Technology and Content

Nobody would argue the point that technology has drastically changed our world in the past few years.  And the pace at which technology is changing is dramatic.  Ten years ago, who would have thought that our phones would have more storage and computing power than the personal computers of that day?  Or that content and entertainment would travel at speeds that were fast for in-house networks – but over wireless networks?  Or that one could be traveling at 38,000 feet connected to the Internet taking care of business?

Technology has changed how we live our lives and how we do business.  eCommerce was just a ‘nice to have’ back in the day – Today it is vital and should be a central part of any business strategy.

In our world, eCommerce is driving the vast majority of your technology needs and rightfully so.  Without a top-notch website and user experience, your relevance to your current customer base will decline, not to mention that you won’t be on-boarding very many new customers.

So for a moment, let’s assume that your eCommerce system is performing flawlessly and that your user experience is top-notch (a future topic for sure!).

Content is the foundation of eCommerce – without supplier provided content, eCommerce just won’t work.  Without the right pictures of product, the right descriptions, and the relevant key words to drive search engines, eCommerce becomes an anchor – a site that only your most loyal customers are going to use.

As traditional office product sales contract due to the digitization and transformation of the office, a key strategy for many is to focus on new product categories – like JanSan, Breakroom and Industrial.  The thought is that you have a good relationship and are already delivering to your customers -- why not broaden your offering?  Putting aside the issues surrounding different channel needs (sales, operations, culture), the concept is solid and many are deploying this strategy successfully today.

What about broadening your categories within your current areas of expertise?  Content restrictions have impacted many dealers’ ability to sell a manufacturer’s complete product line.  While the wholesalers have been tremendous aggregators and enhancers of content, they do not necessarily make an entire manufacturer’s product line available.

So imagine a future state where a repository existed that allowed manufacturer’s to make their entire product line available and where dealers could use a simple portal to have content access to the complete product lines that they’d like to carry – without having the technical and logistic challenges of connectivity and formats.

Business Solutions Association (BSA) is a trade association that represents manufacturers, wholesalers and manufacturer reps that has been instrumental in setting standards for the industry regarding content management.  This has and continues to be a very important task that allows suppliers to standardize content which facilities getting a broad selection of content to your website and onto the consumer.  It also creates the means to cost effectively make content available to the channel.

So the challenge to our channel is this – Can the manufacturers, wholesalers, system providers and dealers build a content repository and the necessary infrastructure that gets the right product information in front of the consumer?  The pieces are in place – and the timing is right as this industry transforms itself once again.

TJ Crayne is President of PTC Consulting, a consulting practice that helps companies create and execute strategic initiatives with an emphasis on leveraging technology.  Throughout his career he has helped hundreds of companies implement technology and new systems to grow and increase profitability © PTC Associates, LLC 2013