With spending 15 years of my career in the eCommerce space, I’ve learned a lot along the way. One thing that has stuck with me is no matter how much a company believes the business case that this is going to be the only solution they need, you can’t force it.
You see, there is another entity involved that the company doesn’t control — its customers. For example, one of my chemical industry clients created a whole eCommerce site to sell its low-margin products. If a customer wanted that product they would have to buy through that portal. Other companies create significant campaigns to transition their customers to eCommerce, highlighting the benefits to the customer and offering discounts if they buy from their site. All of these are legitimate strategies, because, in today’s world, an eCommerce channel is a must.
The problem is an eCommerce channel is not going to work for all customers. Some of them are large, drive a majority of revenue, and want to buy through EDI so that the systems can talk to each other with no human intervention. Other customers have ERP systems that are spitting out their POs and they don’t want to re-key orders, or upload a spreadsheet to a website. Some industries have customers that don’t have the capabilities, nor do they want to deviate from what’s been working during the course of their relationship with you: sending their orders via email or fax (yes, there is still a lot of faxing going on).
Digital transformation usually begins with EDI and eCommerce sites, but it doesn’t end there. If neither of those channels work, email and fax orders can be placed into your ERP after validation checks for accuracy — all without manual intervention. This gives companies cross-departmental visibility to everything in the order pipeline, the ability to easily measure KPIs, and the actionable intelligence necessary to address priorities or concerns in real-time before they become big issues.
In today’s world, the customer experience is king. Figuring out how to efficiently cater to them is every companies’ challenge. Sometimes the easiest paths are overlooked for those more glamorous. It reminds me of a song I learned in Girl Scouts that says “Make new friends, but keep the old. One is silver and the other gold.” Every channel is important in its own way and can co-exist to provide a truly exceptional approach to business.