• Alison Folwell

Why should you adopt a digital strategy? Here’s our starter for 10

Is “because everyone else is doing it” enough of a reason? Perhaps so – but there are plenty more.

Digital Transformation has become an accelerating priority for merchants and suppliers for many reasons and none of those reasons are going away any time soon. Statistics suggest that, while lockdown may have caused a huge leap forward, it was an acceleration of existing trends, rather than a whole new direction.

Anecdotally, merchanting is second only to agriculture in its adoption of digital up to this point in time. Traditional business models, traditional customer bases and traditional industries have historically not needed to embrace modern technologies. But the times are changing, and they’re changing fast, and digital transformation is not something any business can afford to ignore for long.

1. Customer expectations are changing

Digital solutions are becoming a baseline expectation for an increasing proportion of your customer base. You may have some customers who prefer the traditional way of doing things but with new generation of digital natives representing a growing proportion of the market, that number is shrinking. Online shopping has become the norm and consumer expectations are rapidly spilling over into the merchanting sector whether you’re talking trade or private customers. So if you want to deliver the customer experience and customer service to win repeat business, you're going to need a digital offering.

2. Scalable and flexible to allow growth

Digital is more agile than traditional processing methods, enabling you to keep pace with change more easily. As your business scales up, digital can keep pace without increasing demand for more admin staff to manage it, and it can do it more accurately and effectively. That doesn’t mean human value is lost – far from it. It simply lets technology bear the brunt of the volume of work, allowing your people to add value where people matter most – strategy, relationships, direction, leadership, customer service and so on.

3. Efficient and productive

Digital systems help you spot patterns, automate repetitive tasks and set alerts, so it’s easier to find more efficient processes to drive productivity in every department. Stock optimisation is much easier and more manageable with a good digital system, allowing you to deliver perpetual inventory management more easily and unlock hidden value from your stockholding. It can also help with forecasting, credit control and much, much more, reducing the time required for repetitive admin tasks and increasing staff productivity through streamlines process efficiencies and enhanced integration and communication.

4. Accessibility

A cloud system is accessible 24/7 from wherever you are, so you can control your business remotely when you need to without restriction. That means up to date info from sales reps ad delivery drivers on the road, it means easier facilitation of flexible and remote working for your workforce, and it means being able to access and control your business information from wherever you need to be.

5. Enables processing of large amounts of data.

Simply put, digital systems can process more data more quickly and accurately than manual systems. Whether that’s a certification trail for product safety auditing or hundreds of thousands of product lines, digital is the only practical way to cope with the increasing volume of administration in a growing business.

6. It’s more profitable

Yes, digital requires investment, but it can also earn its keep with increased efficiency, improved processes and enhanced productivity. Ecommerce will also usually generate a significantly higher margin than in-branch sales (roughly 40% on average, vs 24% in-branch). Better forecasting can help enhance availability, better stock control can help optimise value and increase turnover across your entire stockholding and inform a more profitable stock profile. The analytical power of good digital ERP system has enormous benefits for your business, both in terms of time and commercial value.

7. Attract and retain talent

It’s not just customer expectations that are shifting – a new generation entering the workforce will be looking for forward-thinking employers with modern working practices so if you want to attract the best people, you need to invest in your own infrastructure.

8. Maintain relevance in a changing market.

The market is changing with threat from online retailers as well as shifting customer demand and shopping habits. Digital is becoming the norm rapidly and if merchants fall behind, they may not be able to catch up again. You only have to look at the proportion of website traffic on mobile phones to realise that behaviours are changing fast, and if you’re not being found by the people looking, you won’t be able to compete.

9. Sustainability

Zero carbon emission targets are going to be a huge stretch and it’s going to take a lot of commitment across all industries to get there. But digital systems can help drive sustainability in so many ways, it really deserves its own post (like this one!) From accurate audit and certification trails for responsible sourcing to efficient stock management, reduced travel from more efficient logistics management to enhanced product information (and that’s without even mentioning the reduction in hardware itself), digital systems can massively improve sustainability processes in every business.

10. Future-proofing

Sustainability isn’t just an environmental issue. It’s also about ensuring your business is able to survive in an increasingly competitive market. It’s about making sure you’re equipped to have the latest version of ERP system without 6 months of hassle updating it; it’s about ensuring your staff enjoy working for you that little bit more; it’s about ensuring your business has the tools it needs to adapt and thrive as the world evolves. Modern ERP systems offer a greater degree of flex, allowing you to integrate with best-in-class external applications and platforms to deliver unrivalled usability and service, adding value to your offering and user experience at every step and enabling you to keep pace with the evolution of technology more easily. Flexibility and agility are crucial – and that’s where digital systems can really shine.

If you’d like to have a chat about going digital or would like to try the online demo of our easy-to-use digital ERP system, Merchanter, please register here or drop us a line – info@ten-25.co.uk