Distributors that lack a digital strategy can find themselves falling behind their competitors as e-commerce and other digital platforms become more important to customers. Linda Taddonio of InsiteCommerce discusses the need to develop a digital strategy and ways to jumpstart the development of that strategy in the recent MDM Webcast, Navigating the Digital Landscape for Distribution.
This article is an exclusive summary of the webcast, which is available on-demand and on DVD at mdm.com/digital-landscape.
Only the fittest companies survive, so distributors facing a technology deficit need to shape up or suffer the consequences. An effective, efficient way to assess any e-commerce deficiencies and remedy them is by executing a transformational “digital boot camp.”
That’s the message Linda Taddonio, co-founder and e-commerce strategy officer of InsiteCommerce, delivered during the MDM Webcast, Navigating the Digital Landscape for Distribution.
Because up to 90 percent of people do their product research online, Taddonio said, e-commerce is as crucial as supply chain management and pricing for any distributor that wants to remain relevant in today’s marketplace.
“If you don’t have the product content that would allow someone who comes to your website to get the information that they want and need about the products that you sell, you can probably bet they’re going to go somewhere else until they get what they’re looking for,” Taddonio said. “This is a huge challenge for distributors.”
“More than half of executives believe that digital technologies are a major driver of business strategy,” said Taddonio “…Only one-third of executives believe that their (digital strategy) approach is correct, and just 21 percent believe that the right people are setting the strategy in the first place.” In addition, she says that fewer than one in six executives believe their firms have the ability to execute the digital strategies they do have.
“It sounds like chaos,” she said. “It sounds like we really don’t have digital strategies leading the way.”
Taddonio said current market conditions require a distributor to commit fully to technology or risk losing market share to competitors that have made a robust digital presence their top priority.
“Digital is now central to your business,” Taddonio said. “It can’t be executed on the side anymore. We’re talking more and more in the marketplace about having a ‘digital-first’ mindset. That’s where the opportunities are. If your organization is held hostage by old ways of thinking, it’s really of the utmost importance to burst out of that.”
But this approach, she noted, can be daunting. It requires everything from education, program execution and internal goal-setting, followed by top-down delivery from the board of directors through the executive ranks and throughout the entire organization.
Yet creating an effective digital strategy doesn’t always require major business model shifts, large capital investments or countless man hours. Taddonio explains a more agile, quicker way to begin pursuing this goal – to begin the healing process before the technology deficit becomes a more serious malady.
Taddonio champions a digital boot camp spearheaded by a digital innovation team. She said this group can be composed of three or four stakeholders from inside the company, specifically from the technology, marketing, operations and finance departments. It also requires outside stakeholders – what she called “passionate experts” – in technology, marketing and operations.
The digital boot camp does exactly what it says: trains an organization to think about technology in a new way while preparing it for doing business in the right manner.
Taddonio lays out steps for executing a digital strategy boot camp:
- Draft a technology landscape – current and near future state.
- Draft an integration plan to core backend systems.
- Identify your personas and prioritize their digital enablement.
- Review marketing requirements/opportunities for the first phase.
- Review resource allocations/needs.
- Craft a plan to acquire and manage product content.
- Set goals and a timeframe in which to achieve them.
- Use outside experts.
- Revisit every four to six months to keep the evolution alive and increase speed.
Carried out with deliberation and dedication, the boot camp can transform a company’s digital presence.
“The organizations that we work with who say ‘Within this period of time, we are going to do X,’ and they put the technology in place to do that, they put the marketing programs in place to do that, they align their operations to do that, most of them get there,” Taddonio said. “And a lot of them exceed it.”
The bottom line for distributors: Learn to navigate the ever-changing digital landscape now or get left behind when customers invariably find a competitor that will.
Access the MDM Webcast, Navigating the Digital Landscape for Distribution, on-demand at mdm.com/digital-landscape.