are risk-averse. The past several years have shown that the future is unpredictable and the supply chain is unstable.
The distributors who are nimble and willing to take calculated risks are the ones who will succeed. Technology plays a key role in that.
3 Common Hesitancies
The three main hesitancies I hear from distributors about adopting new or updated technology fall into three buckets: cost, manpower and process. These are keeping them from moving forward.
It costs too much. Many distributors believe that technology is too expensive and there seems to always be another thing they have to purchase. They’re frustrated because they feel they can’t afford the technology they need to succeed.
But cloud-based solutions have made this assumption much less valid – as updates and advancements in functionality are generally a part of the package and much easier to implement as needed. The cloud also makes it easier to scale up and down and only pay for what you use.
There’s also the cost of doing nothing. In addition to what you can’t do for your customers because you didn’t invest, the people you’re hiring will get frustrated if you don’t provide a modern user experience. As Infor’s Mike Mazzoni told me in a recent webinar: Are we enabling the younger generation to work the way they live?
The other consideration? You’re keeping employees happy because you’re making their jobs easier, which in turn increases employee retention and reduces overhead for your business as they grow more efficient in their work.
We lack the manpower. The absence of manpower, or an IT team, can be mitigated through automation, such as electronic communication between your operations and your customers and vendors, automating integrations so that your systems talk and share data, and sharing information with customers.
Distributors can also partner with a reliable third-party provider that can customize a solution to best fit their specific needs and business goals. They’ll even help with the implementation, onboarding and training, and with the right solution you’ll experience automatic software updates and ongoing support from your vendor after launch.
Where do we even begin? This question has a simple answer: If you fear the start, work with people who do this for a living and who work with companies like yours. Multiple technology providers specialize in the distribution industry and know what’s worked (and what doesn’t) and what you need to move forward.
Why You Need to Break Free from Complacency
Once these hesitancies are obliterated, distributors will become more nimble, more successful and have happier employees and customers.
Here are some examples of ways that distributors have leveraged technology to operate more efficiently and compete more effectively:
- Providing an online experience for customers that meets them where they are.
- Applying AI-based tools to the buying process online and offline to increase average order size through cross-selling and upselling.
- Adopting cloud-based platforms that allow their teams to access data and applications wherever they are, whether that’s on the road visiting a customer or from home.
- Responding more quickly to real-time supply-chain conditions so they can pivot if shipping will be impacted or alert customers about potential delays.
- Boosting cybersecurity. According to Forbes, “2021 saw 50% more cyber-attacks per week on corporate networks compared to 2020.” No one is immune to the threat of data breaches and shutdowns. Both small and large businesses must protect themselves with the right technology.
- Recruiting talent with the technology experience that the next generation demands.
It’s time to run toward — and not away from — technology to improve your business, value proposition and the services you provide to customers. Regardless of where your company is on this journey, moving forward takes the courage to act, commitment to your vision and the willingness to take on some risk.
Consider these questions for your business:
- How can technology serve your business and your customers in the digital age? What’s your vision?
- How can technology change the role you will play in the supply chain?
- What technologies can you embrace to change the customer buying experience?
Dirk Beveridge is the founder of UNleashWD, Executive Producer at We Supply America, President of the Beveridge Consulting Group and Champion for the noble calling of distribution for over 36 years. His one-of-a-kind perspective on the future of wholesale distribution has guided his mission to advance the growth, relevance and transformation of the industry, helping distributors thrive. Learn more about Dirk by visiting WeSupplyAmerica.net.
Editor Note: Want to hear more from Dirk Beveridge? He will be one of many expert speakers at MDM’s in-person Digital & Analytics Summit on Sept. 26-27. The event comes out of the rescheduling of our June Sales Transformation Summit. Save the date! Same powerful content and speakers, including Dirk, Maria Boulden, Benj Cohen, co-host Mike Marks and others! Plus we’re expanding the conference with full content tracks on digital and data analytics. As we discuss in this podcast and all our platforms, every distribution company is in some degree of a business model transformation, which requires a hybrid sales model powered by digital and informed by data analytics. That’s our agenda for the September conference. Consider bringing your team to gain a shared vision for your journey. Stay tuned for more soon.