From Internet of Things (IoT)-connected factories to distributors’ customer relationship management (CRM) systems to service supply contractors’ workload management software, technology is transforming every component of the supply chain. It’s also transforming how each link in the chain interacts.
Technology is helping organizations become more efficient, allowing them to increase profits in the absence of top-line sales growth. Digital tools are enabling better communication between supply chain partners, allowing them to better predict and meet customer demand and demonstrate their value. Technology is also meeting customers’ demands for an integrated digital shopping experience.
Many distributors I’ve worked with as well as other segments of the industry view the arrival of the digital age with dread and resistance. Those that do will find it challenging to keep or grow market share in the coming years. But those that view the improved availability (and affordability) of business technology not even as a challenge but an opportunity will be better equipped to survive digital disruption.
Below are five ways to thrive—not just survive—in the digital age.
- Empower younger workers. Millennials and Gen Zers get a bad rap as being lazy or having unreasonably high expectations regarding pay. Instead of alienating the newest members of their ranks, organizations should ensure these young professionals are earning their pay by getting them involved in new technology identification and implementation. When you recruit the younger generations’ help in selecting and implementing new technology, you may uncover unexpected enthusiasm and work ethic, and new technology adoption will go more smoothly.
- Use technology to streamline processes. It takes time to implement new technology, but you’ll quickly recover those lost hours thanks to the new efficiencies you’ll enjoy. You can cut down the time your outside sales reps spend writing orders by embracing e-commerce, including punch-outs of your enterprise resource planning (ERP) system. You can also reduce the number of questions you receive from new and existing customers by making your website a better informational resource. These are just a couple of examples, but there are many more.
- Use technology to help customers meet their goals. If you’re a distributor, you could support your customers’ sustainability and cost-reduction goals by suggesting ways they can reduce fuel consumption or save time. Providing access to routing or inventory management software can help your customers become more efficient, and in turn, give them more reasons to do business with you. If you are a building service contractor (BSC) or in-house management, take advantage of new technologies from robotic floor machines to workloading software to make your jobs easier, profit margins higher, and customers happier.
- Be strategic about adopting technology. Just because Amazon or one of your largest competitors has access to certain technology doesn’t mean you need to adopt it, too. If you become obsessed with getting new technology capabilities without understanding why you need them or how to best implement them, you’ll always be behind the curve, and you’ll never be able to offer your customers anything different.
- Get to know your customer base. Review your ERP and CRM data to gain customer insight; talk to your customers to ensure you understand their challenges and priorities. When it comes down to it, ultimately, it doesn’t matter what your competitors are doing or what new technologies consultants like myself are talking about. It only matters what your customers need and want—so start there.