Supply Networks

Technology Trends — Digital Commerce for the Wholesaler-Distributor

This is the seventh blog in a series of blogs revolving around Facing the Forces of Change®: Navigating the Seas of Disruption, published by the National Association of Wholesaler-Distributors (NAW) — the only major research study analyzing the future of wholesale distribution within multiple lines of trade. Find a shortlist of the other blogs in the series at the bottom of this post.

In many ways, technology is at the center of our business and personal lives as software and devices become less expensive, easier to access, and more necessary for a wide range of functions.

We start our days with devices that monitor our steps and track our caloric intake, phones that keep track of appointments, and the list goes on. It is no different for wholesaler-distributors, for whom technology is increasingly becoming a critical weapon in the fight to maintain their position in the industry—especially given the importance of a good web presence.

From e-commerce to digital commerce

E-commerce has been the focal point of technology discussions in the business world for many years, but that is changing. The ubiquitous influence of technology today has caused e-commerce to morph into digital commerce—which refers to more than a transaction, but a way of doing business.

In the transition from product-centric to customer-centric world, a company’s online presence takes center stage, becoming more than just a place to transact business (e-commerce) but a way of doing business (digital commerce) that includes branding, image, customer service, and transactions—in any way, from any place, at any time.

Product searches, reference videos, online customer service, as well as transaction capabilities must be accessible from any device, anywhere. Today’s omnichannel approach to doing business—the idea that customers can gain access to their suppliers in any way they want, whether by traditional methods or online—begins with the web as the first customer-facing entity.

New ways to handle data

What’s more, as data grows exponentially, companies are finding new ways to collect and analyze it to garner insights that will help them tailor the service experience to each and every customer. This is digital commerce as well. New technologies that can comprehend and analyze the vast amounts of structured and unstructured data that exist within companies of all sizes are helping wholesaler-distributors better understand their business so they can take the best path forward. Such capabilities are disrupting the status quo and allowing opportunities for wholesaler-distributors to create new value propositions and service offerings.

When fax machines were first introduced for business use, the conversation quickly changed from “do you have a fax machine?” to “what is your fax number?” The expectation changed, and it was simply assumed that distributors would adopt the new technology. Fast forward to today, and there is similar sentiment regarding e-commerce and related capabilities. The difference is that the conversation that introduces the question does not exist, in particular for prospects and new customers. Simply put, if you do not provide a good digital experience—which includes not only your e-commerce offering, but also your ability to provide resources and service options online with easy accessibility—customers will not find you and will turn to your competition, which is just a click away.

In the upcoming edition of Facing the Forces of Change®: Navigating the Seas of Disruption, published by the National Association of Wholesaler-Distributors (NAW), you will find much more detail on all of these topics, including strategies and examples from leading distributors, along with suggested actions to understand and minimize the effect of disruption on a business, or present the opportunity to become a disrupter.

Stay tuned for upcoming blogs on other topics examined and discussed in the book.

Facing the Forces of Change®: Navigating the Seas of Disruption is available for purchase from NAW at:, and will be available in November, 2016.

Previous blogs in the series:
Wholesale Distribution at a Watershed Moment
Unpacking the 6 Disruptive Forces in Wholesale Distribution
Branding and image: Distributors as service providers
Leveraging Relationships in a Customer-Centric World
Using Mergers and Acquisitions as a Disruptive Force
Leveraging the Changing Workforce

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