Business Priorities for Distributors During The New Now
The right practices can help you weather the crisis
Today we face new challenges and rapidly changing business scenarios. It’s an uncertain time and with it comes difficult decisions. In “The New Now,” make sure your team members are safe and ready to work — either from home or under safe distancing guidelines. It’s also a time to assess where your company is today and where it needs to go in the next 12 months. While there’s always room for improvement, take this time to work with your team to see if there is a need to reset priorities.
There are four areas distributors need to consider during The New Now:
- Understand future impacts on your product mix and forecasting
- Look for ways to improve process and innovate
- Review and diversify your suppliers
- Explore how your technology supports changing buying patterns
Understand future impacts on your product mix and forecasting
What you purchase today may be very different from what you purchased two months ago. Customer buying patterns, of course, impact your purchasing patterns, so be aware of this as you forecast purchases in the coming months. Will the bullwhip effect impact your business in the months to come? Probably yes for certain products. As you forecast, look at where your customers are going. Will they be focusing more on residential or commercial business? Maybe make some phone calls or a send a brief survey to help determine your approach.
Also, look at the inventory you have on hand. Will The New Now impact your product inventory? Could items become dead stock? Is there a way you can move dead stock today to get it off your shelves? Stay in touch with your customers and find ways to help them. At the same time, use the information to inform your inventory forecasting and management.
Look for ways to improve process and innovate
Take care of your team first, then determine how to help your customers navigate through rapid changes. Also, look at where you can improve your business processes. As you look into the readjusted future, work with your team and reach out to your customers. There are likely to be areas that rise to the top for needed improvements and potential innovation.
If you haven’t updated your website, it’s a good time to focus on it. So is automating processes with online customer self-service for order updates, invoice retrieval, or quote requests. Your salespeople may not have physical locations to visit and your customers may have new needs for online ordering. You need to be there to capture those orders.
Do you provide “will call,” but it’s compromised by safe distancing regulations? Maybe it’s time to consider curbside pick-up. For example, Best Buy in my community provides contactless, curbside pick-up. There’s always a long line of cars waiting to pick-up product when I pass by. There are tools available to help you implement a contactless, curbside pick-up process. Take the time now to improve one or two processes that have the greatest impact with innovating for The New Now.
Review and diversify your suppliers
The global supply chain has been consistently changing for the last few years, which temporarily adjusted supply chains for many industries. Now, changes continue, but it’s more likely changes will become permanent. This is also a time when many companies are examining the number of suppliers they work with to see if they need to expand their options. For some distributors this isn’t an option.
A recent PwC survey of Fortune 1,000 CFOs showed that changing the breadth of their supply chains went from 30 percent on March 11 to 42 percent on March 25. At the enterprise level, there’s consideration of expanding the number of suppliers to diversify materials and product procurement to alleviate the risk of being too closely tied to one region or supplier.
If you have the flexibility to review and change suppliers, now is a good time to evaluate if it’s best to diversify your product sources.
Explore how your technology supports changing buying patterns
The length and reach of current circumstances has quickly changed customer buying patterns and will likely be changed permanently. Customers quickly adopted online buying, product delivery, and curbside pickup. Does your current technology platform need to support altered buying patterns? If it does, how well does it perform? Can your technology provider help you add or change your platform to support increased online buying with delivery?
Do you have customers who come to your business or meet with your sales team on-site to buy? If so, it’s likely those purchasing behaviors need to move to the web. And more customers will want products delivered. Prepare your salespeople and discuss with them how changes will impact conversations they have with customers. Additionally, look at how you can improve your marketing and new customer acquisition with better online tools and technology.
Lastly, is it time to move your ERP system to the cloud? A cloud-hosted or cloud native ERP system can help you reduce costs, reduce risk, and provide access to more people. The New Now is forcing many companies to find solutions that allow their employees to work from home. The challenge is keeping a dispersed workforce connected and engaged, without the benefit of in-person interactions. A cloud-based ERP system can better serve your team with access to information from anywhere on any device.
Now is the time to look for opportunities to transform. Make sure your team is safe, prepared, and ready to support new priorities for your company. During these times of rapid change, one thing is very certain. How people work and shop is quickly transforming.
This is all new territory for many Epicor customers, so we’re offering resources to help you navigate and manage change. Find videos, eBooks, and more resources on The New Now webpage on Epicor.com.
Content provided by Epicor Software