The last 12 to 24 months have been an incredible whirlwind of technological advances in the distribution industry. Developers are coming up with incredibly innovative solutions to some of the stickiest problems distributors face, including how we sell, where we sell, and how we cater to our customers.
No matter what the goal you’re trying to achieve, there’s a technology out there now to automate it, make it more efficient, provide better service, and improve your reputation with customers, all at the same time.
Out come the rose-colored glasses; you start to have visions of how the same technologies would improve your business. If Amazon can experience so much growth after adding in a “LiveExpert” button, shouldn’t you follow suit? If Wish.com can gamify Daily Deals, won’t that work for you, too?
The One-Size-Fits-All Software Fallacy
There’s always a catch, isn’t there? Too much of any one thing is always an undesirable thing, even when it comes to distribution management software technology. And “too much, too fast” is certainly how many distributors are feeling when they’re faced with the many new e-commerce platform options available on the market today.
To add to the stress, there’s also an unjustifiably prevalent notion that businesses who don’t adopt advanced e-commerce systems like their competitors are inherently less competitive or “lesser than.” Bleeding-edge developers will convince you that if you don’t dive in head-first, you’re doomed to failure within the next five to 10 years.
At best, this statement stands for a serious a lack of transparency. At worst, it’s a short-sighted and damaging surface-level approach that neglects to acknowledge why these conglomerates and their technologies produce so much success. Modern e-commerce systems are becoming necessary, but that doesn’t mean that every technology or product will help every business.
Identifying Customer Needs to Better Meet Them
Very few of our readers represent companies like Amazon or Wish. Most represent other independent businesses or global corporations with their own needs and customers – customers that may have totally individualized needs compared to the conglomerates mentioned in the last section. These customers may or may not want the same experience from you as when they shop at Amazon and other distribution management software technology giants.
Moreover, your customers may not even be technologically literate enough to make use of such features and options, even if you spent the money to invest in them just to “keep up with the Joneses.” On the flip side, if you’re in a sector like FinTech, oil and gas production, or pharmaceutical manufacturing, your customers maybe too technical in nature to appreciate an Amazon-like experience.
Investing in the identical methodologies, software, or technology is like taking someone else’s prescription medication; it might relieve a few symptoms, but it’s probably not well-suited to your needs – and it might even hurt you more than it helps you along the way. Not every customer base wants or needs a LiveExpert button, two-day shipping, or 0% interest accounts. It doesn’t make sense to drop money in these systems if your customers won’t use them or have a need for them in the first place.
Why the Latest, Greatest Technology Isn’t Always the Winner
Ultimately, Amazon, Wish, Cheney Brothers, Lidl, Blue Apron, Apple, and other major global distributors aren’t successful because they use modern e-commerce systems; they succeed because they use software and technology to make it easier for customers to buy how they want to buy and when they want to buy.
J. Michael Marks explains this plainly in a recent article about distribution management software technology, and why adoption for the sake of adoption is rarely wise. He encourages distributors to think about their options carefully, cautioning that “…the way Amazon’s customers want to buy” won’t necessarily match the ways “your own customers want to buy.”
Marks also reminds distributors not to fall into the trap of buying into the big, shiny software just because it looks so useful and exciting. He says that, “…the most intergalactic piece of software” will rarely ever be effective for businesses in distribution unless they use it in a way that “solves a customer problem” or somehow makes the buying process less painful.
Although it’s an unpopular opinion in many circles, distributors shouldn’t jump head-first into modern e-commerce trends unless they can specifically identify the ways in which the platform solves problems for customers. Instead, they should use successful companies like Amazon as a starting place for research, digging deeper to find out how and why Amazon knows their customers so well. Then, they should decide how they can capitalize on that, instead.
Finding the Best-Fit Distribution Management Software
“It’s true that a modern e-commerce system is fast becoming a requirement to do business,” Marks explains. But he’s also careful to clarify that he doesn’t believe this means businesses need every single new advance in every situation. Instead, he encourages businesses limit the weight of “what your competitors are doing or what new technologies consultants [like Marks] are talking about” and focus on direct customer needs instead.
For businesses, this means a welcome return to a surprisingly old-school approach: spend time figuring out who your customers are, what they need, what they really want, and what distribution management software, tools, and technologies best meet their unique needs, rather than forcing them to adapt in order to shop. Market research teams should buckle down and get to work creating information-gathering campaigns and interacting with the people who matter most – the people who actually buy from you on a regular basis.
Once you have a solid idea of what your customers actually want and/or need, you can properly explore modern e-commerce solutions without risking your bottom line or a wasteful investment. Shop based on your customers and their desired experience, not on the flavor of the month, and if you decide to invest, put your money where it makes the most sense.
Critically, businesses shouldn’t forget that more advanced e-commerce platforms demand more funding for implementation and maintenance. If you’re considering adopting a new CRM or platform, try to judge how it will improve your bottom line. Your goal should be to have your return on investment improve your bottom line, not further reduce it. As with any other tech consideration, there will always be a few exceptions; it’s up to you to figure out when they apply.