Brian Beaulieu’s Takeaways for the Future of Distribution and How to Prepare Yourself.
In a murky ocean of talking head doom and gloom, ITR's, Brian Beaulieu shown like a light. AHTD meetings are always a great time for valuable networking sandwiched between world class presentations. Under normal circumstances, we would be sipping a coffee, tea, beer or wine at one of those networking events and talking about the points of Brian’s thought-provoking session. Corona-inspired social distancing prohibits face-to-face exchange, so consider this the opener of a great virtual conversation.
This isn’t Forever
Most of us wear a brave face, muster up our best optimism and cast a positive impression to our teams. Contrary to outward appearances, we have our doubts. Pundits call for more weeks, months and in one instance a year long continuation of business purgatory, where torment and suffering continue. One friend described his reoccurring dream of swimming, salmon style, in a river of red ink. Forever.
It’s reassuring to hear; this won’t go on forever. And, perhaps like the Covid-19 plague, these economic conditions will get only those who were already weakened by other conditions. We will survive. Even better news came in Beaulieu’s thoughts on an accelerating automation market. Somehow, he probably couldn’t feel the joyful exhilaration emanating from the hundreds watching.
Inventory in place, check. People ready to provide expert service, check. But, simply standing by waiting for the “light switch” to turn on isn’t a plan. Will we have the tools? Do we even know what the tools might be? Will we have adapted to how our customers now want to be served after weeks of remote work and not getting in person sales visits?
During question and answer period, some kind soul asked this:
“We hear plenty of reports tied to acceleration of online business in the retail sector. Do you believe this will spill over to AHTD products?”
If you anticipate issues with specific products, you can be proactive in either reserving some of your stock for their future needs, expediting orders or helping in the process of converting to some other product.
Brian’s answer (and I have his permission to quote):
“We think that people are learning to do more things online. It [the trend] has accelerated us towards being comfortable with an e-environment, whether e-commerce or not. The trend was already there. This [the pandemic] has just hastened the trend a little bit along the way.
In terms of our business, AHTD or other, if we don’t have an effective e-platform we’re not ready for the future. That’s a point startlingly clear.”
Experience during our sheltering in place, reduces the perceived risk of using a webstore and quickens customer migration to e-commerce.
In at least the near-term future, AHTD customers will be risk adverse. Thinking about the previous question and answer comments, the risk of actively shopping online has been mitigated by those dozens of purchases many customers have made over the past six weeks or so. People, who rarely purchased anything of import via the web, were forced to make purchases. And they discovered things worked marvelously.
We believe digital solutions, or e-platforms as Mr. Beaulieu called it, remove other areas of risk.
- Social distance issues in the early stages of a comeback. How will we re-engage with careful customers who don’t want you to visit them in the early stages of recovery?
- Mimicking your in-person experience in digital ways while delivering value. Enable your inside and outside sales team interactions with end-customers via digital using co-browsing, live chat and web-conferencing tools to show products, help customer select parts and create their solution bill of material, just like they would if sitting in the same room.
- Better product information than normally available via other sources. The KYKLO system provides more than a color glossy of the product. Our content library is an easy to read hybrid of catalog and product data sheets.
- Risks associated with supply outages. Your system can show current inventory of products which alleviates fears of ordering something with a long lead time.
- Meeting customers when they are working: many people are home-schooling their kids and therefore must adapt their work schedules around their children’s activities. Hastily ordering the wrong product because of office hours confines, allows for better and risk-free transitions.
We believe our systems provides another level of risk avoidance. This one to our clients.
A World-Class ecommerce system gives distributors a method of serving customers that can’t get sick, doesn’t take off time, and is available 24/7, 365 days a year. Your customers get the kind of information they need to make informed decisions whenever, wherever they need it. We think this eliminates a lot of risk for our customers. .