Do we still need to be involved in this game?
Well, that’s sort of a dumb question – of course we do! Especially in ecommerce, as multichannel ecommerce carries huge potential. This potential is already being utilized by countless companies.
The big question in competitiveness is really about increasing the efficiency of the work we do – whether it is raking fallen leaves in our garden, selling complicated online solutions for a living, or anything else imaginable. Could we make the rake a little wider and add more spikes, to catch more fallen leaves in less time, to help us complete our task faster? Is there a way to add efficiency in our basic tasks to liberate us more time for other more demanding tasks? There sure is.
Commerce has become more diverse over the years in all fields of business. A lot of us here in Finland are still thinking about upgrading our rakes to spikier ones, but elsewhere in the world things are moving forward with pace.
The internet has provided shopping opportunities for anything imaginable, from a screw to an airplane, or from a rake to a ship. These and many other diverse products and services have already been available for a long time. Even though we all know this, the digital transformation and the diversity it has brought to commerce, has surprised many of us with its speed. Why? Are we afraid of change and the conservatism of our customers? Do we fear that the customer will leave us for someone still offering face-to-face service?
Multichannel commerce is a great objective in many ways, but are we interpreting it correctly? I think not. But this is only my personal conception. I also consider us, the service suppliers, the ones to blame for this. Multichannel commerce is the “rake 4.0”, but we need to help merchants understand what it really means.
The customer is always right. If a company doesn’t want to be a part of the digital transformation and wishes to stay offline, it is not for us, as service suppliers, to criticize. Our job is to help companies realize the possibilities digitalization and multichannel thinking have to offer their business processes and to dispel the fear of losing customers through the transition. This is not the easiest of tasks. As with the traditional manufacturing industry, the term multichannel commerce often represents something evil, from the lowest pits of hell.
My experience is that many people in the more traditional industries consider multichannel commerce too expensive and not worth the investment. They may think of it as only a web shop, which can’t correctly serve a client company wanting to buy, say, steel pipe for their factory’s purposes. But this is not the case. The purpose of multichannel commerce is not to destroy existing functional processes, but to connect and synchronize these processes. This forms an efficient network of processes in which different functions benefit from knowing what goes on in other functions. Investment always has its price, but taking your business into a new era of efficiency quickly pays you back, with interest.
Online commerce is already pretty basic stuff to most of us consumers. When implemented in the right way, it can be of huge benefit to companies in traditional manufacturing industries as well. Seeing e-business and services as one of the company’s sales channels, as an addition to their brick-and-mortar, sales representatives, and huge spare parts catalog, is a good start. It is great to see that a lot of traditional companies have already understood the name of the game and that success stories are constantly being built. The key is to find the way digital services can add value to each individual business.
Do we still need a brick-and-mortar site and a sales representative? Yes. Traditional and new ways to do business don’t have to exclude each other – done right, they rather complement each other. Your customer may still want to have the F2F conversation with a sales person. But now they have the possibility to make the actual purchase, track the delivery and order additional services or more products from your online service portal as well. This is multichannel at its best and it DOES work in traditional industries, too.
Finland is among many other countries currently in an economic position where the competitiveness of businesses need to be boosted through innovation. Current business models need to be made more efficient. E-business solutions combined with modern technology are one way to serve customers better and to boost the efficiency of business processes. We need to maintain the courage to evolve and rethink the ways we do business. In this way, we can reclaim the global forerunner status we once had.