Technology has often been described as ‘the great leveler’ in the OP industry, allowing independent dealers to compete on a level playing field with their big-box rivals and the e-commerce giants.
While that certainly may be true, what is also true is that the large players are pouring huge amounts of money and resources into further developing their digital capabilities. You only have to look at Staples¹ recent acquisitions of Runa and PNI Digital, and Amazon¹s distribution center roll-out across the US to realize that the playing field isn¹t where it once was.
Dealers that think they are Œthere¹ in terms of the e-commerce capabilities need to think again and make sure they have an ongoing development strategy and investment plan in place. As United Stationers¹ CEO Cody Phipps said in an OPI interview last year (see OPI¹s US Annual Review 2013), dealers don¹t need to be right where these big players are, but they mustn¹t lose sight of their tail lights either.
As a number of senior technology providers point out on pages 6-9 of this supplement, there is a reluctance on the part of many dealers to invest in updating their technology capabilities. With the continued shift to mobile ordering from both B2C and B2B customers and greater expectations surrounding the whole digital commerce experience, that reluctance could ultimately prove to be a costly mistake.