Editors Note: Creating and implementing an e-commerce strategy is a hot topic with distributors. Today we’re asking Linda Taddonio - the e-commerce Strategy Officer at Insite Software and one of the speakers at the Distribution and Manufacturing Profitability Forum - some of the most burning questions we hear from you regarding e-commerce strategy. There’s also an opportunity to get your burning question answered at the end of this article. Enjoy.
Industrial Distribution: Your session at the Distribution & Manufacturing Profit Forum is about unleashing your future with B2B e-commerce. What big technology shifts do you see happening in the marketplace today?
Linda Taddonio: I would answer that in two ways. One is that there is an increasing amount of technology available in the marketplace today, especially when it comes to all things digital. In our space, with e-commerce, there is more and more technologies that we can plug into or add on to our solutions.
Secondly, the landscape of technology continues to increase in complexity. This complexity makes it more difficult for organizations to navigate the choices they should make and the plans that they should put in place to evolve with their own strategies.
A few weeks back, we had a conversation with Andy Hoar at Forrester, and he made the comment that today it is really not about how big or how small you are, it is really about how fast you can go. I think that is a big shift with respect to technology today. The projects can’t take a long time anymore or they are going to be too slow for the marketplace. There is an increasing pressure to move fast and to be agile in order to adapt to all the changing trends that are happening.
ID: Why do you think distributors hesitate to start an e-commerce program?
LT: I think a lot of that has to do with the first question. They are starting to realize that this whole emergence of e-business is the cusp of the whole movement for digital transformation. I think that when distributors stop to think about how they would transform their business, it becomes an obviously huge undertaking. It is difficult to determine where to start with that. Where do you start to peel away the layers of the onion because it is going to take a long time?
Most of the manufacturers and distributors that we work with today do not have a C-level position for marketing or digital strategies. They don’t have a CMO or CDO, and yet there is a lot of pressure for them to implement these technologies. Their leadership is looking for help to try and figure out where to go in order to evolve, and their hesitation is that they know it is not small – and that it is strategic now, not just a piece of technology that they need to implement. The whole e-business side of things is strategic and competitive and it is going to change their business model down the road.
ID: How will this session at the Profit Forum help them address that fear and create a strategy?
LT: I try to talk about it from a holistic standpoint. Even though we are a technology software company, I realized a long time ago that the clients that buy our software needed help to figure out these strategies and their overall roadmap. We are being much more provocative now with organizations looking at this more holistically and including every part of their organization – especially the strategy coming from the leadership at the head of the organization.
What I talk about is a holistic approach of working through this transformation that they are going to embark on. And try to put a sense of urgency around it. MIT Sloan put out a report last year called “Embracing Digital Technology” and the key finding in the report of their interviews with 1,600 senior management people from a broad base of industries was that achieving digital transformation was going to be critical for their businesses over the next two years. It took my breath away. Two years to achieve this transformation, when a lot of people haven’t even started yet. There needs to be a sense of urgency in this industry.
ID: What mistakes do you see distributors making in their strategy today?
LT: I think the biggest mistake I see them making is that there is a lack of urgency in their strategies to adopt these technologies and transform their business. One thing I say a lot is that if we lift our head up out of the daily storm and look out ten years, nearly all business transactions will be coming into the business in an electronic format. You are going to go there, because the world is going there. This is not something that you get to choose or not choose if you are going to have a viable business model. Then it becomes a question of how fast are you going to go? The organizations that lead and get there first are going to have an advantage over the ones that get there second and third and fourth.
Another mistake I see as a challenge is: Who leads these projects? Most organizations have not added a CMO to their executive team, so then these e-business strategies tend to be fragmented and divvied up around the organization – someone in marketing has a part, someone in IT has a part, etc. And that is a difficult position to put anybody in. Not only is the strategy not owned by someone that can drive growth from the top down, it is a very high-risk position because they don’t have any decision making authority. For all of these programs to be effective, they need to be driven from the top down. We know this about business in general, but somehow that message has someone gotten lost with e-commerce.
Do you have a burning question about e-commerce for Linda? Linda will be presenting at the Distribution and Manufacturing Profitability Forum on June 10th in a session called Unleashing Your Future With A B2B E-commerce Strategy. Submit any questions you have and Linda has agreed to answer as many as she can at the end of his session on June 10th. You can submit your questions below as comments.
Register for the Distribution and Manufacturing Profitability Forum here: www.distributionmanufacturingforum.com.