Technology Shouldn't Be a Dangling Carrot
PSDA: How is your company using technology/data to cut through the communication clutter and impress prospects?
AA: Technology is at the very core of our operation and is the true nature of our business. It is the catalyst and driver for every customer opportunity that we touch. We’re not in the game of using technology to impress prospects, but rather to bring true value to the table in a way that ensures a fruitful relationship between our distributor base and their customers.
PSDA: How is your company using technology/data to engage clients and keep them loyal?
AA: By definition, technology is supposed to improve upon current processes and procedures with the end result leading to a more efficient way of conducting business. While each new year brings the advent of new technologies, we aim to equip our clients with the ability to maintain that leading edge. These improvements come in many forms including e-commerce, ERP integration and process automation.
PSDA: What is your opinion on helping clients track ROI and giving them meaningful analytics?
AA: Analytics are akin to the dashboard in your car. They can give you an excellent view into the health of your business, but they can also lend to discovering exciting new ways to improve your products and services. In the world of e-commerce, analytics are crucial to understanding how your client is interacting with your website and what it will take to convert a prospect into a customer. You’d never drive your car without the gauges in your dashboard and your business should be treated the same.
PSDA: What kinds of reports impress customers the most, and how are you preparing and communicating those numbers?
AA: I find that clients are most interested in data that uncovers problems or the unrealized potential in their current workflow in a visual manner. Beyond your basic pie chart and bar graphs, today’s analytics tools include a more interactive approach to reaching your data. Instead of data in a single flat dimension, you can click a data point which may open up to a secondary dimension of information, allowing you to deep dive into critical information.
PSDA: What’s great (or lacking) about today’s e-commerce platforms?
AA: From 40,000 feet most e-commerce systems might look the same on the outside and all likely have the same “easy-to-use” ability to manage products, inventory users, etc., however one new driving force is the ability to connect and communicate. The future generation of computing calls for greater ability to work and talk amongst a host of otherwise disconnected systems. These computing concepts come in the form of cloud-based, open API systems. Open API isn’t simply the passing of purchase order information between systems any longer. It’s about the ability to extend functionality and enrich the buying experience in a way that is seamless to the customer that works without fail.
PSDA: How are you linking with supply-chain partners (distributor-to-manufacturer) to improve workflow and efficiency?
AA: We’re building an incredible back-bone of suppliers to our Liftoff platform. This back-bone allows for efficient “plug-and-play” of products and services into a distributor’s web offering with little hassle. This “plug-and-play” means the automatic connection of product delivery to a distributor’s website and the instant relay of purchase order data to a supplier upon order submission or approval.
PSDA: How can customers entrust you to receive and use their data?
AA: Data is a very sensitive topic in a day and age where giants of retail like Target and Home Depot are seemingly unable to keep information safe. Business have a strong right to be concerned. Any time that we’re entrusted with sensitive data we form an agreement about how the data will be stored, encrypted and utilized, a plan for backup and recovery along with who among our team will be granted access. In HIPAA terms this translates to a business associates agreement. We’re no stranger to handling sensitive information.
PSDA: How are you making innovation part of your company’s culture and DNA?
AA: Innovation is the driving force behind our product, which is e-commerce. Our team is tasked with finding better ways of conducting online business every day. We either innovate or stagnate and the latter is not an option.
PSDA: Are technology and data influencing who your company hires or promotes?
AA: We’re in the business of hiring experts in each of the disciplines we employ. Technology, customer experience and design are the main areas of focus we strive to improve. Combined with this, we utilize top-grading methods to ensure everyone on the team is key to the success of our organization.
PSDA: What apps, software programs or tools do you rely upon? What do you wish was available but isn’t?
AA: We’ve taken a major shift to employing cloud-based system. Everything from our accounting and finance to our project management sites on open API based platforms. JIRA, our primary project management tool, is an incredibly powerful tool that integrates with almost every facet of our operations. From the inception of a project on our team, until the time it is billed, we have a smooth and well connected infrastructure of systems that accomplish everything we could imagine.
PSDA: What general thought about technology and data do you disagree with, and why?
AA: A common thread I see in this industry is the fear of charging a customer for technology solutions. Many distributors and brokers we work with tell us that they’ll be absorbing the cost of technology we provide them in exchange for print volume and that technology is tertiary to the arrangement. My argument may receive rebuttal, however, if you’re landing accounts with technology and that is the “shining star” that made the transaction possible, why are you treating it as a cost of doing business? No other industry would consider only using technology as a dangling carrot. Technology has real, tangible value. The resources that make these offerings possible are highly-skilled experts in their field. These resources are re-defining the future of industry and customer experience. Technology is not a commodity item. It is a well-defined product of innovation. If you’re of the mindset that you must give technology away, you need to consider the possible downstream effects. Ask yourself, “If I suddenly find myself without print volume to sustain the cost of this technology, how will that impact my business”?
Reprinted with permission from Print Solutions Magazine