Strategies to Help Independent Distributors Launch Their Digital Branch
This article originally appeared in the 2018 edition of AD Today Magazine.
AD President of Industrial Divisions and Chief Programs Officer Jack Templin has been a strong leader in the AD eCommerce journey from the beginning and speaks to AD members on a daily basis about their eCommerce journeys. We asked Jack to share the opportunities and challenges associated with a digital branch as well as strategies to help AD members succeed in their eCommerce pursuits.
Q: How does having a Digital Branch provide a competitive advantage for independent distributors?
A: Independent distributors already have a competitive advantage in product expertise, customer intimacy, and creative supply chain solutions. Having a Digital Branch allows end users who want to transact online to do so without forfeiting the trusted relationships they have with their independent distributors.
Q: What are some of the challenges independent distributors face when thinking about going live?
A: One of the biggest challenges anyone faces when going live is the desire for perfection. Perfection doesn’t exist online. From the moment of going live, the journey continues as distributors try to improve and customize the online experience for their customers. Often, it’s better to get online sooner and make incremental improvements as you go than to delay while waiting on perfection.
Q: What are some tools AD members can use to get their staff on board with the digital branch?
A: One of the most important tools is executive sponsorship and clear communication. The commitment to having an online presence is a big investment for independent distributors and knowing that ownership/senior management is 100% behind the effort is critical. Additionally, it helps to explain to the entire team that an online presence isn’t only important to their long-term success as a business, but that it represents another tool to drive growth for their organization. Growth = opportunities for employees.
Q: What advice would you give to an AD member who’s thinking about going live with their digital branch?
A: Many of our members have experience in opening new branches and have done so several times, but some of our members that fearlessly open brick-and-mortar branches are a bit hesitant when it comes to the Digital Branch. Admittedly, opening a Digital Branch can bean intimidating proposition for any company that hasn’t yet done so. The key is to recognize that going live is a journey. When you start to look at the journey in the form of incremental steps, the task becomes much more manageable. Getting help is always a good idea and the AD eCommerce team has a number of highly-experienced eCommerce veterans who are happy to help. In addition, fellow members that are further along in their journey can be invaluable in helping you navigate your way and our strategic partners have helped a number of members to expedite their journey and avoid pitfalls. However, I feel compelled to point out that, unlike most journeys, this journey never completely ends. While there will certainly be significant milestones, like the date you go live, the journey continues as you work to maximize the effectiveness of your Digital Branch.