Tech Solutions Special: Does a silver bullet really exist?

Essendant's Senior Director, Content Syndication Michael Hauck asks the all-important question: What technology do resellers really need for their business?

With all the technology coming into the market, how are resellers supposed to make sense of it, let alone determine what is best for their particular business? Is technology really the be all and end all, or should resellers build a solid foundation before determining what technology is needed? 

Most industries have examples of companies that are struggling to keep up with the market and the latest technology bells and whistles, while losing sight of the fundamental blocking and tackling. 

Instead of chasing technology, participants may do better by stepping back and  focusing on their business objectives. It might sound counterintuitive, but the best technology decision for a business could be to first define its acquisition, retention and growth strategy with customers. This in turn creates a foundation that can determine the best technology to achieve these goals. 

The reseller proposition

For resellers, one of the first steps involves defining a value proposition, determining how to incorporate it into a strategy to grow the business, and identifying the best target audience. Once they decide on the audience, they have to evaluate what makes a customer a ‘good’ one and how they interact with these potential customers.

Where will these interactions take place – will they be ‘live’ or digital via a website or email? What kind of promotional offers do they need?

Taking the digital approach is a great way to advance the business, and it will have a huge impact on technology decisions. Since there are no sales people to represent the reseller digitally, its digital assets, such as a website, must reflect the business’ core values. 

The aforementioned value proposition should be weaved throughout the website. There must be a robust search engine, intuitive navigation, rich product content, and the ability to merchandise. With merchandising, resellers can up-sell and cross-sell to increase average order size. 

To drive traffic to the website, resellers need to deploy marketing tactics and promotions through mediums such as email or advertisements. In addition, a website should have the capability to let customers sign up for communications, offering resellers a way to build their database and advertise directly.

The right stuff

To choose the right technology, resellers need to take the acumen that built their success in the first place and then apply it to the digital aspect of the business. The common sense that has taken them this far needs to be leveraged to cut through the technology noise, focus on the business needs, and determine if the technology will meet their objectives. 

Any strategy needs to start with a sound software/hardware foundation that enables resellers to do all the things that got them to this point – but now with a digital spin. 

Any turnkey technology solution should have a flexible platform, a robust search engine, solid analytics, and the capabilities to merchandise and market to customers. It should be easy to update, expand and track success. 

Importantly, people who understand the industry and care about the customer experience and the success of the reseller should build the technology platform. 

But let’s be honest, there is no silver bullet. However, by leveraging business insights and good judgement, resellers can expand their digital reach by picking the technology that fits their strategy to acquire, retain and grow their business.

Utilising industry experts who understand the market, know how to sell to end consumers, have a turnkey solution and marketing expertise , will offer resellers the best chance to compete on the digital front and expand their business.   

Essendant’s new IT platform explained

In April 2016, Essendant finished merging its two largest businesses, Essendant Business Essentials (formerly known as United Stationers) and Essendant Facilities Essentials (formerly known as Lagasse), onto one common operating and IT platform. Below, the wholesaler explains the advantages of this newly integrated IT and ordering platform.

The new platform provides a fast, comprehensive and convenient reseller solution for jan/san, office, food service, safety and breakroom products. Coupled with the wholesaler’s extensive marketing and technology expertise, the common platform gives resellers the tools to compete and win in the marketplace.

The platform combines the best of both worlds to provide Essendant’s reseller customers with a deep and wide product offering, access to its national distribution network, and the opportunity to grow into new product categories with greater ease. It removes barriers and grants immediate access to thousands of products with an improved order experience – one order, one invoice and one shipment. 

The platform’s proprietary order fulfilment system has been expanded to facilities customers, increasing the availability of products beyond a customer’s home facility and resulting in fewer back orders. It also includes enhanced intuitive systems tools with increased functionality, along with a better content/e-business experience.

Essendant continues to provide flexible delivery options, including extensive nationwide next-day fulfilment, and the availability of delivery-ready orders such as Wrap & Label that are sorted and prepared for immediate delivery to end consumers. 

The fulfilment part is complemented by category and marketing expertise in the form of education, digital marketing programmes and supporting materials. All these will help support those expanding their businesses into new categories and/or products and reduce the risk and cost associated with entering new markets.