In our recent State of Technology in Distribution survey, we evaluated the core technologies, platforms and products used by distributors to manage their business including sales and marketing, internal operations and financial management.
We looked at the level of adoption, as well as expectations and satisfaction about how well current vendors, products and technologies are performing relative to distributors’ business needs.
Join us on June 3, 2021, to learn how distributors are viewing and adopting advanced technologies such as AI and automation to support the customer journey. Register now: State of Technology in Distribution: Automating the Customer Journey.
Here’s a look at how distributors are leveraging core technologies:
Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP)
The ERP is often the main point of systems integration, coordinating the internal operations of the business. For this reason, ERP can increase efficiencies and improve effectiveness in areas such as inventory management and related activities such as logistics, planning and fulfillment.
Most distributors have deployed ERP technology from prominent vendors, although less than 10% still use custom solutions. More than half of distributors are satisfied with the effectiveness of their ERP solutions, with less than 13% unsatisfied.
Customer Relationship Management (CRM)
For many distributors, CRM is used for core customer data to keep track of who is ordering products and where to deliver them. More advanced distributors have realized the value of knowing customers well enough to create ongoing customer experiences that keep customers loyal and enable growing revenue and profitability within the accounts. Consequently, CRM is a key area for incorporating advanced technologies to enable intelligent interactions with customers and personalize how the distributor does business with customers.
Less than 10% of respondents indicated that they are very satisfied with their CRM solution. Approximately 22% are not satisfied and approximately 16% indicate that either they do not have a CRM solution or it is not applicable to their business. Although reasons vary, less successful cases seem to depend on adoption across the organization combined with the solutions being used more for management oversight than for increasing efficiencies and effectiveness for direct sales resources.
Email Marketing/Marketing Automation
Using information about customers, their attributes and their purchasing history, distributors can automate communications with customers and prospects in a highly personalized manner. Advanced technologies maintain ongoing communications with customers and prospects without requiring extensive time from human sales and customer service resources for every communication. This enables the sales resource to concentrate on the highest value communications with customers which result in revenue, customer satisfaction and profitability.
Nearly 40% of distributors are satisfied with their email marketing and marketing automation solutions. Email has grown to be critical for staying in touch with customers. Approximately 22% of distributors in the survey are not satisfied and 17% either do not have a marketing automation solution or consider it is not applicable to their business.
eCommerce and Digital Interaction
Online sales transactions grew significantly for most distributors over the past year, and surveys indicate that this will continue well into the future as the main way to do business. Only 11% of distributors are very satisfied with their ecommerce solutions. Almost 25% are somewhat or very dissatisfied with their ecommerce. And nearly 20% of respondents do not have ecommerce or consider it not applicable to their business.
Warehouse Management (WMS)/Warehouse Execution (WES)
The heart of fulfillment is what takes place in the warehouse. Because this is an area that can take up significant time, and it is an area where mistakes are often made, warehouse management is an ideal place to deploy advanced technologies such as robotics, autonomous vehicles, IoT sensors and technologies such as AI for resource planning, inventory management and other core activities that normally require direct human involvement.
Approximately 37% of distributors are satisfied with their warehouse management solutions. Only 75% of distributors have WMS or WES deployed. Less than 18% of distributors are dissatisfied with their warehouse management solutions.
Business Intelligence (BI)/Analytics
Virtually every aspect of a distribution business today requires more advanced technologies and tools for understanding what is happening in the business by collecting more data and analyzing what the data means. This is especially true for accurately reordering inventory, implementing quality improvement programs, and executing marketing and sales activities from prospecting to promoting products and services to optimizing pricing.
About 75% of distributors are using BI or Analytics. However, only 12% are very satisfied with their effectiveness. Approximately 22% are not satisfied with the BI/Analytics they are using.
Learn more about how distributors adopting these core technologies – and their plans for more advanced technologies to automate the customer journey in 2021 and beyond in our June 3, 2021, webinar: Register now.